Do It Yourself Hanging Ceiling Drywall at Ideal Home & Garden

Do It Yourself Hanging Ceiling Drywall at Ideal Home & Garden

Do It Yourself: Hanging Ceiling Drywall

By Bill Washburn Published July 22, 2011

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Ceiling drywall installation can be done anyone with basic craftsman skills. Because you’re working overhead, it’s much easier if you have a friend or helper, as the 4-x 8-foot drywall panels are heavy. Drywall is manufactured in 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch thickness. The thinner 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch sheets are used for remodeling two-layer installations or curved walls. Most single-story residential ceiling applications will require 1/2-inch sheets. Two-story applications may require 5/8-inch drywall sheets. Some applications may also require fire-rated Type-X drywall between apartments or on a garage wall joining a house. It is important to note that Type-X drywall is fire resistant and not considered fireproof.

Always check the local building department for your city’s guidelines. Most can provide a copy of local codes drywall installation and nail/screw spacing.

Tools You’ll Need

Assemble a soft lead pencil, a 12- to 25-foot tape measure, 48-inch T-square drywall, utility knife, keyhole saw, drywall hammer, electric screwdriver with drywall bit, 4- and 6-inch putty knives, and a small handheld rasp. A circle cutter, electric saber saw, 12-inch or wider finishing knife and a drywall router, may also be helpful.

Quality tools save time while drywalling. For example, find a tape measure with a thumb or finger lock. Drywall hammers have a special serrated face, which helps keep them on the nail head and will work better than a finish hammer. For an electric screwdriver, look for a magnetic screw-holding tip and an adjustable clutch. This will stop the screw from driving once it has reached the proper tightness and depth. Pocket planes or handheld rasps can quickly reduce and straighten the cut edge of drywall pieces.

Measuring Your Project

Measure the entire ceiling to estimate how much drywall you’ll need. Allow for extra pieces in areas you will need to cut out, such as light fixtures, skylights and windows, and for those little measuring errors that happen as the job progress.

Drywall the Ceiling

To get started, measure from the wall to the closest ceiling joist or rafter. Be certain the end of the sheet falls across the center of a joist or rafter. By nailing into a joist or rafter, you produce a stronger joint for when it is taped. Measure the drywall sheet, and cut it to fit with a saw or utility knife. Measure for any obstructions, such as ceiling lights, air conditioning vents or outlets, and cut out these areas with a keyhole saw or utility knife. Stagger the end joints to make a stronger ceiling and to avoid cracking. All drywall panels on your ceiling should be perpendicular to the ceiling joists or rafters.

While a friend holds the sheet in position, begin at the center of the sheet and apply screws every 7 inches along each ceiling joist or rafter. Sink the heads just below the surface, and be careful not to tear the paper. Each drywall sheet needs screws around the edges of the sheet. They should be no less than 3/8 inch and no more than 1/2 inch from the sheet edge. Always use screws on ceilings; drywall nails have a bad habit of popping out after a year or so.

Tape and Mud

Get started by confirming each screw or nail is sunk just below the drywall surface. Fix any screw or nail problems now rather than after you’ve started to tape.

Use the 4-inch putty knife to cover all screw heads with joint compound, keeping the surface flush with the ceiling. Take the 6-inch putty knife and run it along each seam of the drywall, filling each crease with joint compound. Apply tape to the joints after. While a friend holds one end, stretch the paper tape along the freshly mudded seam. Starting at the center of each seam, smooth the tape into the wet mud with the 6-inch knife and remove any excess compound that seeps around the edges.

Give the first coat a day to dry. When it has dried completely, lay a second coat over it, feathering the edges wider, to at least 4 inches on each side of the taped joints. After the second coat has dried, apply the third coat, feathering it 7 or 8 inches on each side of the joint. However, the final coat is a very light skim coat, and it should be feathered with a 12- or 14-inch finishing knife. Remember to give each coat ample time to dry. Finish sanding the ceiling with 100- or 120-grit sandpaper. Be sure to wear goggles and a sand mask, as the dust from gypsum and joint compound can irritate your eyes and throat. When sanding, sand only the joint compound, not the paper. Damaged paper will require an additional thin coat of joint compound.

Now that the drywall is finished, you’re ready to move on to primer, paint and texture.

Last Updated: July 22, 2011

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