DIY DIVA
DIY diva

Drywall 101: Hanging Wallboard By Yourself & Other Hard-Learned Lessons

December 17, 2009 | 34 Comments | DIY, DIY How To, Photography
DIY diva

Alternatively titled: I must Have a Screw Loose. Or seven. Hundred.

Drywall is the easiest part of building a room in theory… in practice, let’s be honest,  it’s really just kind of a pain in the ass. I mean, “screw board to wall, cover with joint compound”, how hard can that really be?

I had a plan to start drywalling the Memorial Station this weekend, and even more importantly, I had a plan to do this by myself. Maybe I’ve never mentioned this before here, but I’m five-foot-three. Oh yeah, and a girl.  Keep that in mind.

My biggest challenge is maneuvering a 4×8 piece of wallboard in place. Or even maneuvering it at all, really. But almost anything can be accomplished with the right attitude and this wonderful invention called a drywall jack. Get one.

For anyone interested in drywall basics, let’s start here.

Hanging Wallboard: Tools

  • Wallboard. Duh. Standard thickness for ceiling board is 5/8″, walls are 1/2″ unless they need to be fire-rated, then you have to go up to 3/4″ and good luck hauling that heavy-ass piece of board around.
  • A really sharp utility knife
  • Straight edge, or better yet, T-square
  • Clamps (trust me)
  • Tape Measure
  • Drill
  • Jigsaw/ Rotozip/ Dremmel-with-rotozip-bit/ hole cutter
  • Your body weight in drywall screws

Hanging Wallboard: Cutting Basics

Here’s the thing I hate about wallboard – you have to cut it twice. I mean, I don’t care if you can do it with a pocket knife, the two-cuts thing really just drives me nuts and other than using my Really Big Tools inappropriately, I haven’t found a better way to do this yet.

1.) If you don’t have a T-square, I recommend clamping the straight edge down. Without fail that thing moves on me if I’m trying to hold it AND cut.
01_clamp

2.) Cut. I sure hope that’s self explanatory, although I will mention, you just have to cut through the top layer of paper, not the whole board. (I didn’t believe it the first time I tried to cut it. I guess that was before Google was invented.)

02_cut

3.) This is my favorite part. Feel free to add karate sound-effects.

03_smack

4.) After it snaps you have to cut through the paper on the other side. Which pisses me off. The “whacking” part makes me feel better though, so it all seems to balance out.

I don’t have a picture of this step because — here’s the interesting thing about doing this alone– there is no real way for me to flip a piece of drywall upside down. So instead I would crawl under it and cut. This made MysteryMan snicker, until he realized I have good aim with a utility knife while half-lying under a piece of drywall. The “I’m little can’t maneuver wallboard” thing is also the reason why I’m cutting into the back of this. Usually you’d want to make your first cut on the front because it’s cleaner.

5.) However,  all can be straightened out with a little sand paper.

04_sand

 

Hanging Wallboard: Cutting Utility Holes

This can be summed up with the old adage: Measure twice. Cut once.

 

06_marking

I hauled this bigass piece of drywall closer to the area of installation to cut the holes. Because it was nine feet long, and also very possible that I was going to damage it in transit, and all that hole-cutting time would be wasted.

Side note: You see that piece of drywall attached to the bottom of the wall in the background? Yeah. That’s no good. I mentioned the words “hanging drywall” to my dad on the phone, and that dear, dear, man — the supplier of most of my tools– came running over to the house almost immediately to say “You’re doing it wrong!” Which was followed closely by a pained look and then, “You’re going to put this on the internet, aren’t you?” Yes. Yes I am. But you better take a screenshot of this one Ricky, because I’m going to admit it to the entire world… You were right. Technically. Technically it’s more appropriate to start with the ceiling and work down, and then you have a little play at the bottom where the trim will cover it. But MysteryMan and I messed up when we were framing and used longer-than-96″ studs to make the walls reach the place where wall-meets-roof, so regardless I’m going to need to put another 6″ strip of drywall in somewhere.

Also, I’d just like to say that my Dad gave me a badass router box that he only used once before because he wanted to go buy a new one. He claims I never say nice things about him on the internet, so there you go. That was very nice of you, Ricky. Now next time you come over, say something complementary about my drywall or I’m taking it back.

Anyway, back to cutting.

1.) Measure the position of any outlets.

 

17_measure

Both ways…

18_measure2

2.) Transfer to drywall, I was leaving 1/8″ on either side of the box, but I still ended up needing to widen it, so maybe 3/16″ for play. Rotozips work good for the cutting part if you have a steady hand, but I was missing a collet, so I drilled holes to use the jigsaw instead.
19_mark

3.) The jigsaw is overkill, but it also cut a really nice hole.
20_cut

4.) Then, voila! I had to widen the right side a bit because, hey, never claimed to be perfect over here.
21_fit

Tip: MysteyMan kept asking how I was going to accurately measure the distances to fixtures on the ceiling without someone there to hold the other end of the tape. I found that using a piece of scrap wood we ripped off of a 2×6 at some point was perfect. I marked on the wood and then measured on the ground.

08_measuring

Now circular holes are a different story. Again, a rotozip would work, but I saw this hole cutter at Home Depot, and for $10 you know I couldn’t resist. Plus if you’re going to use a different tool you need to have a good compass anyway, and this does both.

1.) I measured to the edge of the circular fixture, and then the diameter of the fixture. The cutting tool lets you set to a specific size.

10_cutter

2. ) Once you cut one side, poke a nail or some other similarly pointy object through the drywall so you can locate the hole on the other side.

11_cutter2

3.) Cut again.

12_cutter3

4.) I think the proper term for this is “thwock”. Oh, apparently that’s not even a word, but you get the point.

13_cutter4

That was the easiest hole I’ve ever cut in drywall. If you’re going to be cutting more than one, I think it’s worth the $10.

Hanging Wallboard: Getting it in Place. Alone.

I have 2 words for you. Drywall. Jack.

DSC_0559

They cost $30/day to rent from home depot, and are WELL WORTH IT.

I’ll be honest. MysteryMan knew I was at the house hanging drywall alone one day this week (I took a drywall day off work this week. It’s a sickness. Also, I have a week and a half of unused vacation, so what better way to take a break from corporate stresses?)  and he showed up to the house coincidentally in the afternoon, I think to make sure I wasn’t lying crushed under a piece of wallboard. When he saw the jack he was all “no way you’re going to be able to get a 9ft piece of drywall up there.” So instead of asking for help I shooed him out the door, set up the video camera, and prepared to record evidence of just how easy it is for me to get a piece of 9 foot drywall on to the rack.

That video is four minutes and eleven seconds long. That is an eternity when you are holding a nine foot piece of drywall of the ground.  Only 2 words are spoken the entire time.

Holy.

Shit.

Getting a 9ft piece of drywall onto a rack in a room exactly nine feet long presents some logistical problems involving doorways that I can’t even begin to describe here. I’d post the video, but it’s embarrassing to a degree that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.

Let’s just say eventually we ended up here, and that’s the beauty of a drywall jack.

This piece of drywall was such a tight fit (even though I cut it an inch short) that the jack couldn’t get it up as tight as I needed it, so I subbed in some 2×4′s when I was ready for fastening.

09_jacked

Now, one of MysteryMan’s buddies gave us some advice on drywalling from the top down, which was that we should measure down to where the drywall will sit and drive a couple of screws into the studs temporarily to hold the board in place. (A good tip if you’re doing it on your own for sure.) I modified this idea for use with a ceiling board in a place where the jack wouldn’t reach, putting a couple of screws in to hold one end of the board up while I got the 2×4 in place to prop the other end up.

14_holder

I know this is going to leave a couple of divits from the screw heads, but nothing a little mud won’t fix, and it made my life a hell of a lot easier.

15_rigged

Hanging Wallboard: Keeping it There

Without really paying attention to what I was doing I  started out  screwing the wall board in every 8″, and then I realized  me using my body weight in fasteners on one piece of drywall was overkill. Correct spacing is every 12″ on walls, and 9″ on ceilings.

And speaking of ceilings,  mark your joists in every possible location. I used the straight edge to draw their line on the drywall, especially on the ceiling where it’s hard to judge if you’re putting screws in a straight line or not.

Hanging Wallboard: The Aftermath

17_done_ish

Not all of the screws are in yet, because there came a point where I could no longer lift my arms over my head.

16_nono

Not bad for a little girl all by herself, except I’m going to end up with a funky 12″ strip in the middle, because I wanted to use up the board I had and not cut into another one. You may call it laziness, I call it efficiency.

portriat_drywall

Note: The side effect of trying to prove a point and drywall a ceiling by yourself, is that you will no longer be able to dress yourself for the next three days. Something I should probably have factored into my thinking. But hell, it was worth it.

DIY diva

    Comments

  • embees


    (Long-time lurker, which sounds a lot more polite than “I stalk you because I want to be you when I grow up”)

    Awesome post.

    My stepdad – a general contractor – taught me to hang drywall with a pair of screws every 16″ – carries the same load as screws every 8″, but with half the mudding.

    The other tip he gave for cutting utility holes was a way to skip the detailed measuring: go over the edges of the junction box/whatever with chalk or lipstick and press the drywall up against it when you’re checking the fit. The outline will transfer to the drywall and give you the exact outline for the cut.

    -another Ohio DIYer who also happens to have girl parts instead of boy parts

    • kds


      Great post, and thanks for the extra tips, embees!

  • The Tiny Homestead


    2 words for ya: super. hero.

  • Gene


    Great post. I’m impressed you can do this at your size — drywall is heavy, especially the 5/8″ for ceilings.

    Instead of sandpaper, I use a rasp for smoothing the cut edges. And instead of a drill and jigsaw, I use a keyhole saw (you can just push it through the drywall to get it started) for cutting out openings. But I definitely agree on the hole cutter for round holes, and I can’t imagine doing it without a lift. We used to do it without a lift at Habitat, just a couple of people on ladders and braces made of 2×4 to hold it in place while we nailed, but I much prefer using a lift and screwing it in place.

    And don’t worry about the 12″ strip. I’ve done that to avoid buying an extra piece, too. It’s not a no-no, it just means more seams to tape and mud.

  • kitliz


    LOVE all the tips guys! (And girls!) Believe me that this will come in handy for the rest of the Station… not to mention the house.

    Embees- Thanks for delurking! I know everyone is out there, but hardly anyone ever says hi.

    Tiny – You ALL are my heros!

    Gene- Just wait til I post that video of trying to get the drywall on the rack. I can’t even describe in words how uncoordinated it is. Also, good to hear about the 12″ strip. I thought someone might give me a hand-slap for that!

  • Marley


    OH. MY. GOD. Girl! You absolutely amaze me! I would not even try that by myself! I am really impressed that you did it yourself, but I am SO NOT surprised that you would have trouble dressing yourself for a few days after! That stuff is SOOOO heavy! I am another lurker, always quietly checking in to see what you are up to… I had to comment on this one! Great job!

  • wanderluster


    Hang drywall by yourself AND take in-focus, illustrative photos while you’re at it? You go girl! I love the fact you let nothing stand in your way.

    Great drywall tips from you and the other commenters. I’ll have to keep these in mind.

  • Marilyn


    Good job! Thanks for the demonstration. Can’t wait to see the video. I have some ceilings of my own that need to get done and wondered how that jack worked. I, too, am worried about maneuvering the drywall up the stairs and onto the jack, so I guess I have to rope someone into helping me with that. A friend of mine bought a jack, used it, and then sold it when he was done.

  • Holyoke Home


    I only have two words.

    holy.
    shit.

    Um. I need to step up my game.

  • kitliz


    Marilyn- The jack was a lifesaver, but yes… get help getting the drywall on to the jack if you can, or at the very least use an 8ft piece or smaller and not a 10-footer. Life will be way easier and less corners will be damaged!

    Holyoke – First comment in a long time that made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that.

  • Janet Levis


    I love the drywall jack. But mine had something funky going on with it and it wouldn’t stay all the way up. Ended up using my head to hold it while I screwed. Probably not reccomended but it worked.

  • Stephanie


    Loved this post! We just bought a 50 year old house which came complete with wood paneling, nasty ceiling tile and original orange shag carpet. I am excited to drywall and remodel and I am so happy I found your website. So informative! Thanks so much!

  • Danny


    DUDE WOW! You ware awesome, I want to do stuff like this but im only 18:[ you are super inspiring and you just taught me how to hang ceiling drywall:D ♥

  • Star Efrati


    Did you hear about this? This guy was shot in the leg after winning the BIG LOTTERY PRIZE 3 different times!

  • silverfox


    Seriously. You should scrap the drywalling and take up writing full time. You have a talent for it.

  • Keith


    Instead of struggling with a straight edge to mark your ceiling,you could easily use a chalk line(well thats what its called in the UK)itd a long length of string encased in a small coloured chalk box.All you have to do is clip it to one end of the ceiling hold the line at the other end,pull it tight & pin it.It leaves a perfectly straight line the full length of your ceiling.

  • R.L. Laird


    Thank you for the posting. My wife had me look at it so i could learn about hanging drywall, she knows more about this than me (smile), I found it to be very helpful. U go girl !!!

  • Joe


    Use a small router or a roto zip like tool for the electrical boxes and anything else that can be traced around. They sell drywall bits and there are plenty of YouTube videos showing how to do this. Minimal measuring is required and a much more accurate cut. I found mine for cheap at a pawn shop. Thanks for the post.

  • Maxwell K.


    God I wish I had a drywall lift. Your drywall job looks so much cleaner and nicer than mine is so far. Took me 13 hours to hang 3 12×4′ pieces of 5/8″ drywall on the ceiling today, lot’s of prep work incl of course. I don’t know how much more drywalling I can take,especially considering how little help I have!! I think I’m going crazy, lol. I’ve built tons of weird contraptions so I can hang drywall by myself

  • DC


    Outstanding advice and excellent writing ,informative and entertaining. Thank you and I suggest you continue this as a profession or at least as a hobby. From a man that knows the female is the superior of the species.

  • bob c


    Wife and I are drywalling our entire basement, about 1800 sq ft, and agree with the drywall lift (found on Amazon new for $149 with free delivery), but also found a collated screw gun is invaluable, can be found for $69…but we keep a drill handy to set a ‘short’ screw.
    Tried a dremel for cutouts and ended up getting the Roto-Zip, huge difference. More power, more controllable, and bits are heftier.

    We’ve hung about 40 of 100 sheets, mostly 12 footers, and we use the lift for both ceiling and upper walls. You can get the lift close enough to screw in the top row of screws, then you can drop the lift and get the rest of the sheet. Get the Jack as close a you can to the wall and just push the top of the sheet into place.

  • cecylia


    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  • gwiazdy z tv


    I’d should examine with you here. Which is not one thing I normally do! I get pleasure from studying a put up that can make people think. Additionally, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  • Lorna


    I too love doing projects. I’m 5’1″ and 56 years old and a woman!I want to build a whole wall closet with drawers, closet and storage space, etc. Thanks to your blog I will now be able to drywall it:)I esp like the pics. I learn better by seeing something done. Thank you.

  • mpietrzy


    Fantastic and thank you. This was entertaining, informative, pragmatic, and honest. It shared common issues when us non-professionals are trying to do something. Do you happen to have any posts on mudding and taping seams? That part always messes me up.

  • Jodi


    How awesome is this! How awesome you are! I’m going to be doing this in one month, by myself, in a 22×20 totally easy basement. I’m a bit taller than you, but now I realize that the drywall jack is for me. Thanks for posting your experiences. Totally inspiring!

  • David


    Wow, you ‘da man! Well, you know.

    I don’t hang enough drywall to measure and cut openings confidently, so I just measure for the middle of the outlet, drill a 1 inch hole, hang the drywall but don’t screw close to the outlet. THEN I cut the hole tight to the box.

    That makes you gutsy in my book. And good.

  • シャネル 財布


    個人 すべてエルメス キャリング ケース に、 うち 再販 市場 は間違いなくなります 偽造。以下のような 「ホットリスト」の 機能 に
    ために 買物をするとき で動作するように
    本物エルメス財布。

  • Rip


    I have a 240-pound son-in-law who couldn’t screw a piece of drywall onto the floor if I brought it in the house, laid it out for him, and pre-drilled the holes. I wish you were my daughter-in-law!

  • Thomas


    Yes, drywall can be a pain in the a**, but once a famous politician said that “Drywall is the worst form of building a room except for all those others that have been tried.” ;)

  • Karen Elliott


    You’ve given me confidence that I can drywall my kitchen ceiling and walls by myself. Once I realized a lift would make it possible, I was wondering how to get the drywall on the lift, so sounds like I may still need help with that. I’ve been taking pictures of my project and wanting to write about it too since I’m an older female and my son likes to remind me that I get in over my head with my projects, there is a lot of humor in this process. No time for the witty writing though. Maybe AFTER all this work is done. At the moment I’m not at the drywall stage. I need to get the existing electrical out of the way so I can remove some studs and move forward.

  • Michael


    a 5 foot 3 girl that hangs drywall!!

    Can I hire you?

    This was a great read. Good job!

  • charlie


    good job. one tip a rotozip bit in a electric drill will work good too just a little slower but only a couple of bucks

  • mary


    Excellent!your determination is contagious! I was looking anything to give me some info about hanging drywall, and came across the article. definitely very helpful.

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