How to Sheetrock a Basement

Sheetrock in a room.

When it comes to installing sheetrock, a lot of people have questions about how to sheetrock a basement as opposed to above-ground walls. Many basements are left unfinished in new homes, so it’s essential to perform certain functions in this installation, such as covering the studs before making any further improvements. In this tutorial, we’ll cover hanging, mudding, and finishing sheetrock.

How to Hang Sheetrock

Sheetrock is an easy material to work with. It’s simple to cut and hang, and it’s very forgiving: any rough edges or dings will get covered up by mud. The only difficult part is positioning sheetrock boards. Maneuvering 70 lb., 4x8 foot boards is never easy. If you’ve got a lot of boards to move around, get yourself a drywall hook. This gadget enables one person to comfortably lug around and position sheetrock panels with minimum back-breaking contortion.

To start hanging sheetrock, pick a starting point and work your way along the wall. Mark the location of studs—they should be 16 inches apart. Hang wallboard so that the 8-foot side runs horizontally, and start from the top down. Use your screw gun to secure each board with five 1¼-inch drywall screws along each stud that the board crosses. Screws should sit just below the surface of the board. If any of them penetrate deeper into the board, be sure to add a second screw an inch or two away. You can purchase special cuffs for your screw gun to ensure that your screws are sunk by the right amount every time.

When you need a shaped panel, mark out the shape on the side that will face out. Use a sharp utility knife to score the paper. Then, while applying pressure to the back of the cut, snap the board along the cut. For holes to accommodate light fixtures, electrical sockets and the like, you’ll need to use a keyhole saw or an electric rotary tool.

On to Mudding

Start off by mudding the screw heads. For the smoothest surface, apply a generous amount of mud and then scrape away the excess with your knife. When you pass over the screw head, keep your knife somewhat flat to the wall, not perpendicular. Apply a second coat if necessary.

Most pros prefer applying joint tape with mud. But if you’re inexperienced, the adhesive-backed tape will greatly ease and speed up the process. Follow taping by applying a thin, smooth layer of mud the length of the joint, using your 6-inch knife. After that layer is dry, follow with another layer, this time with your 12-inch knife. Your goal is a perfectly smooth surface.

Finishing up

Sheetrock dust is nasty stuff. In a poorly ventilated basement, dry sanding will require respirators and a lot of cleanup work. You’ll do much better with wet-sanding sponges. Remember to keep the sponge damp (not wet), rinse often, and you’ll do just fine.