How to Mud Drywall Like a Pro

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“Mudding”, the application of several thin layers of drywall compound to the joints and screw depressions in newly hung drywall, sounds chaotic – and it is. But when done correctly, the result is a wall so flat that few observers can see the seams underneath.

While professional drywall cones make the task look easy, do-it-yourselfers find it takes practice, skill, and of course the right material for the job (in this case, the mud itself and the tape that prevents cracks from appearing in the seams). This guide will give you an introduction to the materials as well as a step-by-step guide on how to muddy drywall so you can feel safe, not confused!

First, make sense of drywall mud types.

The two basic categories of drywall sludge, “premixed” and “powdered”, come in a handful of additional options that can make it difficult to choose the right product when there are a dozen different types available in the hardware store.

Premixed

Premixed grout is just that: the mud has already been mixed with water to a smooth consistency and is ready to be applied. However, in this category you will find “all-purpose sludge”, “directional sludge” and “light all-purpose sludge”.

  • All purpose sludge goes on smoothly and begins to harden in a couple of hours, depending on the temperature and humidity in the room. It is suitable for all sludge applications. So if you are a mud beginner use this one.
  • Topping mud is used as the final top coat. It dries to a bright white and is easy to sand, making it a great choice for walls that will be painted bright. Topping mud has less adhesive properties than general purpose mud and is therefore not suitable for the first and second layers.
  • Light all-purpose sludge Also dries to a lighter shade, making it suitable for walls that will pick up pale paint. Some professionals use all-purpose sludge for the first mud application and then switch to light all-purpose sludge for the second and third uses.

Pulverized

Powdered drywall slurry, also known as “setting slurry” or “hot slurry”, contains chemicals that react when water is added to reduce curing time. This type of sludge tends to shrink less than general purpose premixed sludge, but it begins to set very quickly. The fast-setting mud is well suited for pre-filling large gaps or for smoothing crushed drywall corners before the actual mud process is started.

  • Timed drywall sludge: The setting of mud is indicated by the maximum time you need to work with it before it hardens. You can choose between 5-minute mud, 20-minute mud or longer curing times, depending on your needs. When using setting slurry, mix only what you need and wash your tools frequently as you work.
  • Easy to sand mud: The chemicals in some types of hot mud harden into stone-like ridges on your walls, and you can spend hours sanding them smooth. Avoid this by choosing a variety that is easy to grind.

How to mud drywall

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Then you understand the types of drywall duct tape.

During the mud process, the tape acts as a bond to prevent the finished wall from cracking along the drywall seams. The different types of tapes are “paper,” “mesh,” and “preformed” – and all three have their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Paper tape is used almost exclusively by professionals as it is very thin, which creates imperceptibly smooth joints. The paper tape has a crease in the middle that allows you to bend it along the crease to create sharp wall corners. However, it takes practice to properly embed the paper tape in the first layer of wet mud without creating bubbles underneath.
  • The mesh tape consists of fiberglass threads in an open weave pattern and has glue on the back. While it is fairly easy to position the mesh tape over a dry joint and then apply the first layer of mud on top, the mesh tape is thicker than the paper tape and can result in clearer joints when you paint the wall.
  • Preformed tape, also known as preformed “corners,” can be made of paper, plastic, thin metal, or a combination of materials. It is used on exterior wall corners for a smooth, even look. Some preformed corners require nailing while others are secured with glue. If you’re not sure if you can successfully glue outside corners with plain paper, try preformed tape.

How to mud drywall

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Now you can learn how to mud drywall.

With an understanding of sludge materials, it is time to familiarize yourself with the process described here. Since paper tapes give the most professional results, we will detail how to sludge with paper tape. If you are using a net strap, here are some tips to help you use it correctly.

Tools & materials

STEP 1: Protect the soil and yourself from drywall mud splashes.

Cover the floor with a linen cloth (plastic towels can become dangerously slippery) and put on protective goggles and old clothes. Mudding is a messy process, and splashes can sting if they get into your eyes.

STEP 2: If you’re not using premixed slurry, mix powdered setting slurry.

Remove the lid from the bucket of premixed mud. If you are using powdered setting slurry, mix it as recommended by the manufacturer and beat it smooth with a heavy-duty drill with a paddle bit.

STEP 3: Apply the first coat of mud to the screw wells and factory beveled joints.

Drywall panels are slightly beveled on both long sides. When the chamfers are put together they will form a small indentation about 2 inches wide along the seam. Use the 6 inch taping knife to smooth and evenly apply the mud into the joint, filling the entire indentation, and wiping off any excess mud.

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STEP 4: Cover the mud joint with a piece of tape.

Cut a piece of paper tape and tape it over the joint while the mud is still damp. This is called “litter”. Use the 6-inch tape knife to gently brush the paper onto the wet mud, creating bubbles in the process. Wipe off any excess mud with the knife.

STEP 5: Next, tape off the inner corners.

Using the 6-inch knife, apply a thin layer of mud to both sides of an inside corner, making sure to work it all the way down the middle. Cut, fold, and glue a strip of pre-folded paper tape in the corner over the wet mud. Gently flatten the paper tape in the damp mud, using either a 6-inch taping knife or a taping tool in the inside corner, which has a pre-formed 90-degree shape for easy litter. Use gentle strokes to bed the tape without peeling it off the corner. Wipe off any excess mud from the walls.

STEP 6: Next, apply mud to the outside corners.

If you are using pre-formed tape corners, secure them in place as recommended by the manufacturer, then smooth the mud over the corners. Use long vertical strokes on either side to create a sharp, even corner.

STEP 7: Mud Butt Joints Last If Needed.

You can avoid the butt joints that occur when joining non-tapered ends of a drywall sheet together by using drywall sheets that span the entire space. However, if the ends are not tapered, it will be more difficult to get a smooth finish. Mud them like the beveled grout, taking care to use only as much mud as needed to fill the grout and bed the tape.

STEP 8: Apply a second coat of mud.

Let all of the mud dry before applying the next layer. Apply a second coat of mud to the screw wells, beveled joints, and inside and outside corners in the same order as the first layer – use mud only this time. No need to add another ribbon! Just apply a thin layer of mud and wipe off any excess.

STEP 9: Apply a second layer of mud to the butt joints as well.

To apply a second layer of butt joints, take the 10-inch taping knife and apply two swaths of mud approximately 8 inches wide on either side of the first layer of joint, but not over the original joint. This imperceptibly builds up the wall depth over a larger area to reduce the occurrence of a bulky butt joint. Use a knife to feather the edges of the swaths well to achieve a smooth look.

STEP 10: Apply a third and final layer of mud.

Apply a third very thin layer of mud after the second layer has dried. Use the 10 inch knife for all screw indentations, seams, and corners. With the wider knife, you can feather the edges of the mud into a wafer-thin application. For beveled joints and corners, follow the same procedure as before. On the butt joints, apply a thin layer of mud to the previous swaths and the original mud joint. It’s not uncommon for the strip of mud to be 2 feet wide or wider at the butt joints.

STEP 11: Do the same with all butt joints.

When the mud dries, apply one final thin coat to the butt joints only. Feather the edges very well and let the mud dry.

STEP 12: Sand the dried mud around the joints and indentations.

Put on your respirator and safety goggles before sanding. Use a drywall or, if keeping the airborne dust as low as possible is important, rent a drywall from your local home builder. Sand all the grout and nail pits until the wall is perfectly smooth. Now you can paint or paper!

How to mud drywall

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If you want to use mesh tape to grout drywall …

Unlike paper tapes, which require bedding in wet mud, self-adhesive mesh tape is applied over the seams. When mud is applied, a sufficient amount will seep through the mesh into the underlying seam. The order of the tape is the same: screw notches and beveled joints first, then inside and outside corners, and finally butt joints. If you are using mesh tape for flat connections, note that it is not suitable for corners. Use pre-folded paper tape for inside corners and preformed tape for outside corners.

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Get free, no-obligation project estimates from licensed drywall installation and repair professionals in your area.

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