I know an professional drywaller. The guy has insanely good drywalling skills. He’s fast, strong, limber and precise. It’s really cool watching him drywall a room. He does stuff I couldn’t never do. Of course he’s honed his skills over many years and is now a very much in-demand drywaller among local contractors.
One aspect that makes is a brutal job is drywall is much heaver than plywood (and plywood isn’t light). To put it into perspective, plywood weighs 1.8 to 2.1 pounds per sq. ft. while drywall weighs 2.75 pounds per sq. ft. Not a huge difference, but when working with 32 sq. ft. sheets (or the larger 48 sq. ft. sheets), that weight adds up.
Many homeowners do their own drywall work, which is reasonable. The pros are expensive. If you’re doing your own drywall job, learn about the different types of drywall below plus a whole host of other tidbits about this home improvement staple product.
Table of Contents
- Drywall Basics
- Materials and Tools Used with Drywall
- Drywall Materials
- Drywall Tools
- Cost Considerations
How to Transport a Sheet of Drywall in a Tiny Car
You’ve just learned a trick for transporting your drywall home. This means, of course, that you have learned the first thing you need to do to succeed in starting your drywall project. Congratulate yourself, and settle in to the rest of this guide.
Drywall looks plain and simple; however, it becomes trickier when you try to do anything with it. Drywall involves the product itself. It’s more complex that the plain, flat sheet that lies before you in the store, but once you sort out the types of and uses for drywall, your buying decisions will be easy.
Drywall also involves its function. On its own, it simply lies there. You take it and use it to make great things. You’ll learn what you need to accomplish these great things.
Forget the flying carpet ride; in your imagination, hop on a flat sheet of drywall, and we’ll use this guide to take you on a magic drywall ride. Get ready to explore drywall so that you’ll be equipped with knowledge and information to buy it as well as the right tools and materials for working with it.
Just for fun:
Why is it called “drywall?”
Prior to the extensive use of drywall following WWII, walls and ceilings were constructed of plaster. Construction with plaster was labor-intensive, time-consuming, and wet. Wet plaster was applied to wooden laths. Several layers were required, and drying time between layers was extensive. Time was reduced drastically once people began what they happily called “drywall.”
What is Drywall?
Source: Drywall 101
Drywall—or sheetrock, wallboard, or gypsum board—refers to the large, rectangular, sheets you can see stacked in stores and in construction sites. It’s white, green, blue, or purple. It’s a fundamental component of your home, office, store where you shop—the interior of nearly every finished building.
When you look at your walls and ceiling, you’re looking at drywall covering wooden studs. It’s been finished, textured, and painted or wallpapered, of course, but the walls and ceilings are drywall.
Drywall has a purpose beyond wall and ceiling construction. Beyond this basic function, drywall is used to add character to building and home interiors.
This beautiful living room exists because of its walls and ceilings, and it possesses elegance because of special features, including arches and niche. Drywall creates function and beauty.
What is Used to Make Drywall?
Source: Nafuu Classic Hardware
You know drywall’s purpose. But what, exactly, is it? Drywall is as simple as it looks. It’s made of gypsum plaster covered with thick paper.
Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral found in many countries worldwide but especially concentrated in North America. Gypsum is also man-made. Synthetic gypsum, known as Flue-Gas Desulfurization (FGD) is used in drywall just like naturally occurring gypsum; however some forms of FGD gypsum are toxic and not used in making drywall.
Just for Fun:
Gypsum is an incredible material for drywall. It’s durable, easy to work with, fire-resistant, versatile, and fast-drying. It’s also beautiful in its natural state. This is White Sands National Monument in New Mexico with its extensive gypsum dunes. This is the main part of your drywall (but this monument isn’t a mine).
Types of Drywall
You can choose from among several different types of drywall, depending on your project needs. Use this overview to learn your options.
1. Regular or Standard Drywall
Regular drywall is basic drywall with no special enhancements. It is not inferior to other types; it performs equally with all of them. It simply has no extras.
For example, regular drywall is fire retardant by nature (the water molecules in the gypsum slow the spread of flames), but it isn’t enhanced with other materials like fire-resistant drywall.
2. Moisture-Resistant Drywall
Source: Quality Drywall Services
Water damage happens. It’s an almost-inevitable part of homeownership. Moisture-resistant drywall has a special surface coating to minimize the extent of damage when it happens. It’s excellent for use in bathrooms, kitchens, or any other location that is humid or has water pipes.
In high-water areas, such as tubs and showers, it’s recommended to go a step beyond moisture-resistant drywall and use cement board such as National Gypsum’s PermaBase cement board.
You may hear this type of drywall referred to as greenboard, indoor tile backer board, and cement board. Blueboard is another term you might encounter when looking for moisture-resistant drywall. This is actually a different type product because it is engineered to be coated with a veneer plaster, giving it a different look.
3. Mold-Resistant Drywall
Often purple, this drywall resists the growth of mold and mildew. If you’re in area with a lot of moisture, this specially treated drywall might be an option to consider. It costs more than regular drywall, an expense that can add up quickly, but given that mold and mildew are insidious and cause health problems, the extra cost could be worthwhile.
4. Fire-Resistant Drywall
Building codes dictate the use of fire-resistant (Type X, fireboard, or X board) in areas such as garages, bedrooms, apartment buildings and other multi-family housing units, and many commercial buildings.
Type X provides fire resistance beyond the natural resistance of other types of drywall. Type C is more resistant than Type X, providing up to four hours of resistance compare to the one hour provided by X.
Fire-resistant drywall contains special non-combustible fibers. It’s also thicker than most other types of drywall. Together, these features slow the burning and spread of fire to allow more time for people to escape and to help minimize the extent of damage.
Watch the fire-resistance in action:
National Gypsum Fire Testing
5. Soundproof Drywall
Soundproof drywall is like regular drywall, but it contains more layers of wood fibers, gypsum and polymers to help it dampen sound. Its composition makes it stiffer than regular drywall in order to reduce sound vibrations. This is used in making walls, ceilings, and/or floors.
6. Paperless Drywall
Source: The Home Depot
This type of drywall is both moisture- and mold-resistant. Unlike other such drywall panels, paperless drywall is covered with fiberglass facings. This is an option for your kitchen and bathrooms.
7. Eco-Friendly Drywall
Source: DIY Home Living Style
Environmentally friendly drywall options have been and continue to be developed. Not only are these products earth-friendly in their materials and manufacturing, but they are quality drywall options for your home.
One product on the market is Eco Rock. It’s made from over 20 different recycled industrial byproducts. These byproducts are mixed with fillers and water to create a drywall product that resists mold and termites.
EnviroBoard compressed fiber panels are made from environmentally friendly materials. Waste fibers from agriculture, the newspaper industry, and more are compressed into solid concrete-like panels that make the walls and ceilings of homes and buildings.
Drywall is measured in thickness and length. The width of drywall panels is a standard 48 inches.
Drywall is available in a number of lengths. You can buy sheets that are eight, nine, 10, 12, or 14-inches long. Other lengths can sometimes be purchased as a special order.
Thickness is an important measurement. Four depth options give you the flexibility to choose the size that fits your needs. Drywall comes in four thicknesses.
Although regular drywall comes in this size, panels this thin are uncommon.
Regular drywall is available in this width. It’s popular In basements or other areas that don’t require a special type of drywall. While less expensive than thicker panels, it also isn’t as sturdy.
Half-inch drywall is heftier than the previous two measurements. Regular, moisture-resistant, and mold-resistant types are available in 1/2 inch depth.
This is the thickest drywall option available. All types of sheetrock come in this thickness, but it is most useful in fire-resistant, soundproof, and mold- and moisture-resistant panels.
When shopping for drywall, you might hear the term “standard size” used. This refers to a sheet that measures 1/2” x 4’ x 8.’ This is a very common size, including among DIY’ers, because it is economical, versatile, and easy to handle.
Materials and Tools Used with Drywall
Drywall exists so it can turn into something bigger. You’ll use drywall to make your dream home a reality. To do that, you’ll need special materials and tools designed to work with drywall.
As you install drywall, you’ll need certain key materials. We’ve highlighted the main ones here:
Drywall Joint Compound
Commonly called “mud” or “spackle,” joint compound is the material that is applied over tape to smooth the seams. You’ll use it to cover the nails and screws, too. It’s available pre-made in buckets like the one pictured, or you can purchase bags of power and mix your own.
Tape is what covers the seams between pieces of sheetrock. Choose between two types of drywall tape: paper and mesh. Paper is cheaper than mesh, and it is creased down the middle to make it better for taping corners. Mesh is great for repair work.
Listen to a professional and expert weight in on the types of tape:
Fasteners are the hardware that secures the panels of drywall to the boards of the walls and ceilings. Carpenters and DIY’ers alike use nails, screws, or both.
Screws are more expensive than nails, but they’re more secure and hold firm over time as the wood changes with age. Nails will eventually pop out of the wood and be visible as a bump in the wall. Nails, however, are easier to work with and are faster to use than screws. M
Some people choose to use both screws and nails. They use nails around the outer edges and to attach the metal strips, called beads, in corners. They use screws everywhere else, including every part of the ceiling.
Source: Ace Hardware
Corner bead are used in every corner to ensure a crisp 90-degree angle. Tape is then placed over the beads, and joint compound applied over the tape. Without the beads, corners would be uneven and sloppy-looking.
Every trade has its tools. Drywall installation is no exception. Arm yourself with the right tools, and your project will be much easier and more enjoyable. To help you start your collection, we’ve gathered some of the most helpful drywall tools around.
One of the most important tools in hanging drywall is a pencil. You’ll be doing a lot of measuring and marking, and a pencil is essential.
Cordless Screw Driver or Drywall Screw Gun
Source: The Home Depot
You will be driving countless screws into you drywall as you fasten it to the wall- or ceiling boards, so a cordless, battery-powered screwdriver is essential. It will make your work faster and more accurate.
If you have a good drill, you can use that instead of a cordless screwdriver. However, a drill and a screwdriver aren’t the same thing. A drill can be too powerful and carries the risk of drywall damage. See our drill buying guide here.
If you are using nails instead of or in addition to screws, this specialty hammer has a rounded head to avoid denting or tearing the sheetrock. Even if your initial plan is to use screws for the entire project, a specialty hammer is a good idea to have just in case you decide nails are in order in places like the outside areas of a panel. See our types of hammers for more info.
Drywall Knife or Trowel
Drywall knives (or trowels) are the tools that you’ll use to apply and spread the joint compound. They’re available in a variety of widths suitable for different areas of paneling. Use a wider blade in long, open areas to speed the work, and use narrower blades for tight spaces.
Watch this tool in action to see how efficiently it works to create a seamless wall:
Source: Home Depot
The framing square is an essential tool for many projects, including drywall work. When cutting your sheetrock, use this simple tool ensures accurate measurements and straight lines.
Source: The Home Depot
After applying joint compound and allowing it to dry, the next step is to sand the compound to eliminate lines and make the compound flush with the drywall. The result is a flat, seamless wall or ceiling.
Sheets of sand paper, or drywall sanding screen, is placed on the front of the hand sander. The screen is sold in sheets. When one is no longer effective, place a new sheet on the hand sander and keep working.
Automatic Drywall Sander
Source: The Home Depot
Sanding by hand gives you a sense of meticulous control as you build your room, but it is also tiring and labor-intensive. You can alternate hand sanding with automatic sanding, or you can go fully automatic.
Automatic sanding tools come in cordless and corded varieties. As with other power tools, cordless provides convenience and ease of movement, whereas corded varieties provides more power with no interruptions. Either version uses the same type of sanding screen that hand sanders use.
Many automatic drywall sanders are compatible with attachments. It’s common for sanders work with both round and triangular heads so you can easily sand both corners and flat stretches of wall or ceiling. Many serve a dual function as a dust vacuum when the right hose is attached.
Banjo (drywall taper)
Source: The Home Depot
The banjo is a tool you can use to apply the tape over the drywall seams. A high-performance, heavy-duty taping instrument, this makes taping precise and quick.
The bazooka is an automatic tape and mud applicator. It applies joint compound and tape simultaneously. A telescoping pole allows you to tape floor to ceiling, across the panels’ surface and up and down corners. While a bazooka isn’t absolutely necessary, especially for small projects, it does remove some of the heavy labor from big jobs.
A high-quality drywall saw is a must-have when you are sheetrocking any sized room. Cutting the sheetrock properly will result in less waste and edge that are easy to make smooth with joint compound. DIY Network offers handy tips and tricks for cutting drywall well.
Utility knives are perhaps the most versatile of all of the tools in a toolbox. A utility knife works in tandem with a drywall saw to help you produce crisp, straight, even cuts in your sheetrock. They’re useful in cutting the boards of drywall as well as cutting out holes for outlets and switches.
Buying a knife may seem straightforward. It’s certainly not complicated, but utility knives differ from each other. Home Depot’s buying guide for utility knives will help you choose the right one for you and your drywall project.
A mud pan is a simple piece of equipment that is easy to overlook. Using a mud pan will save you from having to drag a heavy bucket of joint compound around your work space. Place some mud in a special mud pan to easily carry with you across rooms and up and down ladders.
Mud pans are sold in plastic or stainless steel like the one pictured above. Which one to choose is merely a matter of personal preference.
Drywall Panel Lift
Source: The Home Depot
Weighing in at 50 pounds and up, drywall is heavy. The weight is made worse by its size. Even a small sheet—1/2 inch x 4 foot x 8 foot—is hard to grasp and carry. If you are working alone, this heavy, awkward panel of drywall can bring your project to a screeching halt.
If lifting drywall panels will be difficult (don’t forget to consider installing them on the ceiling), a panel lift could be a great asset. You can purchase one or, if you prefer not to have to store it, you can rent one from your local hardware store.
Health and Safety Products
Your health and safety are of utmost importance. Drywall is dusty, and it sifts into eyes, nose, and mouth if you aren’t covered. Gloves protect hands and are a must when using any tool, especially power tools. Have ear protection nearby, too, for when you are using electric screwdrivers and other noisy equipment.
In a competition called The Drywall Olympics, carpenters face off and test their drywall skills. Watch sheetrock, materials, tools, and workmanship come together:
The type and size of the sheetrock will influence the amount of money you’ll spend on the drywall. The size of your room or rooms is another major factor. The bigger the area, the more supplies you need and the higher the cost.
The other materials are dependent on the size of your project and the type you buy. Are you using screws, nails, or both? Will you purchase pre-made joint compound or a powdered version that you mix yourself? The pre-made mud is more expensive upfront, but it’s likely that you’ll have to buy more of the powdered variety.
The best way to estimate the cost of your project before you begin to purchase supplies is to use project calculators. A simple formula can help you predetermine you cost. You can also use applications, online or on your smartphone, to estimate your drywall expenses.
Home projects can be exciting and daunting all at once. Now that you’re armed with the basics, you’re ready to venture forth not quite as overwhelmed as when you first began. One of the most important tools of all during your drywall project is your power of visualization. Keep your end goal in mind, and you’ll know that the time, energy, and money are worth it.
The wall in this image radiates character. It’s stunning, and the look was achieved with drywall, joint compound, and an artistic touch. Whatever your vision for your own project, you can create it.