Thinking of hanging your own drywall? Do yourself a favor — hire a pro.
A: Steve is in the same boat as one of my new neighbors on my street. A young New Hampshire State Trooper bought a lot here a year ago and laid the foundation stone this spring in hopes of bringing his two children and wife to their new homes for Thanksgiving. Six weeks ago he discovered that the rough carpenters he had relied on to frame the house and get it under cover had left him. He couldn’t even get others to answer his offers.
Guess what? This homeowner frames the house himself with the occasional help from friends. He’ll be lucky enough to have it under cover by Thanksgiving.
Drywall work is tough. Hanging the big, heavy sheets is nerve-wracking. If you want to do it yourself, you can rent or buy mechanical elevators that hold up the sheets for your back. I would do this because all of the helpers you call up do not have the experience required to hold a giant sheet overhead while you are attaching it to the ceiling joists.
An experienced drywall crew could install the entire board in just two days. It may take two or three weeks for you to start developing speed and accuracy. It is important to know that you must use the correct screws, they must be the correct length, the spacing between fasteners is critical, and you must be careful not to overdrive them and tear the delicate drywall paper. Refer to the USG Corporation Plastering Manual for all information.
Once the drywall is hung, you need to finish it. After trying many times to do this on countless construction sites, I am convinced that not everyone has the hand-eye coordination required to finish drywall like a professional could. You have no idea what muscle memory you need to master in order not only to tape the seams the first time, but also to apply the all-important second layer just right.
The consistency of the vinyl tape and finishing compound is critical. You can’t have it too stiff, and adding too much water will dilute the water-based glue that is part of the product. Many finishers aim for a consistency that comes close to warm cake icing.
Gluing drywall looks easy. It is not. The most common mistake is removing too much of the bonding compound from under the tape. If you do this, the tape will bubble when you apply the second layer. Your goal is to leave just under 1/16 inch drywall tape under the tape. For more information, see the plaster construction manual.
Let’s say you’ve successfully taped all of your new drywall. Now comes the hardest part. You’ll need to cover the tape with a second layer of finishing compound. I can’t explain how difficult it is to get this right. To create even more misery, there is a very special method of which flat and tapered seams and which side of the inside and outside corners are coated on the first day. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re trying to apply a second coat at the same time, where a flat seam cuts an inside or outside corner.
The edges of the second layer must not be feathered to anything. To do this, you need to bend the blade of the finishing knife used. Push too hard and you’ll scratch the paper lining. If you apply too little pressure, there is likely a little too much mass left on the wall. Don’t forget that the sharp corner of all new finishing knives must be lightly filed down!
You don’t want to leave too much compound in the middle of the seams. This can be seen at night when the light falls at a small angle over the walls and ceiling. Butt welds, where the ends of two drywall sheets touch, are an extreme challenge. You are forced to lift the finishing mass higher than the unfinished drywall, and it must spring out about a foot on either side of the center of the seam to make this build up invisible.
Some professional drywall finishers will paint off all of the drywall after sanding. This extra step fills in the tiny voids in the paper siding of the drywall. The entire wall and ceiling surface then has the same shine and texture when you paint it. You can purchase special paints that do not require flying over new drywall.
If you find yourself in the same situation as Steve and my neighbor, I wish you the best of luck. And do you know one thing: elephants are best eaten one bite at a time.