Drywall is a wonderful invention. In new construction it can turn a building site into a “almost’ finished home in just a few days. The large sheets quickly cover up studs, insulation, wiring, and plumbing leaving walls that only require texture, painting, and trim. However, as wonderful as drywall is, it doesn’t install itself and proper installation means using the proper tools and techniques. Included in the techniques necessary for proper installation is consideration of weather conditions, because temperature and humidity will impact the product. Here’s some tips for hanging drywall in cold weather.
Accept the fact that the job will take some time. Installing and finishing drywall isn’t something you can do in a day or even a weekend. Installing drywall in any temperature, but particularly in cold weather, is a project that you need to figure on taking 3 or 4 days (or even more). If you want to get a good-looking reliable finish on your drywall you will need patience and perseverance and work the job in a series of small steps.
Impact of Temperature
Working in the cold adds difficulty to the task. Make sure you dress warmly and wear gloves and warm boots. If you can keep your tools in a warm environment until it’s time to start work, you’ll be much more comfortable since cold metal tools are difficult and uncomfortable to hold and handle.
Ideally drywall itself should be installed in temperatures of 55° F or higher. Like all solid materials, drywall will expand or contract depending on the temperature, and in cold weather it will shrink. When you hang drywall in cold weather you need to leave a gap between the sheets to allow expansion in warm weather. Since experts say drywall installed in 28°F will expand ½ inch over 100 feet at 72°F, it’s recommended you leave a gap of 1/8” between the sheets of drywall.
Lack of Humidity
Cold air doesn’t hold as much moisture as warm air, so drywall installed in cold weather will not contain much moisture. Here again it’s estimated that drywall installed at less than 15% humidity will expand over ½-inch over 100 feet at 90% humidity. The solution is to leave the same 1/8” gap between the sheets.
Alternatively, you can try to put some moisture into the air by having pots of warm water in the work area or even spray water on the floor.
Cold, dry air will speed up the drying process of joint compounds, while extremely cold air will actually freeze the compound making it appear to be dry, when in fact, it’s frozen. Joint compound that has dried too quickly or frozen before it dried will be prone to cracking over time. Add heaters to warm the work area to at least 50°F and provide the proper temperature for drying is obviously the best solution. However, if that isn’t possible using a setting type drywall compound (hardens rapidly and doesn’t shrink like regular compounds) and applying thin coats will minimize the chances of cracks developing.