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What is the Best Method for Hanging Sheetrock&Reg;?

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  • Written By: J.T. Gale
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2016
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Sheetrock® is a brand of drywall used in general construction. It is also known as gypsum board, wallboard, plasterboard, Gibraltar™ board, rock lath, rigips, alcipan, or placoplatre. It generally comes in three standard sizes: 4 x 8 feet (about 1.2 x 2.4 meters), 4 x 10 feet (about 1.2 x 3.0 meters), and 4 x 12 feet (about 1.2 x 3.7 meters). Typically, it's either 1/2 inch (about 1.3 cm) or 5/8 inch (about 1.6 cm) thick. Hanging Sheetrock® is a tedious job that is typically best accomplished by at least two people. If you are going to do the job alone, using a drywall jack may be a big timesaver.

The first step to hanging Sheetrock® is to figure out how much material is needed to complete the job. The total area of the wall and/or ceiling that will be covered should be measured. Then, the number of sheets of Sheetrock® needed should be determined. If 4 x 8 feet (about 1.2 x 2.4 meter) sheets will be used, the total area should be divided by 32. Estimates should be rounded up to leave room for error and waste.

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There are two basic types of Sheetrock® used in home construction: standard drywall and greenboard. Greenboard is typically used in moisture-rich or mold-prone areas. Greenboard, sometimes spelled green board, gets its name from the green paper which covers the sheetrock. When hanging Sheetrock®, whether it be the standard kind or greenboard variety, the side with rough paper will butt up with the studs and joists, and the smooth paper side will serve as the finished side on which to apply paint or wallpaper.

A number of tools and materials will be required to hang and finish Sheetrock®. A drywall hammer or drill, T-square, utility knife, drywall saw, keyhole saw, taping or mudding knife, sandpaper, and a pan are helpful, if not necessary, items. Fiberglass tape and joint compound will also be needed to make the seams between sheets seamless.

To hang Sheetrock®, either drywall screws or ringed nails can be used. Screws hold better and are usually the preferred fastener. Typically, for 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) thick drywall, 1.5 inch (about 3.8 cm) screws are recommended. For 5/8 inch (about 1.6 cm) thick drywall, 1 5/8 inch (about 4.1 cm) screws are recommended.

As with most construction work, proper preparation is key. Anything obstructing the the soon-to-be hanging drywall, such as nails or screws, should be removed from the wall. In wet climates, a vapor barrier may be recommended as well. That vapor barrier may be made of plastic, foil or even an asphalt-covered paper.

Once the wall is properly prepared, the preferred starting point is the ceiling. Installation typically starts at the ceiling for several reasons, one being that the drywall on the wall will help hold up the drywall on the ceiling. The location of the first sheet to be hung is typically determined with consideration made to minimizing cuts. Hanging the first sheet in the center of the ceiling is more likely to result in more cuts; starting in a corner or on the side of the ceiling typically reduces the number of cuts that will be required.

Each sheet will need to butt up to a joist or beam or stud. Screws should be installed around the perimeter of the sheet and should be pushed in so that the screws are slightly recessed into the Sheetrock® without breaking the paper. It's typically recommended that screws or nails be inserted every 8 to 12 inches (about 20 to 30 cm) around the edge of the sheet.

Staggering the boards much like bricks are staggered on a brick wall is recommended as this pattern helps increase the strength of the structure. Not using this staggered pattern for interior walls of residential homes, however, is typically not necessary. Once the ceiling is finished, sheets on the walls can go up. It's often recommended that wall boards be hung horizontally, not vertically, though this is a practice commonly followed in commercial settings; interior walls of residences typically have drywall hung in a vertical fashion.

Hanging Sheetrock® on unobstructed walls is a relative cinch. Issues arise on walls with electrical boxes, doors or windows. A keyhole saw, jigsaw, or spiral saw can be used to cut out holes for electrical boxes. These cuts should be measured twice and cut once before hanging the sheet. Once all the sheets are hung, corner bead should be applied to fill in the gaps.

Mudding comes next and is a big part of having a smooth finish. It's best to mud the ceiling before the walls. A mud knife should be used to liberally apply mud to the seams. Fiberglass tape is then applied directly onto the mud. Finally, more mud is applied over the tape, and imperfections are smoothed out with the mudding knife. The tape still will be visible on the first coat, but after two more coats, waiting 24 hours between each layer for the mud to properly dry, the tape should no longer be visible. The same process should be followed for filling in the screw or nail holes.

Once all the mud is dried, it should be sanded smooth. Dry and wet sanding are the two main options, though, wet sanding is preferred as it doesn't create debris like dry sanding does. If dry sanding is used, eye protection and a breathing mask are highly recommended.

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