Drywall, for me, they should have called it hell-wall. Drywall is super messy, challenging to maneuver in place and as awkward as a nerd’s first date to install. Throw in the fact that finishing it with joint compound is as difficult as spreading peanut butter onto a piece of bread with a 4’ long fan blade, and you can see how this home improvement task often overwhelms even the most experienced of DIY professionals. But it’s certainly not rocket science and with the right tools, knowledge and manpower, anyone can install and finish their own drywall. Use these seven essential drywall tools for hanging / finishing and while we can’t guarantee you’ll get perfectly finished drywall every time, you’ll at least be pointed in the right direction!
Remember that old song It’s Hip to be Square? It’s true, especially when you’re hanging drywall. Gaps between drywall boards might not seem like a big deal now; but wait until you have to finish it. It’s going to take a lot more time, material and manpower to finish drywall boards that have excessive gaps between cuts. Using a 48″ long metal T-square is the only way to accurately and economically cut drywall sheets. For a pro tip, be sure you keep a fresh razor blade in your utility knife to prevent damage to the sensitive paper finish on your drywall sheets.
You think you’re tough huh? Try holding a 12’ sheet of drywall on the ceiling with one hand and screwing the sheet with the other hand. It’s insanely hard, but professional sheetrock installers do it every day. Unless your forearms are like Popeye’s, save your back and rent/buy a drywall lift. These crank-up lifts can install 12’ sheets on ceilings and walls with ease and can make maneuvering them to fit tightly together a snap. Check out our buddy Patrick over at Fine Homebuilding wielding a modified drywall lift on his barn project. This isn’t an essential tool on small projects with multiple helpers, but if you’re working solo or working a large job, believe me, it’s essential.
Adjustable Depth Screw Gun
Holding all that weight suspended from the ceiling takes a hella-bunch of screws. Most building codes require a 6-8” screw pattern on the seams and in the field (check your local codes!) But even with all of those screws in place, if they penetrate through the finished paper too far, they’ll be useless and the sheet will eventually peel away from the wall or ceiling. Use an adjustable depth screw gun to quickly and correctly hang your drywall.
Now that you’ve hung the drywall, the hard work is just beginning. Drywall finishers use a metal mud pan to hold a workable amount of joint compound to apply to the seams and screw holes to achieve a smooth finish. But when joint compound comes directly from the bucket, it tends to be thick and tough to work with. By mixing a small amount of water directly into the bucket, a more workable joint compound is created. Use a paddle bit for drywall mud hooked up to a ½” drill to mix mud to a workable state.
Assorted Finishing Tools
Keeping each successive layer of joint compound as smooth as possible takes the right tools. A metal mud pan stores the joint compound while a drywall knife is used to spread the materials onto the seams and nail holes. Use a small, medium and wide blade drywall knife to help ensure each successive coat of mud is as smooth as possible. Corner or butterfly drywall blades work great for inside corners. A taping gun or “bazooka” is used when you need lots of seams taped as quickly as possible, all though they can get really messy, really quick. Use fine grit mesh drywall sandpaper and never use wood sanding paper on a drywall finish. Remember, the smoother you put each coat on, the less sanding you’ll have to do in the long run.
Spray Texture Hopper
Not many drywall final finishes are totally smooth. Most finished drywall has a fine coat of textured joint compound applied to its finished surface. A spray hopper gun can easily keep your hand finishing down to three coats or less depending upon how heavy a texture you use. Use the paddle bit to mix a bucket of joint compound to a pancake batter-like consistency before pouring it into the hopper and you’ll be on your way to getting a perfect textured finish.
Any essential drywall tools we missed? Let us know in the comments below.