Drywall Installation for Beginners

A grouping of tools used for drywall installation.
  • 2-40 hours
  • Beginner
  • 200-1,000
What You'll Need
Drywall panels
Measuring tape
Straight edge
Drywall knife
Utility knife
Drywall screws
Drywall tape
Joint compound
Joint compound tray
Joint knife
Drywall corner bead or paper tape
Dust mask
Safety goggles
Work gloves

Do you have damaged walls in your house? Or perhaps you are working on a small remodel that involves removing old drywall. Before hiring a professional, consider patching or installing the new drywall yourself. Drywall installation might seem like a daunting task for a beginner, however, it’s not nearly as hard as it looks. You just need time, the right materials, and a whole lot of patience.

Preparing Your Space

Someone cutting a hole in a drywall ceiling.

1. If you are remodeling an entire room, start by removing all of the old drywall necessary as well as any existing drywall screws. If you are patching an area of drywall, cut out the portion of drywall you wish to replace. You want to make sure that the area you cut out is square or rectangular, with straight edges. For stability, drywall ends should land in the middle of wall studs. Therefore, you’ll also want to cut out to the middle of a stud on both the left and right sides.

2. Cover any exposed electrical or plumbing lines with nail protector plates. This will prevent accidental drilling into utility lines.

Hanging Your Drywall

A person cutting greenboard with a utility knife.

1. Drywall comes in three basic thicknesses. When patching existing drywall, purchase boards that are the same thickness as the current walls. When remodeling an entire room, consider how heavy the material is and how much soundproofing you want. The goal to a good drywall job is to create as few seams as possible. This means working with the largest piece of drywall you can handle.

2. Use your measuring tape, straight edge, and drywall knife to measure and cut your drywall to size. To make drywall cutting easier, score the front of the drywall panel and carefully snap in half. Cut the paper backing with a utility knife.

3. Leave ½ of an inch when laying drywall near the floor to allow for expansion and contraction. You should also leave 1/8 of an inch between all seams and at the inside corner of walls. Overlap drywall edges on outside corners.

4. If there are any outlets, measure and cut the hole for your outlets in the drywall.

5. Hold your drywall panel in place, making sure that it is aligned properly and that the outlet holes match up. Hammer a few nails into the drywall and wall studs to hold larger drywall panels in place. Make sure the nail heads go slightly below the drywall surface.

6. Use your straight edge to mark where the wall studs are. Drive screws into the drywall and studs approximately 16 inches apart in the middle and about 8 inches apart along the vertical lines. The screw heads should be recessed just below the drywall paper.

7. Continue to hang your drywall panels, making sure that the panels are staggered. You want to avoid too many aligning seams.

Tape Drywall Seams

A putty knife taping the seams on drywall.

1. Taping drywall seams is where your patience is needed. The end result you are looking for is a smooth, finished seam that will appear invisible once painted over.

2. Cover all seams with a mesh drywall tape. Use your joint compound taping knife to press the tape against the seams.

3. Apply joint compound over the mesh drywall tape. Feather the edges to remove any excess joint compound. The goal in feathering is to create a thin layer of joint compound at the outer edges of the seams.

4. On inside corners, apply joint compound to each side of the wall and gently run your joint compound knife down each side of the seam.

5. On outside corners, consider installing a metal drywall corner bead. Otherwise, tape the outside corner and then cut and fit paper beading over the joint compound. Gently press out any excess.

6. Use your drywall knife to cover up all screw and nail heads.

7. Wait 24 hours for the joint compound to dry.

Adding a Second Coat

Covered seams and hardware holes in drywall.

1. Apply a second coat of joint compound with a larger knife. This time, extend and feather the seams out further.

2. Apply a second coat to all screw and nail heads.

3. Wait an additional 24 hours for the second coat to dry.

Adding a Third and Final Coat

Sanding a piece of greenboard with a sanding block.

1. The third coat of joint compound is considered the final finish coat. You should try your best not to leave any tool marks as they will show after painting the drywall.

2. Lightly sand all seams and nail and screw heads with 120 grit sandpaper. Wipe off any excess dust.

3. Apply a third coat of joint compound to all seams and nail and screw heads, feathering the edges.

4. Let the final finish coat dry for 24 hours and lightly sand.

5. If there are any uneven edges, you can cover them with a light skim coat of joint compound.

6. When the surface is dry, prime with a wall primer and finish the job with a coat or more of interior paint.