How to Hang Drywall
Credit: KeepOnTruckin from Wikimedia Commons

Hanging drywall can be a simple project or it can be a pain if you are inexperienced, working in a large room with odd angles, or working alone. However, hanging sheetrock on walls is certainly much easier than putting it on ceiling joists.

As with all home DIY projects, you want to employ techniques that will allow you to work smarter, not longer. If done properly, drywall installation of a room, or several rooms, can easily be done in a day, even for the novice.

Generally speaking, you should try to buy sheets as long as the wall, but given the fact that sheetrock is 8’ long and most rooms are longer than that, you will have to splice pieces together at some point. Always lay drywall horizontally along the wall, starting from the ceiling and working your way down.

If a sheet ends up needing to be trimmed, then it is much easier to do that at a lower level than at the ceiling. Also, if there is a gap of an inch or so at the bottom, you will not need to fill that in with a strip of sheetrock because the baseboard will cover up the gap.

Hanging it parallel to the floor also cuts down on the amount of taping and mudding you will be doing shortly. And because each board will touch more studs, it creates better structural integrity.

There are several types of drywall you should be aware of before you begin because each is used for different area. Standard drywall panels come in 4x8’ sheets (although larger ones can be ordered) and range in thickness from ¼ to 5/8 depending on where it is going.

  • For ceilings -  ceiling 5/8″
  • For walls - 1/2″,
  • For fire-rated walls 3/4″

Always use drywall screws, not nails. Nails will pull out over time and lead to pop outs and more mudding for you. The only exception to that is you must use nails when applying metal corner bead because screws will damage it.

Types of Drywall

  • Standard Drywall – made of gypsum covered on both sides by paper
  • Greenboard – water-resistant board for walls, but not for use on ceilings because of its weight
  • Cement Backerboard – concrete core and fiberglass facing used for backing on tile installations

Before You Begin

Tools Needed to Hang Drywall

How to Hang Drywall
Credit: Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons
  • Utility knife
  • T-square
  • Clamps (trust me)
  • Tape Measure
  • Drill
  • Dimpler bit or drywall screw gun
  • Jigsaw or keyhole saw
  • Drywall/sheetrock board
  • Drywall screws
  • Joint Compound
  • Drywall tape
  • Coarse rasp
  • Panel lifter
  • Saw horses

It is highly advisable to rent a drywall jack from a local store if you are doing a ceiling. You can rent one from one of the home improvement stores for around $35/day.

Tips for Cutting Drywall

How to Hang Drywall
Credit: Cpl. Enrique Saenz via Wikimedia Commons

To cut drywall correctly, you need a T Square as a guide. Hold it against the piece of drywall with the top T at the horizontal edge, then score the front of the panel with a utility knife. Do not cut all the way through the board. That is not necessary. Simply break the front paper with the knife.

Note: Take care to always cut in the downward direction away from the hand holding the T Square at the top, and always wear gloves.

Now walk behind the board and bend it from behind the score until it breaks down the cut. You will have to cut through the paper on the back side with the knife.

Stanley 20-556 6-Inch FatMax Jab Saw
Amazon Price: $14.70 $8.00 Buy Now
(price as of May 3, 2015)

Hanging Drywall on Walls

  1. Starting with the longest wall, measure it horizontally and if it is longer than the standardHow to Hang DrywallCredit: Marvin Nauman via Wikimedia Commons 8’ length, cut it about 1/4 “ shorter than the opening.
  2. Position the panel tight against the wall starting near the ceiling, and have a helper hold it on one side while you drive drywall screws from the center outward, every 16” into all of the studs.
  3. Now hang the lower panel. If you have 8’ foot ceilings, the wall will take two 4x8’ horizontal panels, however, leave a gap at the bottom between the floor and drywall. 
  4. Use a panel lifter under the bottom piece of drywall to lift it slightly in place while you screw it to the studs.
  5. A wall longer than  8’ will need additional horizontal pieces. Repeat the process above, cutting the panel to length as needed until the entire wall is covered.

When paneling long stretches of a wall horizontally, stagger the seams of the pieces so all of the vertical ones are not all lined up straight up and down. This will increase the strength of the wall.

Once you come to your first corner, cut the piece longer than required, then trim it to size with a drywall saw after you hang it. Do the same for the panel that will be around the corner. After you cut it to size and smooth it a bit, put a metal corner bead in place with nails to prevent damage to the corner and the drywall tape and compound from cracking eventually.

Cutting Around Outlet and Wall Switches

One of the most challenging aspects of drywalling is cutting out the holes for wall outlets or light switches. There are a  couple of ways to make this easier

Measure the position of any outlets from the top and side of the ceiling, or last panel installed This will help you need to triangulate the exact position on the new panel. Then transfer these measurements to the panel but leave 1/8″ on either side of the box for play. One way to start the cut is to drill holes in the area, then insert a drywall saw to cut out the opening.

The other way you can locate outlet holes in the new panel is very low tech, but effective. Put red lipstick along the edges of the junction box on the wall, then press the drywall up against it when you are fitting the board on a dry run. The outline of the junction box will transfer to the back of the drywall and give you the exact outline for the cut.

Hanging Drywall Around Windows and Doors

If you come to an area of the wall with a window, remove the trim around it. Lay the panel on the floor and mark where it will meet the edge of the window. Measure from the ceiling to the top of the window  to get the top of the cutout.

The same procedure will apply for doors. Remove the trim around the door, then lean the panel against the opening and mark the location of the studs. Draw a line for the top of the door opening and make the cut with a drywall saw.

Finishing the Wall with Compound

Hanging DrywallCredit: Amaxson from Wikimedia CommonsNow that the wall is paneled you get to apply the finishing touches. First apply drywall tape to all of the seams, then use joint compound over the tape and all screw heads.

Typically, applying joint compound, or mud, is done is 3 separate processes. You will apply it with a drywall trowel, then smooth it out with a drywall knife.

After it dries, you sand the area, then do it again, then again. If done properly, you will end up with a surface that is as smooth as the drywall itself, with the only indication of where the seams were being the dried compound strips.

Pentagon Tool "Lazy Lifter" Professional 11Ft Drywall Lift Hoist
Amazon Price: $449.95 Buy Now
(price as of May 3, 2015)

Final Thoughts

how to hang drywall
Credit: Riverview Homes Inc via Wikimedia Commons

The hardest part about hanging drywall is maneuvering and cutting the 4x8’ boards. Once you get them cut to size, it can actually be fun to fill in the gaps with compound and smooth it out.

Once finished, you will have a smooth surface that you can paint to your desired color, or wallpaper over.

How to Hang Drywall