How to Install Drywall

Drywall being installed.
  • 48-96 hours
  • Intermediate
  • $300-500
What You'll Need
Drywall sheets (thickness and amount is determined by your needs)
1-1/4” coarse-thread drywall screws
1-1/2” drywall nails and corner bead
Measuring tape
Utility knife
Metal cutting snips
Drywall lifter
Drywall saw

Installing drywall can be a relatively easy and quite rewarding do-it-yourself project. Drywall, also known as sheetrock and wallboard, makes a room look finished and homey. It will also look professional if you follow these simple steps.

Step 1 - Measure and Cut

Measure accurately before you cut. Use a scoring or trimming knife and a straightedge or T-square for an absolutely straight cut. Drywall will break at the point where it’s scored. Once it snaps, turn it over and use shears or a sharp knife to cut through the paper on the uncut side. Use a keyhole or saber saw to make any necessary circular cuts and irregular angles. When installing drywall, measure and cut holes for electrical outlets, switches and other receptacles using a pencil to outline the opening before you cut it with a keyhole saw.

Step 2 - Pick Vertical or Horizontal

When installing drywall, you want as few joints as possible, whether vertical or horizontal. If your ceiling is less than 8 feet 2 inches tall, use a horizontal application. Installing drywall in this way results in 25 percent fewer joints than a vertical installation. If your ceiling height is greater than 8 feet 2 inches tall, installing drywall in a vertical fashion makes more sense.

Step 3 - Install Drywall on Ceilings

Drywall in a hallway.

When installing drywall on ceilings, you want to apply the drywall to the ceiling using right angles to the joints. Since holding drywall in place can be difficult if you’re working alone, use a T-brace. If using nails, nail drywall to the ceiling with the correct length of nails, spacing them about 7 inches apart. For nail-on and adhesive, use three nails across the wallboard at each joist: one at each edge and one in the center. Nail the wallboard just enough to tighten and then set with a blow to dimple, but not break it.

Step 4 - Install Drywall onto Existing Walls

For horizontal applications, installing drywall on walls should start with the top boards first. Align up to the ceiling and nail into place, being careful not to force it. Start your first run of nails about 7 inches below the ceiling in areas where ceiling boards are nailed to ceiling joists. If using only nails for installing drywall on walls, place them 7 inches from studs.

For nails-on and adhesive, place nails at the edge of the board with adhesive on the back to secure boards to studs located in the center. Place the wallboard’s long edges parallel to framing members in vertical wall installation. There are special metal strips for outside corners. Finish with a good grade of joint compound on all nail heads, corners, and joints. Installing drywall requires two to three coats of joint compound to properly cover (depending on whether you use regular or adhesive-backed drywall tape). When installing drywall, remember to allow 24 hours between each application of joint compound.

Step 5 - Add Finishing Touches

Drywall with a ladder in the room.

Use a finishing knife to smooth out joint compound. Fill in recessed areas and smooth it off with the finishing knife. When the joint compound is dry, sand it lightly to smooth it. Conceal any dimpled areas with enough coats of joint compound. Sand it smooth when dry.

Installing drywall can be fun, too. Enlisting your spouse or friend can make the project a breeze. Now all you have to do is paint over your drywall and you are done.