This is going to be a quick how to on how to hang drywall and what the choices mean between hanging it vertical or horizontal on walls and using screws or nails.
There are a few times in a homes life that might require hanging new drywall. The first is during initial construction when the interior stud walls are covered with drywall to provide a liveable surface. There are other options to hanging drywall and often we forget them but depending on your home’s style you might have exposed brick or stone, plywood or composite paneling or maybe tongue and groove boards that are often used on ceilings of rustic style homes.
Drywall is simply the easiest and least expensive way to prepare a room for living and because the tools and skill necessary to install it are pretty basic most people can do this themselves and wind up with very good results. The difference between a professional job and one done by a first time home owner may be apparent to the skilled eye but because you can tape joints and level imperfections with joint compound mistakes can be fixed.
Ok so the first thing you want to know when you are hanging drywall is what thickness of drywall you want to use. Drywall comes in a variety of thicknesses based on how and where it will be used.
Fire rated drywall is a very thick material, about one inch thick, that is used to protect a room with a potential fire hazard from the rest of the home. It is used in the walls of garages but might also be found in a furnace room or ceiling. Although you will be using the same skills and tools it is good to remember you probably will want a helper since it is very heavy to position and install.
The second thickness is standard drywall this material is nominal half inch thick and is used everywhere in the home. Some types are specially rated for water or moisture however it will break down if it has direct contact with water over a long period of time. For that reason you can purchase Concrete backer board which is similar to drywall but used specifically in high water areas such as shower surrounds.
The final thickness of drywall that you are likely to come across is quarter inch drywall this material is not normally used by home owners but it can be used to cover walls that have imperfections in lath plaster walls. If your home is very old you might have plaster walls which can be removed and replaced with drywall. The process is pretty labor intensive and will cost you a bit of money if you contract it out. For that reason you can cover these walls with a thin layer of drywall after you have inspected the plaster wall for sound structure.
Drywall Sizes are all uniform at 4 foot by 8 foot based on the standard dimensions that are used when homes are designed. However if you are installing drywall in a commercial building or in a home with a large vaulted ceiling you might see larger lengths of 12 foot or more. Some contractors will use 12 foot for ceilings throughout a home but even on a drywall lift they can be a pain to install. They are great options to reduce the number of tape joints especially if you are covering say a 10 foot room you can just cut the 12’s to size and only have a few seams.. but they are difficult for one person to work with.
The larger the size of the drywall means fewer seams that need to be taped and mudded. This means you will have a better chance of hiding imperfections if you use larger pieces. It also makes the job go quicker but only if you have helpers. A standard 4×8 sheet of drywall is just about as big as a individual installer should go because you risk snapping it under pressure especially when doing ceilings.
How much drywall do you need to order?
This is very simple to calculate since most homes are built with a standard 8 foot ceiling height. Whether you are installing your drywall vertically or horizontally, and we will cover that in a minute, when calculating the number of sheets you will need you simply measure the perimeter of the wall at the floor.
If the room is 12 feet by 16 feet you know that your drywall is four foot in width. Divide four into the lengths and you will have the number of sheets necessary to complete the room. So, two 12 foot walls will require three sheets each or six total and two 16 foot walls will require 4 sheets each for a total of eight then add them together and you end up with 14 sheets of drywall. Because you might make mistakes or need to cut pieces you should over order by 10-15 percent which means to be safe you should buy 15 sheets of drywall to do the walls in that specific room.
For ceilings measure the length of one wall and divide by four then measure the apposing side wall from the corner and multiply by the number of times 8 goes into that apposing wall. so for our 12×16 foot room we divide 12 by 4 and we get three sheets .. then the 16 foot sidewall is (2)x8 so we multiply 2 times 3 and we get six sheets to cover the ceiling.
If the math gets to be a little too much just tell your supplier the size of the rooms and remember to over order by 10 to 15 percent for breaking and cutting.
How to get the Drywall on to the Wall
Now that you know a bit about the size and shape of drywall you will need you can get to putting it on the wall.
Believe it or not there are still many contractors that use drywall nails instead of screws. The reason for this is that it is easier and costs less. The problem with it is that you may end up having nail pops later down the road especially in new construction where the home settles and studs contract in winter due to lower moisture content in the home and the wood.
Personally I like using screws especially if you have a dedicated screw gun that can be set to plunge screws at just the right depth every time but it does take a lot longer to load screws rather than having a handful of nails and tapping your way down a wall. It is also much easier if you are on stilts not having to deal with corded tools or not having access to electric when you are working in new construction. That includes the hassle of using a generator and buying tools. A couple hammers, drywall knifes and a tape measure is not a large investment but a half dozen cordless drills is.
For remodeling I would always suggest screws but for new construction you do what you think best.
Whether you nail or screw you want one fastener about every 6 inches and for best results many contractors use an adhesive on the studs but I don’t think that is really necessary for most people.
Placement of the Drywall Vertical or Horizontal?
Most professionals will go with horizontal placement of drywall over vertical because a horizontal piece of drywall will attach to more studs in the wall. This means more stability for the wall and the home. Although it might not seem like a lot you can definitely feel the difference in how the home reacts once exterior plywood is installed and then again when the drywall is up.
A drawback and a benefit of horizontal placement is the tape joints. Drywall should be installed vertically to provide the best vertical tape joints because horizontal or short ends of drywall do not have the manufactured bevel in the edge. What you end up with is a roof joint with a bevel that you can’t really use and one at the floor if you don’t cut the sheet and then one good tape joint that runs the whole length of the wall at four foot in height.
If you place all the sheets vertical then you have a vertical tape joint every 4 feet and a ceiling joint that can be butted up to and a floor joint that works well with moldings.
Personally I can see the benefit of horizontal placement but I would rather do vertical sheets to reduce my mud work.
For placing full sheets against the ceiling you will need a drywall lift or a jack. You can rent them or you can make one out of stud lumber.
I started off saying this how to would be a quick explanation of how to hang drywall but the truth is you really need to cover and understand a lot of other aspects to be able to do it right.
I could have said just nail it up but in the end you really need a bit more help. And that is important to remember. Drywall can be completed by a single person but it is better done with at least two and four people is even better. Things just go better and work is much cleaner when you have some help doing this work.