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As homeowners, when it comes to small renovation and design do-it-yourself projects, we are willing to do a lot. There are so many resources available to us in the internet age that it seems silly and inefficient from a cost perspective to trust every little fix to the professionals. Many times, with a little bit of handyman chops and some quick study, we surprise even ourselves with the level of work we are able to accomplish.
That said, there are some things we just don’t mess with. Electrical work is a bit of a science, and while the principles are fairly cut and dry, identifying what is what, especially in an old house, can be tricky. Plus there is the whole getting electrocuted thing.
Plumbing is another finicky trade. Each and every plumbing system varies and there are so many small, intricate pieces that comprise even a simple faucet. Even when we think we know the ins and outs, we often still find that water has worked its way into some nook or cranny it should not be.
The two examples above are certainly areas of homeownership that require regular professional maintenance. In part because they require a certain level of expertise and because plumbing and electrical systems are regulated by national codes and standards.
When it comes to carpentry, though, the possibilities are endless for what you can do on your own. Really it is a matter of how much trial and error you are willing to go through.
Once area of structural work that we often avoid, and understandably so, is the construction of our own walls. So often, in small renovation or remodel projects we are advised against hanging drywall ourselves, told that there are professional labor unions dedicated to drywall, and so we assume it must be something to avoid.
Even when our budgets cannot under any circumstances afford the cost of a pro, we stay away from the tape and compound, opting instead for wallboard or paneling.
But this need not be the case. Hanging drywall is a perfectly manageable job for the average DIYer, as long as they are able to commit the time and energy to do it the right way.
Here are some tips and video guides that will help you hang smooth, structurally sound walls with no help from contractors.
Drywall sheets come in three basic types and thicknesses:
Half-inch drywall is typically used over doors and around windows. The framing in this area is closer together than that of a conventional wall area so you don’t need a ton of thickness to achieve the same strength.
You can buy drywall sheets in 4×8 or 4×12 sizes. There is no real difference between what you are getting out of sheet sizes. Really, this is a personal call based on how much you think you can handle in one sheet and whether or not you can move it freely through your home in large sizes.
To figure out how much drywall you will need, calculate the total square footage of the area that will need coverage.
Take that number and divide by the square footage of the drywall sheet size you selected. If 4×8, you would divide by 32 and if 4×12, the number would be 48.
Go through the room and examine all electrical outlets. The wires should be tucked behind the outlet box as far as possible so that you can lay the sheet flat over it. Any wire or plumbing close than ¾ of an inch away from a stud need to be covered with a metal nail plate.
It is important that you can see stud locations as you work so that you know where to fasten the drywall. You can start from the ceiling, using the intersection of wall studs and ceiling joists. Hold up your first piece and mark these points as they would lie under the drywall sheet on the wall.
Now that you know exactly where your studs are, you can begin to fasten the sheet to the studs. Drive five drywall screws through the drywall into the studs. Start at the middle and work your way up and down along the stud, spacing the screws evenly.
As you fasten, work laterally rather than vertically. It will be easier to make cuts at the bottom of the room, rather than up high, working over your head. As you reach window or door openings, do not yet worry about cutting to fit. Simply fasten the panel and mark the opening to cut later. Do the same for outlet boxes. It is best not to put a screw closer than 24 inches from an opening. The small surface area may split or break when the screw is driven.
Continue hanging panel in rows directly beneath one another. The seams should line up. Once you have finished the bottom most row, use a drywall lifter to raise the panels along the floor a half-inch. This allows for framing shrinkage.
Cut out the switch and outlet boxes using a rotary cut-off tool. Use the same tool to cut along the lines you’ve marked for window openings. Once you have made all of these cuts, you can go back and drive screws anywhere around the openings to secure the panel.
Once you reach the end of a panel run, which should be at the end of a wall, simply butt up the next piece of panel so that they meet at the corner. These are inside corners and no edges will be visible.
For outside corners, though, you will want the last piece of panel’s edge to be flush with the next run of wall. As you lay the first piece of panel on the next wall, make sure it reaches over the edge of the last so that no edges are exposed, only flush, front facing drywall surfaces.
Check out this video for a visual representation of what is described above:
Once your drywall is completely hung and openings are cut out, you will need to do some light finish work.
Examine the wall area for protruding screw or nail heads. Drive any that stick out deeper into the drywell, either using an impact driver or a nail set.
If a screw has broken through the paper of the drywall completely so that it is not fastening that panel anymore, drive a second screw close by for reinforcement.
With this done, you are ready for taping. Start by removing all broken or loose drywall. You can lightly sand these areas if you can see the paper surface or gypsum material on the inside is loose and threatens to flake off.
Cover these areas with a taping compound. Most of these products dry within an hour and then must be sanded flush. It is important to stay as close to flush as possible as these products are difficult to sand when extending far beyond the face of the panel around the compound.
When compound fixes are done, you are ready to tape. Taping is important to covering seams and creating the illusion of a continuous white wall. Drywall tape products have come a long way, and there is no need to mix your own adhesive with the newer products out there. These modern drywall tapes act like any other tape and are simply applied to cover the seams as straight as possible.
Start with the butt joints first, the seams where two panels meet that run vertically. Then, go back and cover the tapered joints, the horizontal seams. On corners, use a putty knife to fold and smoothen the tape.
To cover the tape, you will use taping compound. Apply the compound using a masonry trowel. This is the technical part of the job.
Start at the center of butt joints with a large amount of compound. Pass over the compound with the trowel to spread it along the butt. Once it is spread across the joint as much as is possible with the amount of compound you initially applied, use the trowel on an angle to feather out the edge of the compound spot. For tapered joints you will follow the same process as you did with butt joints. Make sure though, that the amount of compound you apply to the horizontal joints do not extend past the width of the trowel by more than a few inches.
Once you’ve covered all seams, let the compound sufficiently dry. The next step is to sand all seams flush and level. You may find areas that need compound tough ups once you start sanding. That is okay and normal. Take the time to trowel it on and let dry. It is always best to have more to sand than not enough compound to hide the seam.
To see what finish work looks like in action, click this link.
With this information and the corresponding videos, you should have all the resources you need to master the art of drywall and start hanging your own today. While it seems like an ambitious task, it is really pretty manageable.
Consider the tools you will need and the type of drywall that works best for your room and always mark what is under the wall ahead of time.
With these two things in mind, the most challenging part is taken care of and you are ready for your next home renovation.