Professional Tips for Hanging Drywall

Professional drywall crews use several special techniques for hanging drywall. Practiced correctly, these techniques speed installation and make taping, mudding, and finishing flow smoothly. 

Start With the Right Layout

Sheetrock Hangers
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The first step to hanging drywall is to take a pencil and mark on the floor and ceiling the placement of the vertical studs. This will simplify the attachment of the drywall panels to the framing. (Make sure any insulating work and vapor barrier installation are complete before you begin hanging drywall panels.)

While amateurs often install drywall panels vertically, so that the long seams align along a stud, this is not the usual professional method. Instead, begin in one upper corner of the room and install panels horizontally with the top edge against the ceiling. Pros typically install the top row of panels first. 

Make sure the end of the panel falls over the center of a stud; you may need to score and snap the panel to make it fit. While DIYers usually work with 8-ft.-long panels, the pro method usually is to use 10- or 12-ft.-long drywall panels, which sometimes will cover the entire length of smaller rooms. 

Professional drywall hanging crews generally consist of two workers. In taller rooms, one worker may wear drywall stilts in order to reach the tops of upper panels. Drywall scaffolding can also be used. 

  • Note: Where an entire room is being drywalled, professional crews always do the ceiling first. A pulley-driven drywall lift is the tool of choice for lifting panels into place against ceiling joists, but some crews construct T-shaped "crutches" to brace the panels into place while screws or nails are driven. Other than this, the techniques are the same as for attaching drywall panels to walls. 

Attach the First Panel to the Studs

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Begin attachment by driving some screws or nails on the ends and down the center of the panel to hold it in place against the studs. Screws should be driven far enough to ‘dimple’ the surface of the drywall, but not enough to break the paper surface. Breaking the paper ruins the strength of the attachment. Drywall guns have adjustable clutches that allow you to control the depth of the screw bit. 

If you are using 1/2-inch-thick drywall, use 1 1/2-inch-long screws or nails; for  3/4-inch-thick drywall, use a 1 3/8-inch screws. Along the sides of the panel, keep the screws at least 1/2 inch away from the edge. Space the fasteners 8 to 12 inches apart along the side edges, and no more than 16 inches apart where screws attach to studs in the field. 

Cut the Adjoining Panel

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Measure the distance between the first drywall panel installed and the end of the wall. For large rooms, you may be installing a full second panel, but smaller rooms will likely require you to cut the adjoining panel to size.

The easiest way to trim drywall panels is to score the face of the panel with a utility knife guided by a drywall T-square or metal straightedge, then snap the panel away from the scored line. With the panel bent backward at an angle, the backside of the drywall can be scored along the fold. Snapping the panel back in the original direction will cleanly sever the pieces. 

Continue installation until the top row of drywall panels is positioned and attached between the walls. Pro crews normally finish the top row of panels around the entire room before continuing to the bottom panels. 

Make Cutouts Around Outlet and Switches

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To make cutouts for electrical boxes and other obstructions, you can take careful measurements and transfer them to the drywall panels to mark cutout locations. But the pro method to speed this process is to use colored chalk to mark the edges of the boxes or obstructions, then position the drywall panel against the wall in its final position. Press the panel firmly against the wall to transfer the chalk markings to the back of the drywall

Then, remove the panel and use a wallboard saw or rotary drywall cutout tool to complete the cutout along the marks. 

The panel can now be positioned on the wall and attached with screws or nails. 

Hang Drywall Around Windows and Door Openings

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Where drywall panels fit around window and door openings, the panels will need to be notched to fit around them. This is normally done by taking measurements, marking the drywall panels, then cutting along the marks with a rotary cutout tool (a manual drywall saw can also be used). 

When attaching panels around windows and doors, make sure to use all the required screws or nails, because structural strength is critical. If possible, avoid aligning the joints between panels along the edges of windows or doors, or placing them directly above or below windows and doors, as the normal structural movement of the house can cause these drywall joints to crack. 

Hang the Lower Panels

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Now, install the bottom row of panels. Begin installation in the opposite corner of the room in order to offset the vertical seams from the top row to the bottom. Drywall has the most structural strength if these vertical seams are offset by at least 4 feet. 

You may need to use a foot-operated wallboard lift to lever the lower panels upward to snug them up against the top row of drywall. It's preferred that there be a 1/2-inch gap between the bottom of the lower drywall panel and the floor since this allows room for seasonal expansion and contraction of the drywall and prevents buckling. This gap will be covered by baseboard molding. 

You are now ready for the taping and mudding crew to do their work.