Drywall 1 - Project Planning and Preparation Drywall 1 - Project Planning and Preparation

Drywall, often called gypsum, wallboard or plasterboard, is made of a crumbly fire resistant substance called gypsum. It is wrapped in a thick paper coating, is durable and easily cut, trimmed and repaired. Drywall can be used to cover conventional bare stud walls or damaged lath and plaster walls.

Because of its unique construction, drywall can be cut, sawed, drilled, bent, nailed, glued, screwed, painted on and papered over.


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Standard drywall comes in varied thickness--quarter inch, three eighths inch, half inch and five eighths inch material. Thinner drywall offers the advantages of being lightweight and easy to manage. Thick drywall is stiffer and tends to go up flatter. The most commonly used drywall is 3/8 inches and 5/8 inches thick. Check local code for specific requirements of your area. The standard panel is 4 x 8 feet, although 10' and 12' panels are available. Moisture resistant drywall is called greenrock or greenboard and is specially treated for use in bathrooms and other damp areas. The long edges of the panels are tapered to compensate for the thickness of mud and tape used to finish the seams. Drywall panels have one rough and one smooth side. It is the smooth gray surface you want to face outward.

In addition to being easy to work with, drywall is inexpensive. Drywall can be difficult for a novice to finish to a smooth surface. Practice your finishing in a closet or other area of low visibility. You may find a textured finish to be much easier. Once in place, the drywall can be painted or papered (unless it is textured) which makes it ideal for new interior design effects.

Preparation of Your Walls for Drywall

  1. All electrical and plumbing work (such as installation of new outlets or wall and ceiling fixtures) should be completed prior to installing the drywall. This includes phone and cable TV lines and alarm systems as well. See our Electrical, Wired Home, and Plumbing sections for more information.
  2. Place nail guards over studs to protect wires and pipes.
  3. Dampness in the walls or ceilings due to faulty plumbing or poor ventilation should be corrected.
  4. Complete any needed insulation upgrading or installation prior to dry walling. See our Insulation sections for more information.
  5. Mark the location of all wall studs on the ceiling and the floor for your vertical nailing pattern reference.
  6. If you are placing drywall over an existing wall, remove all the baseboards and note the locations of the nail holes in the wall surface. These nails will usually be in the center of a stud. Check this by drilling a hole (1/8" drill bit) into the wall above a nail to find the stud. When you are confident you have found it, measure over 16 inches (studs are usually 16" or sometimes 24" apart) and drill again until you find the next stud. Mark the stud location on the ceiling and the floor for your vertical nailing pattern reference.
    Note : Keep in mind, on a lath and plaster wall, you will need to drill through the plaster and one inch thick lath before you hit the stud.
  7. Check to see if any studs (or rafters) are badly bowed and would cause the drywall to protrude or bow inward. This is especially critical around doors and windows where trim win later be applied. Correct these with shims or by chiseling, planning down or even replacing before proceeding.

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