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Getting ready to hang drywall: tools and tips

There aren't a lot of secrets to hanging drywall -- it's hard only because it is dirty, tedious work that sometimes takes a bit of muscle. Here are some tools and tips to prepare you for a more seamless experience once you begin.

7 essential drywall tools

These tools are designed to improve your drywall experience:

  1. The handiest implement to have is a drywall square, a four-foot long T-square that makes cutting 4-by-8 sheets of drywall a breeze.
  2. You'll also need a utility knife, the kind with a razor-type blade.
  3. A drywall saw is handy. It has a six-inch blade with a pointed end that lets you poke the saw through the drywall and cut interior holes, such as for electrical outlets. Even better: if you have been wanting a Rotozip tool, this is a great time to buy one (and a drywall bit). They are wonderful for interior cuts.
  4. A special rasp designed for drywall is good for smoothing cut edges.
  5. An electric screwdriver (or power drill) and a couple drywall bits will let you set the drywall screw at the proper depth. Screws hold the drywall better than nails and they are easier to mud.
  6. You should have construction adhesive and a caulking gun, if you are hanging drywall on the ceiling.
  7. And if you are drywalling the ceiling, a drywall jack is worth the rental expense. It raises the sheet up to the joists and holds it there while you screw it in.

Tips to smooth your drywall experience

  1. Use 5/8"-thick drywall on the ceiling. Half-inch is fine for the walls. All garage surfaces adjacent to living space need to be 5/8" fire-resistant drywall. Areas around a bathtub or shower that are not covered by tile should be water-resistant drywall known as greenboard.
  2. Drywall comes in eight-foot and twelve-foot lengths (always four-foot wide). Less common, but available, are ten-foot lengths. If you have a helper, you might go with twelve-footers to reduce the number of joints you need to tape. However, half-inch drywall weighs close to sixty pounds for an eight-foot length, and about ninety for twelve-footers. An eight-foot sheet of 5/8" weighs nearly 75 pounds, and about 110 pounds for a twelve-footer.
  3. Learn to cut sheets of drywall: it's easy. With a straight edge (preferably the drywall square) and utility knife, slice the front side of the sheet. It need not be a deep cut, but it must slice the paper. Put pressure behind the slice and give a slight slap on the front side. The interior gypsum should snap cleanly. Fold the sheet backwards and slice the backside paper to complete the cut. Measurements should be a quarter-inch shorter than the actual measurement to allow for the unevenness of the snapped gypsum.

With these tools and tricks of the trade, you're prepped and ready to hang the board.