How to Cut a Hole in Drywall

Lead Image
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 1-35
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Utility knife
Carpenters pencil
Drywall hammer

Cutting a hole in drywall is very easy, for the material is lightweight and does not provide much resistance to a knife. The trick, however, is taking the exact measurements so that the hole you cut is precisely where you need it to be. When hanging drywall, you must cut out the access holes for your light fixtures, power outlets, light switch boxes, circuit breakers, and anything else that will be protruding from the wall. Follow these simple steps for cutting out those holes.

Hang Intact Drywall First

If you are hanging drywall on one large wall without a corner to use as a point of reference, start by hanging drywall sheets that will remain intact. Hang these sheets up to the area where you will make the first hole. On the other hand, if you have a corner to use as a starting point, that will suffice.

Measure the Drywall

Try to use as big a sheet as you can to avoid hanging numerous small pieces. If necessary, you can cut several holes in one piece of drywall.

Determine how big of a sheet you can hang. Position the piece in the manner it will be hung. Measure the horizontal distance from the edge of the next piece or the corner to the edge of the fixture. Note it in pencil on the piece of drywall.

Next measure the vertical distance from the floor up to the bottom of the fixture and note it, as well.

Measure the Fixture

Note the dimensions of the fixture in question and mark them on the piece of drywall.

Plan the Cut

Lay the piece of drywall up against the wall or on the floor in the position it will be hung. You know the distance from the floor to the bottom of the fixture as well as the distance from the edge to the near side of the fixture. You also know the dimensions of the fixture itself. Stretch the tape measure out the horizontal distance from the side edge. Holding the tape measure steady, line your pencil up with the inch mark representing the distance from the edge to the near side of the fixture.

Slide the tape up and down, making a pencil line as you do. You want it longer than the length of the fixture. Do the same for the vertical distance from the bottom edge to the bottom of the fixture. Where these two lines intersect will be the bottom left or right corner (depending on the direction you measured) of the hole.

Include the Measurements for the Fixture

From these two lines, you can complete the dimension marks for the hole. Use the intersection point as your reference. If the fixture is 3 1/2 inches wide, make a mark that far from the vertical pencil line. Do likewise for the other dimension.

Stretch out the tape measure again and draw two more lines with the pencil from each mark. Now you have a complete rectangle on the drywall, a rectangle that indicates the exact dimensions of the fixture, correctly distanced from each edge.

Cut It Out

Insert the utility knife into the drywall along the four pencil lines. Be careful to slide it exactly along the lines. Don’t cut beyond each intersection point.

When you complete the four cuts, lightly tap the shape with the drywall hammer. The piece should pop out. Clear away any overhanging drywall.

Place the sheet against the wall frame where it will go and check your accuracy. If you did everything correctly, the hole should line up exactly with the fixture. If it is aligned, hold the sheet in place as you fasten it to the studs with sheetrock screws and move on to the next piece.