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3 sanity-saving drywall tips to start you off

A lot of people, some of them wiser than yourself, will tell you that drywall is best left to the professionals. It's not that expensive to hire a pro, and hanging drywall is such a nasty process that no amateur in his right mind would take it on.

But lurking inside so many of us is a guilt button that says we deserve -- though we know not why -- the cosmic punishment of attempting to throw up a little plasterboard!

3 drywall pointers to get you started

Next time you are remodeling (or you feel like embarking on a guilt trip), here are three pointers to get you ready to slap up the drywall:

  1. Dust. Few things are as pervasive as drywall dust. Seal off the room from everything. Tape a plastic drop cloth over the door. Arrange it so that you can have it taped shut while you are working. Don't rely on a loosely draped piece of plastic held in place by a board on the floor; it won't work. If you can take the added step of hanging a blanket from the ceiling outside the door to reduce airflow, all the better. Stuff rags into the air ducts. If you are doing a little work in a room that is already finished, remove the furniture and put plastic over the entire floor. Try to protect everything from drywall dust.
  2. Warp. Not all studs are created equal -- some are straight, and some are curved. Place a straight edge (a four- or six-foot level, or a straight two-by-four, if you can find one) horizontally across several studs to see if they are even, or if some of them curve inward or bow out into the room. You may need to use a belt sander or planer to shave a bowed stud, or use some drywall shims (cardboard strips available at your big-box store) to fir out a stud that curves inward. A little irregularity is all right, but sometimes a wall looks like the pretzel man created it, and it is very disruptive to the drywall process.
  3. Wires. Make sure your wiring is safe. Wires are supposed to run through the middle of the stud, but sometimes a sloppy electrician gets the hole off center. Drywall nails or screws are not long enough to hit a properly centered wire, but if there is any doubt, tack a protective plate onto the stud; they're also available at the big-box store. (Some builders will put protectors on each stud, regardless of the wire position.)

Hanging drywall is not a pleasant process -- in fact, it is downright ugly. But the proper preparation can make the job a little less punishing.