Installing Drywall In Cold Weather

drywall walls in bright room

Drywall is a wonderful invention, especially because in new construction homes, it can turn a building site into an almost finished project in just a few days. It is also not that difficult to install for people who are knowledgeable on how to do so.

The large sheets of drywall quickly cover up studs, insulation, wiring, and plumbing in the home, leaving walls that only require texture, painting, and trim.

As wonderful as drywall is, however, it doesn’t install itself, and proper installation means using the proper tools and techniques. Included in the techniques necessary for proper installation is consideration of weather conditions because temperature and humidity will impact the product.

Drywall is easier to install and has less risk of complications in warmer weather than in colder temperatures. If you have to add drywall to a new or old home in colder months, however, here are a few tips for hanging drywall in the cold weather.

It is a project you can take on yourself or turn to professionals to do if you do not feel confident in your own abilities to accomplish the task.

Patience

The most important thing you can do to install drywall in cold temperatures is exercise patience. You must accept the fact that the job will take some time. Installing and finishing drywall isn’t something you can do in a day or even a weekend.

Installing drywall in any temperature, but particularly in cold weather, is a project that you need to plan on taking three to four days, or even more, depending on your skill level. If you are doing the project alone, it will likely take even more time. Having a partner on the installation can save you some time on the project, but it is still not something that can be done as quickly as you may hope.

If you want to get a good-looking, reliable finish on your drywall, you will need patience and perseverance. You will also have to work on the job in a series of small steps instead of all at once. Do not rush the process, or you may have to make repairs or replace the drywall sooner than later, making your efforts moot.

Impact of Temperature

thermostat

It is recommended not to install drywall when it is cold outside since working in the cold adds difficulty to the task.

If you have to work in the cold, however, make sure you dress warmly and wear gloves and warm boots. If you can keep your tools in a warm environment until it’s time to start work, you’ll be much more comfortable since cold metal tools are difficult and uncomfortable to hold and handle.

Make sure the surrounding area is warm, and you have somewhere to go and warm up if the cold gets to be too much for you during the project.

Ideally, drywall itself should be installed in temperatures of 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Like all solid materials, drywall will expand or contract depending on the temperature, and in cold weather, it will shrink.

When you hang drywall in cold weather, you need to leave a gap between the sheets to allow expansion in warm weather. Since experts say drywall installed at 28 degrees Fahrenheit will expand ½ inch over 100 feet at 72 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s recommended you leave a gap of 1/8” between the sheets of drywall.

Lack of Humidity

Cold air doesn’t hold as much moisture as warm air, so drywall installed in cold weather will not contain much moisture. Here again, it’s estimated that drywall installed at less than 15% humidity will expand over ½-inch over 100 feet at 90% humidity. The solution is to leave the same 1/8” gap between the sheets.

Alternatively, you can try to put some moisture into the air by having pots of warm water in the work area or even spray water on the floor.

Joint Compound

applying joint compound to a wall

Cold, dry air will speed up the drying process of joint compounds, while extremely cold air will actually freeze the compound making it appear to be dry, when in fact, it’s frozen.

Joint compound that has dried too quickly or frozen before it dried will be prone to cracking over time. Add heaters to warm the work area to at least 50°F and provide the proper temperature for drying is obviously the best solution. However, if that isn’t possible using a setting-type drywall compound (one that hardens rapidly and doesn’t shrink like regular compounds) and applying thin coats will minimize the chances of cracks developing.

How Do I Install Drywall Myself?

If you want to install drywall yourself, there are a number of steps you should follow. Installing it yourself rather than turning to the professionals will save you a lot of money. It is, however, not an easy project and will take a few days. It is also one that you should call in some help for as hanging the sheets can be difficult to do on your own. You should also make sure to keep the tips above in mind when it comes to the installation project.

Before you begin, use a tape measure to determine how many square feet of drywall you will need. This will help to ensure you purchase the right amount of materials and do not get 3/4 of the way done with your project and realize you need to run back out to the store.

This will also help you know where the drywall sheets will need to be cut. Some home improvement stores have drywall calculators which will help make this process easier.

    You should now check for wall studs. You want to make the finished project level and flat, and this is more easily accomplished if the studs are flat.

    Once you discover where the studs are located in your wall, you can use a hammer to make sure any studs or screws or nails are flush with the drywall.

    You can now hang the drywall on the ceiling. If you are just installing drywall on the walls, however, and your ceiling drywall is still in good shape, you can skip this.

    Start in the center of the ceiling joists and work your way outward. You will also need to use fasteners which you will have to space about a foot apart.

    Once you have determined where everything will go, you can drive screws or nails into each joist. You should drive them in behind the panel. Fasteners, meanwhile, should be placed ever 8 inches and not to close to the edge. Placing them to close to the edge can damage the materials. Aim for fasteners to be at least 1/2 inch away from the edge.

    Nails should be placed around 2 inches from the fastener locations.

    Once your ceiling is done, it is time to lift the wall panels into place. Make sure to start at the top and work your way down to the floor. You should lift each panel into place and then use a drill to hold the panels in place.

    The top and bottom of the panels should touch but not overlap as you want a tight, snug fit so the end result looks like one continuous panel.

    For both the ceiling and the wall, screws need to be below the surface of the drywall. This allows them to be covered and creates a smooth wall without any unsafe or unsightly nails or screws sticking out.

    Make sure not to cover windows, doors, or even outlets when you are installing the drywall. This may mean taking some extra time to cut the drywall sheets and makes it extra important to measure and prepare your materials ahead of time.

    When you are framing corners, you will need to cut a piece of drywall long enough to hang over the corner. Once it's in place, you can trim it. A spiral saw works well for this type of project.

    Next, you will hang drywall in the area that will meet the previously cut piece of drywall. Again, leave it long and then trim it so that it fits perfectly. From here, you can drill or screw it in like you would other drywall.

    Make sure to also leave some room on the bottom of the floor for floorboards or trim if you plan to have them.

    man with drill installing drywall

    How Do I Keep My Drywall Installed During Cold Weather?

    As previously mentioned, you should take extra caution and consider a variety of factors if you have to install drywall in cold temperatures, which is not ideal. The drywall and its various components also should not be applied to cold or damp surfaces.

    In cold weather, drywall mud will take a much longer time to dry than in warmer weather conditions. This means that the process will take much longer. Not taking your time here can cause disclosed joints and shrinkage/

    Buildings with drywall are better off being heated. If the heat is not on for large portions of the year, it can negatively impact your drywall. Cold temperatures can cause the drywall compound to shrink and crack, so it should only be used in homes with heat.

    If the drywall mud, meanwhile, freezes, it can go bad. It will freeze at similar temperatures to water.

    Better Installation

    If at all possible, it is better to wait for a while and install drywall in warm temperatures instead of cold ones. Drywall in cold temperatures is subject to a plethora of issues and concerns that just aren't a big factor if the drywall is installed during warmer temperatures.

    If you have to install it during cold weather, though, make sure you understand the potential issues and address your drywall installation to factor them in accordingly.

    You could also make sure you are getting heat to the room where the drywall is being added or if you are adding a lot of drywall to a room that either doesn't have heat or where you can't safely run the heat while the drywall is being installed, make sure the surrounding area is being heated so that the area is not too cold to properly install drywall.

    You may also want to hire professionals to take on the installation project for you. They will know what to do to ensure your drywall is in good shape despite the cold weather.

    They may also be able to offer some tips on how to make sure nothing bad happens over the next few days preventing your drywall from lasting as long as it should and looking its best over the years to come, thus preventing you from needing to install new drywall again a few years later.

    If you really only need one small area of drywall fixed or added in the dead of winter, you may want to look into temporary measures and install the drywall itself when the weather is better for drywall installation.

    drill installing drywall

    What Is the Cost to Install Drywall?

    If you are looking to install drywall, you may be wondering how much money you should anticipate spending on the project. While the exact cost may vary, you should plan on spending around $1.50 to $3 per square foot of drywall. This can work out to around $75 per drywall panel.

    Again, while drywall installation can vary wildly based on the size of the area you wish to add drywall to, projects typically cost anywhere from $900 to $3,000 when you factor in labor.

    Most professionals will charge $2 to $4 per square foot of drywall. This cost includes hanging the drywall and applying compound or mud after, as well as taping all of the seams.

    It is obviously cheaper to do the project yourself, but only if you know what you are doing. Do not attempt this project if you don't know how to complete it, or have the help of a friend or family member who does.