Once you’ve gained some experience, three coats of drywall compound, with sandings, will produce smooth walls. But as a beginner, don’t be surprised if it takes you four or five coats. Unless you have large holes that require patching plaster, use ready-mixed drywall joint compound. Dry-mix compounds provide more strength for trouble areas, but you’ll need to work fast if you use them. To hide imperfections, apply texture to your walls with a rented texture gun and hopper.
Drywall Finishing Tips
Use self-sticking mesh tape on the drywall wherever a tapered edge meets a tapered edge, as shown above. Use paper tape everywhere else. Mesh tape requires less joint compound, but does not work as well for inside corners.
Rusty, gunked-up tools ruin your work. Scrape, wash, and dry blades after every use.
When sanding, control the extremely fine dust by using a fan to pull the dust out a window. Seal doorways and wear a breathing mask.
1. Apply a bed coat. Conceal nailheads by putting compound on a 6-inch taping blade and passing over the spot twice. Make sure you leave compound only in the depression and none on the rest of the sheet. Do this with each coat until the dimple is filled in completely. Joints are much more difficult - butt joints especially. If you are using self-sticking mesh tape, simply cut pieces to fit, press them into place, and begin applying joint compound. For paper tape, start by spreading a bed coat over the joint with a 6-inch taping blade. Apply just enough for the paper tape to adhere.
2. Embed the tape in compound. (Skip this step if you are using mesh tape.) Immediately after applying the bed coat to a joint, center a length of paper tape over the joint and press the tape firmly against the filled joint by running your taping blade along it. If the tape begins to slide, hold it in place with your hand. If bubbles form under the tape, if there are places where the tape is not sticking to the bed coat, or if wrinkles appear, peel the tape back and apply more compound. Then press the tape back again.
3. Apply compound over the tape. Load a 10-inch taping blade with compound and apply a smooth coat over the tape. Where two tapered joints meet, make sure the blade extends past both tapers. Fill in the tapers only, so you have a flat wall surface. For butt joints, feather out the compound 7 to 9 inches on each side; a small ridge in the middle can be sanded later. After the compound dries, scrape off ridges and bumps, and sand. Apply and sand successive coats until the surface is smooth.
4. Coat outside corners. To protect and conceal the drywall edges that meet at an outside corner, cut a piece of metal corner bead using tin snips. Fit the strip over the corner and fasten it to the wall one side at a time. Drive in nails or screws at 10-inch intervals. Check to make sure the flange of the corner bead does not protrude above what will be the finished surface by running a taping blade along the length of the corner bead. Fasten down any areas of flange that protrude. Apply a coat of joint compound with a 6-inch blade angled away from the corner. Allow one side of the blade to ride on the bead, the other side on the wall. For subsequent coats, use 10- and 12-inch blades.
5. Tape inside corners. Outside corners can be almost fun, but inside corners are more difficult. Apply a bed coat of compound to both sides with a 6-inch blade. Cut a piece of paper tape to the correct length, fold it, and place it in position by hand. Keep it straight to avoid wrinkles. Run a corner taping tool along its length to embed the tape in the compound. Lift and reapply compound wherever the tape has wrinkles, bubbles, or non-adhering spots. Once the tape is embedded, apply some compound to the walls and some to the corner tool. Stroke on a smooth coat. This will take several passes and some practice. You may find it easier to feather out the edges with an 8-inch blade.