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What Every Homeowner Should Know About Drywall

A homeowner might choose to attempt many household repairs before calling in the pros. Thanks to the do-it-yourself shows on TV now, people find they have more confidence when it comes to handling things around the home. However, certain tasks should be left to professionals.

Drywall installation is one task that a person should not attempt on their own. The sheets are heavy, mistakes are obvious, and multiple steps must be completed. The professionals undergo training to ensure they know exactly what to do in every situation.

Nevertheless, a homeowner needs to have a basic understanding of the process and what it involves. This information ensures they know what is going on in their home. It also benefits them when the time comes to hire a professional for this task. The following items are things every person should know about drywall.

What Materials Are Needed?

Before handling any task involving drywall, have the appropriate items on hand. Drywall sheets are mandatory as is joint compound. Tape, fasteners, and edge treatments should also be readily available when completing a project involving drywall.

Type X Drywall

When purchasing drywall, buyers will find options are offered. Type X drywall is ⅝” thick and should be used anywhere fire is a risk. Many building codes require Type X drywall on garage walls and ceilings that share a wall with living space inside the home. It might also be mandatory under stairs and for ceilings between living spaces.

The local building inspector is a valuable resource when a person is figuring out which drywall is needed for each part of the home. If the wrong drywall is used, the homeowner may need to take it out and replace it. For this reason, always ensure the correct drywall is purchased and installed for the different parts of the home.

Mold and Moisture-Resistant Drywall

Certain parts of the home need mold and moisture-resistant drywall. Often referred to as green board, this ½” drywall was once the preferred choice of home builders. Green board manufacturers used different methods to treat the paper covering the gypsum core or eliminate it. Eliminating the organic paper food source would inhibit mold or mildew growth or so they believed.

This green board was typically installed in bathrooms and other areas where damp conditions were prevalent. This includes in bathrooms behind wall tile installed in showers and bath enclosures. However, the green board didn’t live up to its promises.

Today, builders no longer use green board. They have alternatives, such as cement board, that hold up better with time. Cement board is commonly used as tile backing in wet areas because it holds up better in these conditions.

Half-Inch Drywall

Most locations in the home benefit from ½” drywall. Lightweight versions are stronger than standard versions but weigh 25 percent less. Experts prefer using ultralight or lightweight drywall because it is easier for them to handle. In addition, the stiffness of the ultralight and lightweight versions makes them ideal for use in ceilings with 24” spacing between joists. In fact, some stores don’t carry ½” drywall anymore because lightweight and ultralight versions sell extremely well.

Three-Eighth Inch and One-Fourth Inch Drywall

Older homes do not have ½” drywall. In many cases, the homes have ⅜” drywall, which means the owner must find drywall of that thickness to make repairs. The easiest way to determine the thickness of the drywall is to remove a switch plate and measure the thickness.

Avoid using ⅜” drywall unless it is necessary. Windows and door jambs are typically constructed to sit flush with ½” drywall.

Cover bad walls with ¼” drywall. The flexibility of this drywall makes it ideal for arches and other curved walls. Two layers may be needed to cover the walls, however. In fact, some specialty retailers carry drywall that is extremely flexible and can be used as drywall on the interior of a barrel. If using ¼” drywall, use construction adhesive rather than screws. Use a few nails to tack the drywall in place while the adhesive sets.

Drying Compound

Drying compound is exactly what the name suggests. This material hardens as water in the compound evaporates. It can be purchased in boxes or buckets and comes in two basic types.

All-purpose compound is the strongest joint compound offered today. It contains the highest amount of adhesive and is used when applying the first coat and embedding paper tape. While it may be used for additional coats, sanding it will take additional time.

Lightweight all-purpose compound is easy to sand but isn’t as hard or strong as all-purpose joint compound. As a result, if someone bumps it, a dent might appear. In addition, it is prone to cracking at joints. Lightweight compound should never be used when embedding mesh joint tape, as cracks will appear.

Setting compound

Setting compound differs from joint compound in that it comes in powder form. This powder is mixed with water just before use. Setting compound doesn’t dry. A chemical reaction causes it to harden. Pay attention to the number in the name because that provides information about the amount of time available to work it.

Setting compounds hardens quickly, so less time is needed to complete a project. It is harder than other joint compounds and stronger. In addition, it does not shrink as much. Use it to fill large holes and embed tape, but avoid using it as a last coat. It does not sand well. Lightweight setting compound lacks the strength of regular setting compound but is much easier to sand.

Drywall Tape

Drywall tape comes in three varieties. Paper tape costs little and offers more strength than fiberglass tape. This tape comes pre-creased in the middle, making it ideal for use in corners. Nevertheless, many people find it challenging to embed paper tape in drywall seams.

Fiberglass mesh tape is easier to work with than paper tape. This tape comes with adhesive on one side, so the installer sticks it to the wall and then applies mud on top of it. A person who has never worked with drywall tape before will find fiberglass mesh tape is the easiest to work with.

There is a drawback to mesh tape, however. It cannot be used in corners where walls meet or where a wall meets a ceiling. When using mesh tape, either lightweight or standard setting compound must be used because mesh tape is prone to cracks.

A third option when it comes to drywall tape is reinforced paper tape. Drywall professionals use this tape for inside corners and wall-to-ceiling angles. The tape comes with a plastic or metal strip on the back. This strip does not increase the strength of the tape. It serves as a guide for the drywall knife so corners stay straight.

Drywall Fasteners

Avoid using nails when fastening drywall. Screws are a much better choice. Nails tend to work their way loose, leaving craters or pops in their path.

When choosing screws, the size needed depends on the drywall thickness. When using ⅝” drywall, choose 1-⅝” screws. If the drywall is less than ⅝” thick, use 1-¼” screws. If the drywall is being attached to steel studs, fine threads are needed. When attaching the drywall to wood studs, use screws with coarse threads.

Drywall screws come with both thick and thin shanks. Thick shanks are referred to as No. 8 shanks, while thin shanks are No. 6 shanks. Thin shanks are easier to drive and are less likely to break the drywall around the edges. No. 8 shanks often shred the paper surrounding the screw head.

Corner and Edge Beads

Drywall doesn’t always meet drywall. For example, drywall may meet with stone or brick at a fireplace in the home. Corner and edge beads are used in such situations so wood trim isn’t needed.

Corner bead is used for outside corners and comes in metal and vinyl versions. Choose from square or bullnose bead, or choose bead for a corner or arch that is not 90 degrees. The main difference lies in the installation. When using standard metal, the installer nails the bead before taping it. If vinyl corner bead is used, they apply it using staples and a special adhesive. Corner beads with paper facing are secured with the help of joint compound.

Professionals prefer metal corner bead. They find it is easy to install, and it does not require the use of special tools. However, in damp areas, choose vinyl corner bead since it won’t rust like metal.

As this guide shows, there is a lot to consider when installing drywall. Any imperfections are easy to spot, particularly when certain types of paint are used. Most people choose to leave this work to professionals. When choosing which drywall provider to work with, the information contained in this guide is helpful.

For example, a person may ask the drywall company if they use No. 6 or No. 8 screws. The drywall provider should be able to answer this question easily. If they cannot, the individual needs to look for a different provider. Knowledge is powerful in this situation, as a homeowner can choose a qualified provider and protect their asset thanks to what they learned here.

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