Drywall 101

Read up on the tools and know-how you'll need to install drywall.

By Bob Vila | Updated Jul 30, 2020 2:33 PM

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Installing Drywall

Photo: Flickr

What is drywall?
Although the two words are often used interchangeably, Sheetrock is actually a brand name for drywall, which is gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of paper or, more recently, between two sheets of fiberglass.

Work with a pro or DIY?
Any way you say it, drywall makes finishing walls very practical. For large jobs or those with very high ceilings, hire a pro. But most smaller jobs can be tackled by do-it-yourselfers.

Be prepared
The tools you’ll need are a straightedge and measuring tape for sizing your pieces, a utility knife for scoring and snapping, and a keyhole saw or rotary tool for cutting holes for outlets and windows.

While some pros still attach drywall with nails, most find it easier to use an electric drill and that wonderful multi-purpose fastener, the drywall screw. You’ll need about a pound of nails or screws for every 5 sheets of drywall.

Metal corner beads go on all outside corners; inside corners get taped along with the joints between panels.

Using pre-mixed joint compound is easier and less messy than mixing your own. You want a mix that’s not too quick-drying if you’re a beginner so you have a grace period to work in. Pros use about 5 gallons of compound for every 100 square feet, but you may need more depending on your level of experience.

Drywall installation
Before you get started, run the side of a hammer head along the framing to check for uneven surfaces or any protruding staples or nails.

Installing drywall involves a series of short steps over a 3- to 4-day period. Be sure to wear safety gear and a dust mask while sanding. If you’re doing a ceiling, get a helper or a drywall lift.