Proper tools for your drywall project!


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Cutting Tools:

For cutting drywall sheets in addition to your utility knife, you'll need some special tools. For making square cuts, use a T-square. Set your sheets upright with the smooth side out. Set the T-square on the top edge and line it up with your measurement. Run a utility knife along the side of the "T" to score your cut. Snap the sheet back to break the sheet along the cut. Then cut the paper back with a utility knife. For making cuts around obstacles you can use a board saw. Just use a back-and-forth motion like you would for any hand saw. Cutting your sheets slightly too big is better than too small. You can always shave the ends off with a rasp. For cutting around electrical boxes use a keyhole saw. Just punch the tip through the drywall and cut along each side. You can also use a power jig saw for these cuts. For round cuts, like around light fixture boxes, use a circle cutter. Find the center of your circle and punch in the center marker. Adjust the arm to the radius of your circle and use it to score the perimeter of the circle. Do the same on the other side of the sheet. Tap out the cut out with a hammer. You can also use a compass to draw the circles, and a keyhole saw to cut them. There's also a power tool professionals use that's designed specifically for cutting out holes for electrical boxes and fixtures. It's like a router, and they use it to cut the holes after the sheets are up. This is a lot faster then cutting them all by hand. If you do end up renting one of these power routers be careful so you don't strip the electrical wiring inside.

Lifts and Jacks:

Getting the board up to the ceiling can be tough. You may have seen professionals or do-it-yourselfers place it with their hands and heads. This works, but does require some coordination and can be kind of awkward. You can rent a lift designed for this. You load a sheet on it, then crank it up to the ceiling. It holds the sheet in place while you nail or screw it to the joists. You can also use a couple of drywall jacks to hold the sheets up to the ceiling. You can construct these out of 2x4's. Make the overall height just an inch or two taller than the height from the floor to the underside of the joists or trusses. Using 4-foot sheets on a standard 8-foot wall usually leaves you with about a 1/2" gap left. You want to leave this on the bottom so it gets covered up with baseboard. To help hold the bottom sheet up snug to the top one you can use a drywall toe kick. You just step on one side of it and it lifts the sheet up. You can also use a pry bar for this.

Fastening Tools:

For nailing up sheets, a drywall hammer is a must. It has a convex head that creates a little dimple around the nail head without breaking the paper on the surface of the sheet. This will allow you to cover the nail head with mud and get a perfectly smooth surface. Using screws can go a lot faster, if you have the right tool. You want to use a special electric drywall screw gun that lets you adjust it to sink the screws a little below the surface, again, so you don't break the paper. With a regular screw gun you don't have this control.

Finishing Tools:

The "art" of taping comes from using different sized taping knives to get a smooth, tapered joint. For the first "tape coat" you'll need a taping knife that's 5" or 6" wide. With each of the next two coats you'll want to cover an inch or two farther in each direction so you'll probably need an 8" to 10" knife and a 12" to 14" knife. Use a mud pan to hold the mud as you tape the joints. For sanding the joints, use either a pole sander for dry sanding, or a wet sanding pad. For applying texture to ceilings you'll want to rent a sprayer specifically designed for this job.


We use the generic term "drywall" when talking about gypsum board. You will also hear it called "wallboard", or referred to by the brand name "sheetrock". It's got at gypsum core, with a coarse paper on the back, and a smooth paper on the finish side. Most sheets come in 4'x8', 4'x10', 4'x12', and even larger. We recommend 4'x8' sheets for do-it-yourselfers; they're a little easier to work with. For ceilings and walls with 16" on-center framing you need standard 1/2" drywall. For 24" on-center framing, use 5/8" drywall. For curved walls you want to use either 3/8" or 1/4" drywall. It usually requires wetting before forming on a curved wall. 1/4" drywall shouldn't be used as a single layer, but should be used over an existing surface. Water-resistant drywall or "green board" has the same gypsum core as drywall, but it has a water-resistant facing. It is typically used in wet areas such as a bathtub or shower surround. It's not water-proof, however, and will deteriorate from moisture penetration. Concrete backer board, often called by the brand names "Durock" and "Wonder Board", is used as backing for ceramic tile. It has a solid concrete core and is faced on both sides with fiberglass. It's ideal for wet areas like shower walls and bathtub surrounds.


When nailing drywall into wood framing use ring shank nails. These hold into wood better, and will prevent "popping" later on. Standard length is 1-1/4" for 1/2" drywall, and 1-3/8" for 5/8" drywall. When using a screw gun, use drywall screws. 1-1/4" screws are needed for 1/2" drywall, and 1-5/8" screws are needed for 5/8" drywall.

Types of Joint Compound:

Joint compounds are available powdered or pre-mixed. Powdered joint compounds come in different textures. Taping compound is used for the tape coat. It is stronger and courser than the compounds used for the finishing process. Topping compound is thinner and finer. It's used for the fill and finish coats, and for texturing. All purpose joint compounds are halfway between a taping and a topping compound. It comes pre-mixed and is a good choice for do-it-yourselfers. The new quick set compounds are excellent!

Go to drywall cutting!

Proper tools are half the battle when doing a project!

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