Drywall Installation Tools and Tips

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Uncategorized, Home Improvement Tips

I have a love-hate relationship with drywall–but apparent most people have a hate relationship with it as shown in my last drywall post.

I hear ya!

As compared with say building a deck or hanging crown, I hate it. It’s massively hard work, everything is white or a shade of white (which drives me sort of stark-raving), and sanding it is among the most onerous things in building (hack, gasp,sweat). But, once I get cranking-get the knives whirring and the radio playing–well, I kinda get into it. There’s a mojo to it.

But the only reason I survive is that I’ve developed some techniques over the years to make the ‘rock I hang easier. Here’s just a few tips.

One secret to successful drywall finishing is not to expect--or use--too much compound at a time. Thin coats are key.

One secret to successful drywall finishing is not to expect--or use--too much compound at a time. Thin coats are key.

Sub It Out. Sub out big jobs. I’ve seen dedicated drywall subs come in and hang, tape and 1-st coat a 30×30 basement–walls and ceiling–in the time it would take me to drag the boards downstairs. Good crews are relentless and the finish top-flight.

Hang Time. For the jobs you do take-on yourself, hang the ceiling first, then hang the walls.

Tools. As with any project, having the right tools–in good condition–is paramount. One mistake I see a lot of people make is that their tools are dirty. Joint compound must not only be cleaned completely off the knives and pan at the end of the day, but I clean them several times during the day. High quality knives–6, 10, 12 inch–and a stainless steel pan make a huge difference as well. If you use setting-type compound, I wash the tools and mixing pail after every batch to keep the stuff from drying too fast.

Setting-Type Compound. If you fix houses you should make friends with stetting-type or powdered compounds. DuraBond is a popular brand name. But it’s a good news/bad news deal. Good news is that it sets up fast (usually 20, 45 or 90 minute mixes) but the bad news is that sets up as hard as diamonds making it very difficult to sand flat. Back to the good news: it takes practice to get proficient, but it’s more mojo than rocket science.

Pre-Mixed Compound. Compound that comes in a bucket is pre-mixed, of course, is easier to apply and waaaaay easier to sand. But it takes a full 24 hours to dry…unless…

Make Your Own Mix. Unless you mix in a little 45 into your mud. This speeds up the dry-time without hardening the material too much. How much to add depends on a lot of variables. As long as you don’t change the consistency of the pre-mix too much–and you blend it in completely–you should be OK.

A Little Goes A Long Way. One major problem people have with getting the joint-compound mojo is that they expect too much–and use too much–for each coat. The first coat should be whisper thin…just enough to embed the tape. Don’t expect to smooth too much out with it. The second coat or “two-coat” I call it, should start to smooth out the lumps and bumps, but again, it should be very thin and the edge “burnished” or “feathered” to just about zero with the edge if the knife. The third coat is the finish coat and the one you’re looking to to make everything nice and smooth and flat and to fill up pock-marks left over from the previous coats.

I could–and might, but later–keep going on this. Doing your own drywall work can save you an enormous amount of time and money. But it takes skill, practice and endurance. The good news is that most people who undertake an old house reno- have that in spades.