DIY DIVA
DIY diva

Finishing Drywall Joints: Tips From A Pro

January 13, 2011 | 40 Comments | Drywall, Projects by Type
DIY diva

Let’s just be clear here, I am not the pro. I am the tip-ee, as it were. When the guy who hung the drywall and taped the joints told me we’d need to put the last two coats of mud on the drywall and saw my eyes get as big around as dinner plates, he took pity on me and gave me a little joint-finishing tutorial.

This isn’t rocket science, but I’ll tell you that once I got the hang of this, these were by far the best joints I’ve ever done.

First things first… tools. MysteryMan hooked me up for Christmas, knowing there was a 2000 square foot house full of unfinished joints giving me the stink-eye.

Tip #1: Use The Right Tools

I’ve never owned a mud pan before, but this was invaluable for doing the screw holes and joints. I just wish they made a slightly smaller version (or one with a strap?) that fit my hand a bit better. My thumb still feels like its out of joint from 4 hours of finishing last weekend.

DSC_1384

Also, you need a 10″ knife. This was apparently one of my fatal-flaws before… using a 6″ knife that I thought was easier to handle.

Tip #2: Mix Your Mud

I don’t know why I always think the directions on the box are bullshitting me when they say things like “mix the mud before use”. It’s like my subconscious thinks the bucket of joint compound is somehow trying to screw with the number of minutes it’s going to take me to complete this task or something.

When the drywall expert told me to do this, I also thought it was BS, but I was determined to be a good girl and follow the rules. (For once.)

DSC_1469

I didn’t use a drill mixer… just did it by hand for a while, but you can tell even from the pictures how the consistency becomes looser and easier to work with. There was no adding water or additives, just a lot of mixing.

DSC_1470

EDIT: After spending a weekend finishing joints with the professional, I learned that he preferred buying the joint compound in boxes (because it’s cheaper) and then mixing it in a 5 gallon bucket with one of those mixing augers and a little water (maybe a quart?)… his version was even easier to apply. The compound we used was a lightweight version.

DSC_0042

Tip 3#: The Three Swipe Method

I’ve always been pretty conservative with how much mud I put on the seam, because like everyone else in the universe, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life sanding it down.

Here’s the pre-taped seam (done by the pro with these fun gadgets):

DSC_1472

Here’s how much mud you should put on your seam (using the 10″ knife) to start with:

DSC_1473

I know, you just fell over an died, right? Even seeing that much mud on a seam gives me sanding anxiety, however, the three swipe method is all about taking away the extra.

First, “feather” the top edge by holding just the top edge of the knife tight to the wall.

DSC_1474

DSC_1475

Then feather the bottom edge the same way.

DSC_1476

DSC_1477

(I was pushing a little hard towards the right side of that which is why you see the striations.)

Finish it off by going over the whole joint with one smooth stroke.

DSC_1479

DSC_1480

The seams should have a natural indent in them so there will be more mud in the middle of the seam than on the top or bottom. Also, don’t be afraid to go over it multiple times to make sure it’s smooth. I found it was best if I could do it the first time, but I could also touch it up okay if necessary.

This was taken after it had dried for a bit, and you can see how thin the top and bottom should be.

DSC_1481

I did start in a closet so I could get the hang of it, and I definitely got my rhythm down after a while. These pictures were actually taken in the master bedroom.

Another thing I found was that to get the mud to go on the wall easily, it helped if I picked it up and scraped it off the knife a few times using my pan. This was like another round of mixing and then it seemed to go on smoother.

I also made sure to wipe both sides of the knife on the pan after every swipe.

The hardest part I found was dealing with little drywall crusties that started to form as thin spots of mud dried in the pan that leave awesome swipe marks across your freshly smoothed joint. This was usually followed by an expletive on my part (feel free to use your imagination, I like to mix it up every once and while) and then MysteryMan rushing into the room to see if I cut my finger off with the drywall knife or something.

Also, inside corners? Not my fave.

Since I’ll be finishing most of the walls with a stucco/spanish knife texture, the one coat is probably good after its very lightly sanded.

If you were going for completely flat walls, you’d probably want to do another coat just to finish things off.

EDIT: A variation on the “three-swipe method is also great for finishing outside corners. All of your outside corners should have some kind of corner bead on them… I’ve used paper and plastic with mixed results, but our professional for this project used metal corners that are self-adhesive and also awesome. Very easy to use, very easy to finish. You put the mud on the same way (heavy), run the knife over the whole joint once to get rid of “fish eyes” (those little air bubbles) then feather the one edge, and finish with a final swipe down the entire joint.

Also, they make a tool that you fill with mud and will do this in one ridiculously clean and fast swipe. ( I snuck this picture of our drywall pro using it.)
DSC_0044

If I ever have to do this again, I’m finding a place that will rent out drywall tools like that. You can’t beat it.

Tip #4: The Easiest Way To Keep It Clean – New

Because I am a person who has amassed crusty half-rusted drywall and putty knives like old ladies collect cats, this last thing I learned –while seemingly obvious– has eluded me for the last five years. Here it is, are you ready?

Keep a water bucket with a brush in it handy.

DSC_0060

I know, you’re saying what I said when I saw it, which was, “Well, duh.”

Except, like me, I bet you’ve spent a lot of time either drying to dry-scape the joint compound off the knife or clean it under running water in a utility sink. Neither of which are nearly as effective as dunking the stuff and scrubbing it with a big brush. I can’t even tell you.

My Drywall Expert Is Awesome

Apparently he’s been dropping by the house for the last couple of weeks (since they finished their part) to see how we were coming along (without us knowing it). Well, I had to take a little time to get myself geared up for this project, and also to decide if we could squeeze the money out of somewhere to have him finish the ceilings for us (where any of my flaws would be extra apparent). I think he started worrying about my lack of progress and us young kids (his words) trying to do all this work on our own, so he offered to help me finish all the walls and ceilings for just the price of the ceilings. Also, I think I’m going to be able to talk him into letting me try out his big-kid tools this weekend. (Yessssss.)

I am so grateful that we have met a few professionals that are willing to teach us (okay me) the tricks of the trade.

Word on the street is that the walls will be ready for me to texture by next weekend, putting me for once in this project, ahead of schedule. (Don’t worry, MysteryMan already filled that time slot with finishing planing down, roughing up, and staining the porch posts, so that we can get those on in the next several weeks.)

DIY diva

    Comments

  • meryl rose


    I TOTALLY feel you on the mud pan. I have manly hands for a girl and I still can’t quite get my hands around it comfortably. Don’t these tool manufacturers know of our awesomeness????

    Too bad you live 1/2 the country away or I’d help you mud mud mud, it’s a task I actually kinda enjoy (craaaaaazy) ;)

  • carrie @ brick city love


    I want to plant a giant sloppy wet one on your cheek but that’d be way weird. So instead we’ll just go with the – THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

    It’s not that I was doing it super wrong; mud pan – check!, mix it up – check!, use a big knife – check!, 3-swipe thing? wah wahhhhh… So that’s good to know.

    When i start to get crusties, I scoop that chunk of spackle up and put it right in the trash. Not worth the hassle of those #$*&*(@# lines.

    For the inner corners, I use a tool like this one – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002Q8HH0U/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=1278548962&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B000FK41IC&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0W9WY1MS5Q6DES44549M. They come out a lot nicer than my previous regular knife/finger swipe combo.

    • Gene


      Yep, inside corner trowel = right tool for the job.

      And be sure to get a galvanized mud pan. The first tray I bought was plastic with a metal edge for scraping, but the plastic got so scratched up over time that it was hard to clean.

      When it comes to sanding, I’m a big fan of wet sanding (i.e., using a damp sponge). Breathing drywall dust and having it get everywhere, not so much.

      • Peter B


        Use an anglehead instead of a corner trowel, it’s literally 10 times faster, it leaves a perfect corner and there is NO sanding at all.
        Use a stainless steel pan, not galvanized.
        There is NO-SUCH-THING as wet sanding in drywall / taping. I’m a 2nd generation, 20 year professional taper, I do this for a living. I have a red seal ISM TQ. I have worked in the drywall business for 29 years.

  • hjc


    Striations – excellent word choice!

    We did this 20 years ago in our bedroom. Let me just say that heavy texture does not cover up as many taping/sanding sins as you think it would. But it looks like you have the technique down to make it all look great. I’m sure the real professionals love having someone who is capable and interested as a student.

    Keep it up – that light at the end of the tunnel is not a train!

  • Irina@CanDoGal


    Perfect timing. What kind of compound did you get?

    As I’ve mentioned before, I’m gearing up to drywall this weekend. Since the walls are small, I probably won’t have any seams, but will have to do all the corners and the area where the walls meet ceiling. I’m contemplating using that corner trowel, but I’ve been reading some pro forums and even the pros seem to have a hard time getting used to those. Have you done any corners and what did you use? Thanks!

    • Gene


      Not a pro, but I use a corner trowel. Two keys with it are (a) put a lot of mud in the corner to start (as per the joints above), and (b) apply firm, steady pressure as move the trowel down the corner. Depending on how much mud is in the corner, you may need to go over it once with the corner trowel, use the flat knife to scrape away some excess, then smooth it again with a 2nd pass of the corner trowel.

    • carrie @ brick city love


      Luckily I haven’t had to do much inner corner work but I can say from experience that I much prefer to use the inside corner tool than a regular spackle knife. I’ve done it both ways (with & without that tool) and I always end up getting a little line down the middle of the corner when I just use the regular knife. The corner tool gives a nice smooth joint. Might take a little more sanding on the back end but I’m pleased with how it came out. Didn’t think it as that hard getting the hang of it.

      • Irina@CanDoGal


        Thanks for those tips. You’ve given me some confidence to give it a try. If it looks funky, I can always scrape it off and try again.

  • Liz @ lizandnategordon.com


    Thanks for the tips. The hubs and I consider ourselves pretty handy, but our first and only attempt at mudding was pretty pitiful. A groundwater leak (followed by another groundwater leak, followed by a burst pipe in the exact same spot) led to some soggy drywall in the corner of our basement. So we tore it out, sealed the leaks and did our best to patch it up. Lets just say we’re pretty glad that its a dark, mostly hidden corner. After reading these tips though, I’m confident that the next time we drywall/mud, we’ll have much better results.

  • Joseph


    I had the benefit of being able to work with a licensed general contractor friend. We stood side-by-side while he showed me how to use the mud knives and then checked my method to make sure it was correct. One of the things that really helps with the 10″ knife is to bend it slightly. That way the ends are slightly above the surface when you apply the mud, and it makes it easier to feather it in. Otherwise,the tips tend to dig in from time to time. You can use a damp sponge when it comes time to sand out the seams, although with a particle mask and a long-handled hand sander with 100 grit sandpaper, it goes very quickly. The latter is the method I have used, but if the dust is a problem for you, the damp sponge method will definitely get the job done.

  • Shane


    I used to use the mud pan until I tried a “hawk.”
    http://www.truevalue.com/product/13-Inch-Aluminum-Ergonomic-Hawk/9247.uts?keyword=hawk

    Much more comfortable to hold, and a lot easier to keep all the mud wet (just scrape it back into a pile dead center every few minutes).

    Probably too late for you now, but maybe it’ll help someone else :)

    • jodi r.


      Thanks for your comment. I had been debating on which to purchase…the mud pan or Hawk. I have only a small job but I am all about getting it done quickly and a professionally as possible. Besides, I believe tools are an investment. Even if you don’t have a future use for them, they can always be sold.

  • Drywall Tim


    First, I found this funny sentence to be a classic- “knowing there was a 2000 square foot house full of unfinished joints giving me the stink-eye.” Cracked me up. I guess the ole’ stink eye can make things happen sometimes though.

    You’ve got some good tips here, and good tips as well. The thing, besides the stink eye that makes it happen is being resourceful and having that I-can attitude. Great job!

  • ipod touch price


    Superb article and easy to understand description. Could I link this post on my site.

  • Jeremy


    Can us smooth out joint compound like lime coat?

  • jodi r.


    I’m two year later into finding this article. I enjoyed reading it and finding many tips to help me with me my own bathroom project. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog. It was informative and educational.

  • weblink


    Hello! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks of hard work
    due to no backup. Do you have any solutions to
    protect against hackers?

  • Richard


    Seems I’m a bit late, but non-the-less great read. The “crusties” in the mud are the worst! Nothing like running a joint twice because of the little booger that was hiding on the knife.

  • Roxann Davis


    I just wish I could get someone to help me got a lot to do husband disabled so I don’t have the money to hire someone and can’t get anyone to help show me I got all my dry wall up got tape and mud tools but have had shoulder surgery can anyone tell me true or false do u have to put three coats and do u do it all the same day or do u do one let dry and so on I’m ready just to quit

    • Kit


      You definitely want to let each coat dry first (at least overnight) before the next one. Three coats is probably right for new walls. Best of luck with your project!

  • optimal cleanse


    Hi, always i used to check web site posts here in the early hours in the morning, since i love to find
    out more and more.

  • wifi hacker tool


    To keep away from looking like a FULL noob, I did setup the router to only permit the precise MAC
    addresses for the devices we used.

  • www.blinkedteam.com


    There are many options for people to whiten their teeth
    and have that white and bright smile that
    they want to present to the public. Well, that depends on several factors including the
    type of plastic and the environmental conditions that the plastic is
    exposed to. You can either lay it flat in shade or just hang it to dry.

  • black dress shoes augusta ga


    Go for metallic pastels’metallic items and accessories are super trendy right
    now, and you can find metallic pastel colours that will provide an edgy
    look, despite being pink or baby blue. “Triple play” means the
    telecommunications network, radio networks and Internet convergence.
    Because collars are easily crushed and do not look as fresh as you might want, shirts
    should be the last items packed. s shoes
    come in various kinds of colors as well as styles. When a person knows what is appropriate for them, it is easier to stay focused and not get carried away with all the changes that may take place in men’s fashion. Often you’re going to must settle for an important
    shoe that is definitely light and cozy instead of something which
    perhaps feels much trendier. The belt cinched around the waist, or worn loosely around the hips can change the look of the dress completely.

  • design my own shirt


    Good day I am so happy I found your website, I really found
    you by error, while I was researching on Askjeeve for
    something else, Nonetheless I am here now
    and would just like to say cheers for a fantastic post and a all round interesting blog (I also love
    the theme/design), I don’t have time to read through it
    all at the minute but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to
    read a great deal more, Please do keep up the fantastic
    jo.

  • dentalartimplantclinic


    I think the admin of this site is actually working hard in support
    of his site, since here every material is quality
    based information.

  • premiera skincare review


    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article.
    Many thanks for providing this info.

  • force effects muscle


    whoah this weblog is wonderful i love reading your posts.
    Keep up the good work! You understand, many people are looking around
    for this info, you can aid them greatly.

  • slide plates for glock


    Thankfulness to my father who stated to me regarding
    this webpage, this webpage is actually remarkable.

  • Stacey


    Right here is the perfect website for anybody who hopes to find out about this topic.
    You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with
    you (not that I really would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic which has been written about
    for years. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

  • order tshirts


    It’s going to be end of mine day, but before ending I am reading this wonderful article to improve
    my knowledge.

  • inner clean


    Appreciating the persistence you put into your site and in depth information you present.
    It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material.
    Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds
    to my Google account.

  • targeted email lists


    I am now not positive where you’re getting your info, however good
    topic. I must spend a while studying much more or understanding more.
    Thank you for great info I used to be looking for this information for my mission.

  • cartier alarm clock


    I got this website from my buddy who shared with me on the topic
    of this site and now this time I am visiting this web page
    and reading very informative content at this place.

  • Luciana


    Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this website.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very hard to get that “perfect balance” between usability and appearance.

    I must say you’ve done a very good job with this. Additionally, the blog loads super quick for me on Firefox.
    Exceptional Blog!

  • Sung


    I’m gone to inform my little brother, that he should also pay a visit this
    blog on regular basis to take updated from latest news.

  • Maggie


    Hi everyone, it’s my first go to see at this web
    site, and paragraph is in fact fruitful in support of me, keep up
    posting these types of articles.

Leave a Comment

Your email is never shared.
Required fields are marked *