Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How-To: Drywall Installation Tools and Materials


The framework of your home has been completed, the major plumbing and electrical work is done, and it’s time to hang your walls. Or maybe you’ve decided to refurbish your house, and you want to replace those old walls. Either way, you must hang your drywall and then prepare the walls for texture, paint, or wallpaper. This post series will introduce you to the basics of hanging drywall.

Drywall Sheetrock, and Wallboard are all terms for the paper-wrapped gypsum board that forms the wall and ceiling surfaces of most buildings. The generic term is drywall Sheetrock and Wallboard are trade names.

Drywall is made in various lengths and thicknesses, but the board is always four feet wide. Drywall can be as thin as 1/4 inch or as thick as 3/4 inch, and it can be from eight to twenty feet long. In residential construction, though, we usually use 1/2-inch boards, four feet wide and twelve feet long.

There are three types of drywall that you will need to be familiar with as a drywall

Regular Drywall

Drywall is made out of a gypsum composition covered with a type of paper that is used to bind the mixture together and provide a smooth surface. The sides of the drywall are beveled with what are known as factory edges so that a recess is formed when two pieces of board are hung side by side. See ,the illustration in Figure 1-1. The recess is there so that the finisher easily can tape and float the area with joint compound, producing a smooth joint that will blend in with the rest of the wall. The ends of the board, known as butt joints, aren’t beveled.

This causes problems for the finisher, as we shall see later. One of the most important rules to remember in hanging drywall is that you must hang a factory edge to a factory edge and a butt joint to a butt joint.

FIGURE 1-1 Factory edges and butt joints
FIGURE 1-1 Factory edges and butt joints


Fire-rated Drywall
Gypsum does not burn, but it will crumble and fall away if its paper covering is burned. If this happens, the framework of the house will be exposed. Fire-rated drywall is fire resistant (not fireproof); therefore, it holds together longer in a fire than does regular drywall. This allows a greater chance that the fire will be discovered and extinguished before it can burn through into another area. Fire-rated drywall is used on all fire walls. A fire wall is any wall separating two units, such as the house from the garage, or one apartment from another. City fire codes vary, so you should check local building codes before you hang any drywall. Fire-rated drywall is also known as type X and has a one-hour fire rating. Water-resistant Drywall 'Water-resistant drywall is commonly used around high-moisture areas such as bathtubs and showers. Its green color distinguishes it from other kinds of drywall, which are usually off-white. Water-resistant drywall also comes with a type X core, which is fire rated.

There are numerous types of drywall, but you will use these three most often. Other types of drywall are used for exterior ceilings and sheathing for building exteriors (usually under brick or masonry). Lead-paneled drywall is used for X-ray rooms. Foil-backed drywall is used for interiors along concrete areas or high-moisture areas.


To hang drywall, you need the right tools and materials. First, you must figure out how much drywall you need. Since every house is different, it’s impossible to say exactly how many sheets you will need, but this formula will give you a good estimate: Determine the number of square feet of floor space in the house. Multiply that number by 3.8, and divide that answer by 48. This will tell you how many twelve-foot-long sheets of drywall you will need for your house. (If you are using eight-foot drywall, divide by 32 instead of 48.)

There are three important forms of attachment. Usually the type of job site will determine the best method.

Nail Attachment
There are many types of nails for hanging drywall. The two main types are the annular ring nail, which perhaps holds better, and the cement coated drywall nail


There are two basic drywall nails: the annular ring nail and the cement coated nail. (Figure 1-2). The length of the nail you use depends on what you are hanging and how far the material is from the stud. The nail penetration into wood should be at least 7/8 inch.

If you are hanging 1/2-inch drywall over lath and plaster, make sure the nail goes through the drywall and the lath and plaster and still penetrates the stud lg inch. Nail spacing varies depending on a number of factors, including location and thickness of the drywall, stud spacing, framing material, and the use of adhesives.

Refer to Table 1-1.

Fastener spacing (Courtesy U.S. Gypsum Co.)

Screw Attachment
If screw attachment is required, there is a variety of screws to choose from. Your choice will depend on the type of materials you are using, The screws In Figure 1-3 are used most widely. Screws should penetrate metal framing at least 3/8 inch and wood framing at least 5/8 inch. If you are in doubt about how long a screw you need, it is always better to use a longer screw than a shorter one. Remember that building codes vary, so you might wish to check locally. For screw fastener spacing, refer to Table 1-1.

The use of adhesives reduces the need for screw or nail fasteners. Put strips of adhesive on the studs you are about to cover with drywall. Adhesives are quite effective in high-moisture areas, especially for ceilings. When using adhesives, remember not to put it on the studs ahead of your immediate working area. When adhesives are exposed to air, they set very quickly, losing their sticking properties.

When using adhesives on ceilings, you will have to secure the perimeter of the drywall with screws or nails. You also will need one fastener in the field on each stud. Follow the same procedure when using adhesives on the walls, omitting the use of fasteners in the field. Refer to Table 1-1.

You will need to order the drywall, screws, nails, and adhesive. For corner beads, square or round, you will need a stick for each outside corner. Be sure to allow for windows and door openings. See other post for more information about the types of corner bead.

Most drywall supply stores will deliver the materials to your house. If you are not going to hang the drywall soon, it must be laid flat on the floor to distribute the weight evenly. When you start hanging, it will be a lot easier if the board is leaned up against a wall in the living room. This places the drywall in a bigger (and usually more central) work area than the other rooms.

You will need the following tools to hang drywall. See Figures 1-4 through 1-7.

The drywall bench is similar to a carpenter’s sawhorse except that the top of the bench is about six inches wide so the hanger can stand on top of it. The illustration in Figure 1-5 shows how to make a bench. Note that all of the dimensions are given, with the exception of the height. The bench should be high enough so that when you stand on it, your head will touch the ceiling joist, minus the drywall thickness. Therefore, the bench, hanger’s height, and drywall thickness equal the ceiling height.

The T-square is used as a straightedge for cutting drywall. You can also use a T-square to ind the correct angles to cut when you hang walls in a stairwell or a cathedral-type room.

FIGURE 1-4 Tools needed for hanging drywall
FIGURE 1-4 Tools needed for hanging drywall

Toe Jack
The ceilings in a house are usually an inch or two higher than eight feet. The first board on the wall is hung horizontally with its top edge against the ceiling. The lower board does not reach up to the bottom edge of the top board. The toe jack is placed under the edge of the lower board. When you step down on the toe jack, it will lift the lever board up tight to the top one



A hangers hatchet has a round head with grooves cut in it. The grooves keep - the hatchet from sliding off the nail you are nailing. The head is rounded so that when you drive a nail into the drywall, the board around the nail will be dimpled. The dimple is later filled with Joint compound to cover the nail.

For cutting drywall, you will need a carpet or utility knife with a replaceable blade.

Circle Cutter
The circle cutter resembles a drafting compass, but, instead of using a pencil, the circle cutter uses a small round cutting wheel. The circle cutter is used to score around the area to be cut before you knock it out.

There are two types of saws to use when hanging drywall: a drywall handsaw and a drywall keyhole saw.

Tape Measure
Use a tape measure at least sixteen feet long and 3/4 inch wide. You will be hanging drywall that is twelve feet long, but if you buy a tape that is only twelve feet long, it will eventually break on you. The reason for this is that pulling the tape all the way out to the end weakens the tape. Shop around and buy one that’s tough.

To hang drywall you will need two pouches: one to hold your hand tools and one to hold your nails. If you are right handed, the nail pouch should be on your left side and the tool pouch on the right.

This is one of the small hand-held types that has a replaceable blade. The rasp is used to smooth the edge of the drywall after it has been cut.

The best pencil to use is a number 2 pencil, the kind commonly used in schools.


The clincher is not allowed in all states, so check your building code. This easy-to-use tool helps put on a corner bead (90 degree). Hitting the top with a mallet forces the two metal teeth to crimp into the edge of the metal. When used correctly, the clincher is quite fast and effective.

Drywall Ripper
It is extremely time consuming to make strips of drywall to wrap around windows and doorways. The ripper is a convenient tool that saves time.

Router, Ream Machine, Drywall Cutout
This handy tool has made it possible for a hanger to learn the trade in half the time. Receptacle boxes have always been difficult to cut out accurately. The router simplifies this task. You place an X in the area of the receptacle box or switch box cutout. After the board is in place, use the router to enter the drill bit into the area with the X. Proceed in one direction until you hit the side of the receptacle box. Place the bit to the outside of the receptacle and let the bit follow around the outside of the receptacle. The bit won’t cut into the plastic, metal, or wood. It cuts only the drywall. Round recess lights are difficult to cut correctly. The router tool is a time saver and money-maker. You can get information about this tool by calling 1-901-665-8600 or check with your local drywall suppliers.

Drywall Lift
Also called dead man lift or drywall jack, the drywall lift is just what the name implies. This lift makes it possible for one person to hang drywall. It saves not only the pocketbook because you won’t have to pay for extra help, but it also saves the back. The drywall lift jacks up the drywall and holds it against the ceiling.

Screw Gun Attachment Called the Rocker
The screw gun is something you need if you are going to use screws. This gun has been around for a long time; however, a new attachment has come out that

makes the screw gun easy to use. The screw gun alone takes skill to work the screws
in your hand so they are in place one after another. Also, it’s hard to make the screws go in straight. The rocker does all this for you. You can find out more about this new tool by calling 1-800-477-TURN or FAX 510-687-6261. Or write THE ROCKER, 205 Mason Circle, Concord, CA 94520.

Obviously, there are countless materials and tools. I mention only the few that are necessary for a beginner. Visit your local drywall supply store. You will find many interesting tools, but most people end up using only a few with which they are comfortable.

The hanging techniques described in this book are for use without electric tools. You need to know how to cut and hang drywall without depending on electricity. When you know how to hang without electric tools, then adding these tools can only make your job easier. If you are working a job site without electricity (which happens frequently), you can still go on working.

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