How to Hang Drywall Like A Pro

how to hang drywallWith Tips from a Professional Contractor

When it comes to hanging drywall, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by doing it yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s not brain surgery, either. All you need is arm strength, determination, and patience.

The costs associated with professional drywall installation can run you from anywhere between $65 and $80 an hour alone. Factor in the cost of tools, materials, and supplies, and you can be looking at a pretty hefty bottom line. The average 12’x12’ room can cost upwards of $1,000 to hang, and that doesn’t include taping, sanding, or finishing or other essentials like old drywall removal, cleanup, and debris disposal.

After hearing all that, my bet is you’re ready to get started! Let’s do it!

The good news is there is no mystery when it comes to hanging drywall. It’s a pretty straightforward process, and even beginners can do it—but only if you’re equipped with plenty of perseverance, the proper tools, and a clear understanding of what to do and when. It’s not math, but when it comes to hanging drywall, everything has to be done in a certain order or else you’ll be facing some frustrating problems.

What we’ll be covering in this article is primarily the hanging process, but don’t worry! You can check out my other articles on drywall below.


See my other drywall-related articles:

Taping Drywall

Sanding Drywall

Drywall Finishing

Applying Knockdown Texture


The Skinny on Drywall Thickness

First things first. Drywall is essentially gypsum plaster pressed between heavy paper, dried, and cut into panels or sheets. Drywall is also known as plasterboard, wallboard, and sheetrock, so if you see those terms while shopping for tools or supplies, they’re all referring to drywall.

Little known fact: Sheetrock is actually a registered trademark of the United States Gypsum Company and is the original drywall.

Another much more important fact is that not all drywall is created equal. Drywall comes in different dimensions and thicknesses, and certain types are better than others for certain jobs.

You essentially have four choices when it comes to selecting drywall thickness: 5/8-inch, 1/2-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/4-inch. Here’s what that means and how they’re used:

5/8-inch (15.9mm): The heaviest and most soundproof

  • Thickest option
  • Most expensive choice
  • Frequently used in commercial construction
  • Also referred to as “firewall” or “fireboard” due to the flame resistance created by the glass fibers embedded in the gypsum
  • Not fireproof, but has the ability to retard the spread of flames and reduce smoke output (has a 1-hour fire rating)
  • Some building codes require fireboard to be used in “hot” rooms, like garages, utility rooms, or rooms with furnaces or stoves.

1/2-inch (12.7mm): The standard thickness for most residential projects

  • Comes in a variety of sheet lengths
  • Can be used with both wood and steel framing
  • Frequently used for walls and ceilings
  • Easy to carry and hang

3/8 inch (9.52mm): Best for covering existing walls

  • Commonly used for remodeling partitions
  • Excellent for patchwork in older homes, where existing drywall plaster has been worn through or removed
  • Can be used as a curved surface when necessary due to its pliability

1/4 inch (6.35mm): The best choice for curved walls and arches

  • Most economical choice
  • Ideal for curved walls
  • The most popular choice for covering plaster
  • Panels are light and are easy to carry and hang
  • Can bend or break easily, so use caution

Choosing a Size

After determining the thickness, your next decision is the size and number of drywall panels you’re going to need. Your goal is to create as few seams and joints as possible, so the larger the panel, the fewer panels you need. However, larger drywall sheets are considerably heavier, and can be difficult to transport and maneuver around the project site (up and down stairs, around corners, etc.).

Weight is a big consideration. A standard 1/2-inch 4’ X 8’ panel weighs about 50 pounds and can be managed by a single person. Thicker and/or longer boards are heavier and bulkier, so, they typically require two people to transport and hang them.

Here’s a guide to the three general drywall panel sizes:

4’ x 8’ 

  • Most common drywall size
  • Allows for either vertical or horizontal installation

4’ x 10’

  • For tall or long walls
  • Allows you to create a smooth vertical surface to meet higher ceilings

4’ x 12’ 

  • Longest length available at most home improvement stores or contract suppliers
  • Great for creating smooth surfaces in rooms with high ceilings

At this point, you’re ready to figure out how much drywall you’ll need for the project.

I’ve found that the best way to determine this is by adding total surface areas and dividing by square feet per sheet. For example, a 4’ × 8’ sheet will cover 32 square feet and a 4’ × 12’ sheet will cover 48 square feet.  A standard 16’ x 16’ bedroom with eight-foot ceilings, for example, will add up to about 768 square feet.  Deduct square footage for window and door cutouts to come up with an accurate total.

I usually get just enough to do the job. I’d rather go out for another sheet or two than get stuck with extra drywall. It’s not easy to store and you can’t really set it out with your garbage cans on collection day.

After determining drywall thickness, panel length, and the number of panels you’ll be using, you’re ready to start gathering your tools.

What You’ll Need

Must-haves:

  • 48-inch T-square – Used for making cut lines when scoring drywall sections.
  • Drywall screw gun – Don’t use nails. I use screws and have always been pleased with the results.
  • Drywall saw – Essential for creating notches and cutouts.
  • Surform plane – Allows you to get nice, clean, straight edges to create flush seams and joints.

    Surform Plane

  • Flat pry bar – Helps lift the drywall into place.
  • Retractable knife – Comes in handy when scoring edges for cut-offs.
  • Drywall adhesive – Creates a solid bond between the drywall and the wood or steel framing
  • Caulking gun – It’s good to have a caulking gun with spout cutter, so you can easily cut the adhesive spout to the desired bead size. Many caulk guns also come with a built-in metal rod to puncture the seal at the base of the spout where it meets the tube.
  • Drywall Screws – There are a variety of sizes, threads, and gauges for drywall screws. If you’re using standard 1/2-inch drywall panels, you’ll want to use 1 5/8-inch or 1 1/4-inch Thicker drywall requires longer screws, thinner drywall requires shorter screws. Use screws with coarse threads for wood studs and screws with finer threads for steel studs.
  • Carpenter’s pencil – This will be handy for a variety of reasons, chief among them is locating the studs before hanging the panels so you know where to fasten the screws later.
  • Drywall nails – You want to use screws to fasten the drywall panels to the studs, but drywall nails will be necessary when framing the outside corners with corner beads. These nails are threaded, so you’ll be able to differentiate them from other types of nails.
  • Corner beads – You’ll want to use metal corner beads to frame the outside corners.

Nice-to-haves:

  • Drywall hammer – Superior to a conventional hammer because its’ convex waffled headset hammers nails without breaking the drywall paper.

    A drywall lift with rolling casters

  • Drywall panel foot lift – Use this instead of a pry bar to lever the lower panels upward and into position (many, like the one I’ve linked to, also include a built-in rasp to plane rough edges—which means you don’t need the Surform plane).
  • Drywall lift –Depending on the size of the job and whether you’re drywalling high walls or ceilings, you might want to invest in or rent a drywall lift or “panel lift.” Panel lifts make the hanging process a breeze for high work.
  • Spiral cutout saw – Makes cutting openings in drywall faster, easier and more accurate. It’ll also reduce the hanging time, as well as taping time too, because you’ll avoid having to patch mis-cut holes.
  • Stud Finder – You’ll use a pencil to identify where the studs are on the drywall panel before hanging it, but you may need to go back later and add more screws.

Get to Hanging

Ok, now we’re finally ready to begin the hanging process. We’ll take it step by step.

Step 1: Prepare for Hanging

Before hanging the first panel, make sure to measure the panels and cut them to fit your wall. Place the panel light-side up (this is the side you’ll want facing the room). Use your T-square to create an even line and use your utility knife to score the panel deep enough to cut through the paper and about halfway into the core. Snap the panel downward away from the cut to create a clean edge. Smooth out the edges with a surform plane or a rasp.

Line up the first panel with where it will be hung. Take a carpenter’s pencil and mark the position of the studs on the front of the drywall panel. These marks will help you locate the studs later when you move to Step 2.

Next, you’ll be applying the adhesive to the studs. Start by cutting the tip of the adhesive spout to create a 1/4-inch bead size and use your caulking gun’s metal rod to puncture the seal. Load the adhesive cartridge into the gun and apply adhesive to the studs where you’ll be hanging the first panel. Start at the top near the ceiling, since it’s easier to work your way down. Make sure to set the drywall onto the adhesive within 15 minutes, otherwise the adhesive will begin to dry, and the bond won’t be as true.

From here, you’ll want to move the drywall panel into position and set it against the adhesive. If you’re not using a drywall lift, you’ll want to have a friend help you with this part, since even the lightest drywall panels are heavy, and you’ll want to start drilling in the screws as soon as possible.

Step 2: Drive Screws into the Drywall Sheet

While holding the first sheet horizontally across the ceiling and close to the corner, firmly press the panel against the wall, creating a clean, even 90-degree angle with the ceiling. Now you’re ready to fasten the sheets to the studs. Pros never secure drywall with nails anymore, and neither should you.

Here’s why you should use screws instead of nails:

  • Screws anchor the drywall solidly to the framing
  • Screws do less damage to the paper face of the drywall
  • Screws won’t pop out down the road the way nails do

Why you should use a drywall screw gun:

  • A drywall screw gun is a high-speed, low-torque drill specifically adapted for installing drywall
  • With an adjustable nosing, it sets screws very quickly at precisely the correct depth
  • It’s worth buying if you’re planning to hang a lot of drywall

There are various styles of adapters and attachments for converting conventional drills into screw guns, but I don’t think the results aren’t as good. In my opinion there’s no substitute for a good drywall screw gun.

Once the drywall is firmly in place, begin driving your screws along the outer edges of the panel, starting at the top nearest the ceiling. Working from the center outward, drive screws into each stud at 12-inch intervals about a 1/2-inch from the outer edge of the panel. Do the same along the bottom edge. Now you’re ready for the bottom panel.

Step 2 – Add Additional Sheets of Drywall

Move the bottom panel (which you’ve already cut to the proper dimensions) into position. Then, use a pry bar or foot lift to secure the panel firmly against the top sheet so you have a nice, tight seam.

When moving the bottom sheet into place, be sure to leave a 1/2-inch gap between the bottom edge of the panel and the floor. You can use baseboards to cover these gaps once you’ve finished the drywall project.

Drive the screws into the bottom panel, using the center-out method described above.

PRO TIP #1: When it comes to adding additional sheets of drywall, it’s a good idea to stagger the seams. Covering and smoothing the joints where the seams meet can be relatively challenging, and staggering the joints makes them less visible.

Step 3 – Cut Out Openings for Windows, Doors, and Outlets

When adding additional panels, be sure to accommodate for window and door openings. You want the joints where the sheets meet to be centered horizontally and vertically around the openings rather than at their corners. This will help prevent wall cracks from forming at the corners of doors and windows later on.

To cut around a window:

  1. Take off the window trim and cut the window opening in the drywall sheet before you hang it
  2. Lay out the cut by positioning the sheet along the floor and marking where it meets the bottom edge of the window
  3. Measure from the ceiling to the window top to lay out the top edge of the cut

To cut around a door:

  1. Lay out a door cut the same way as a window.
  2. Remove the trim. Lean the piece of drywall against the opening, mark the location of the studs, and draw a line for the top of the door opening.
  3. Make cuts for both doors and windows with a router or drywall saw and screw the panels into place with drywall screws.

To cut for outlets or other receptacle holes:

  1. Use a spiral saw.
  2. Note the height of the outlet box or fixture and draw marks on the floor to show where it is.
  3. Remove any outlet wires and screw the drywall into place, covering the box and driving just enough screws to keep the drywall in place.
  4. Find the inside edge of the box or fixture by plunging the spiral saw into the box and cutting sideways to the edges in a counterclockwise direction.

PRO TIP #2: One of the easiest ways to properly locate receptacle holes on drywall is to rub the edges of the opening with lipstick or dry-erase marker and then press the sheet up against the opening at its final position. This will create an outline on the drywall, giving you a clear location for where to cut the hole. 

Step 4 – Framing Outside Corners

When creating corners with drywall, you’ll need to make sure the outside edges where the panels meet are straight and clean.

Here are a few more tips for framing outside corners:

  1. Cut a piece of drywall long so that it hangs over the corner
  2. Trim it with a spiral saw after it’s in place
  3. Hang the abutting panel, leaving it long, and trim it to create a tight, well-fitted corner
  4. Protect the corners with metal corner bead. A bead that is too long will kink when you fasten it. To prevent this, cut the bead with tin snips, leaving it about 1⁄2-inch short.
  5. Hold the bead tight against the ceiling. Screws will distort the bead, so nail it into place with drywall nails, spacing them about every 9 inches.

Final Dos & Don’ts for Hanging Drywall

  • DON’T try to save money by using scraps of drywall when you should be using a full sheet. The time and effort spent taping extra joints is rarely worth the money you save.
  • DON’T use tapered edges for outside corners where you’ll be fastening corner bead. The thinner edge of the drywall makes it hard to properly fill the beaded edge with taping compound.
  • DO think ahead to make drywall taping as easy as possible. Remove broken corners and loose chunks of rock and cut out any blisters. Check out my article on drywall taping for more information.
  • DO sink all fasteners just slightly below the surface—but not so deep that it rips the drywall paper face. Run a putty knife over the drywall to make sure there are no popped out screwheads or nail heads. If you find any screws that have ripped the paper, drive a second screw into position right next to the first one.
  • DO pay special attention to the sanding process after you’ve taped the drywall and before you paint. Check out my article on sanding techniques.

Once you’ve finished hanging drywall, you’re now ready to move onto the next phase, which is the taping process. Before you begin, however, make sure you pick up any debris and sweep the floor clean.

Let me know how your project goes in the comments below. Also, feel free to ask any questions you might have. I’ll do my best to answer them.

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