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How Hard Is It to Lay Drywall, Anyway?

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated February 23, 2022
luxurious large living room with high ceiling
Photo: bmak / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Installing drywall sheets is much easier than the old-school process of plastering and lathing, but it’s not exactly easy. 

  • Drywall sheets are heavy (up to 60 pounds each!), large, and cumbersome, so have a ladder and at least one other person on hand. 

  • Though you’ll get by with simple tools like a razor for cutting the sheets and a power drill, having more expensive tools like rotary saws and drywall sheet lifting machines helps expedite the process. 

  • Take your time with laying down drywall sheets, as small mistakes lead to large issues down the road.

  • Always take extra care to avoid moisture when installing drywall, as this leads to nasty mold and mildew.

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Nothing frames out a space like drywall. This homebuilding advancement replaced the labor-intensive processes of plastering and lathing, offering a faster way to create interior home walls. But is it possible for average homeowners to lay down some drywall sheets, or is this project better suited for local drywall contractors? The answer depends on your experience level.

Drywall Difficulty Level

Laying down drywall is much easier than old-school plastering and lathing. Putting in some drywall yourself is a great way to save some money, as a professional drywall installation costs $1,800 on average. 

However, this is not a simple project for newbies. Laying down drywall demands experience and comes with a unique set of obstacles. Here are some of the issues associated with a DIY drywall installation. 

Drywall Sheets are Heavy

This is the (literal) big one. Drywall sheets are large, heavy, and cumbersome beasts. A standard 1/2-inch thick sheet of drywall measuring 4-by-8 feet weighs nearly 60 pounds. This isn’t a huge problem if you are laying a sheet vertically at body-level, but drywall goes everywhere, including the upper sections of walls and even the ceilings. 

Make sure you have plenty of ladders, extra people, and even some specialized lifting machinery on hand. The risk of a back injury is high if you don’t take the necessary precautions. 

The Process Is Time-Consuming 

Professionals know what they’re doing, so they lay down drywall quickly and efficiently. In some cases, a pro will finish a 12-by-16-foot room in less than an hour. Experienced homeowners should finish the same project in around a day of work. 

But what if you’re not experienced with drywall? Count on spending two days or longer to finish the installation. Laying down drywall is a multi-step process, each step requiring the right tools and plenty of know-how. There’s cutting the sheets, laying down the sheets, affixing the sheets, and finishing the sheets. You’ll also be measuring your walls and taking windows, doors, corners, and electrical boxes into account. It’s a whole thing. 

You Need Expensive Equipment and Materials 

You’ll technically get by with a power drill, the drywall sheets, and a razor knife for cutting, but an efficient installation requires plenty of additional equipment and materials. For ceiling installation, you’ll greatly benefit from a drywall lifting machine. A rotary saw is especially handy for cutting out holes for cables and electrical outlets. Additionally, drywall finishing and taping require their own set of tools and materials. 

All of this stuff costs money, depleting any savings you accrue by avoiding a professional. Cutting corners results in problems down the line, necessitating a call to your local drywall repair company.

Tips to Install Drywall Yourself 

Installing drywall yourself is achievable, though benefits greatly from experience. If you are planning a DIY drywall project, consider these simple tips to help with common obstacles. 

Go Slowly and Carefully

Plenty can go wrong while installing drywall, so exercise on the side of caution and take your time with it. You’ll have to redo sheet installation if your measurements go awry and the sheets are not on a viable stud, for instance. 

If you over sand the sheets before laying them down you could expose fiberglass, compromising the installation and opening yourself up to respiratory issues. If you drive screws too deep, the holding power becomes nonexistent. 

Starting to see a theme here? Small mistakes lead to large problems so make a plan and remember that old story about the tortoise and the hare. 

Don’t Go It Alone

two men hanging drywall ceiling
Photo: Susan Waldron / Adobe Stock

The greatest tool in a drywall installation is not a rotary saw or a power drill; it’s another person. Not only will an extra set of eyes suss out any potential mistakes before they happen, but you’ll have an extra set of hands for lifting and moving those heavy sheets around. As a matter of fact, installing drywall sheets on a ceiling really benefits from having three people on hand. Have one person screw the panel in place while the other two hold it up. 

Avoid Moisture at All Costs

Moisture is your mortal enemy when laying down drywall sheets. Why? If any moisture gets stuck on the interior side of the drywall sheet, it leads to unchecked mold and mildew growth. 

If you are laying down drywall in a damp room, have a dehumidifier running and pay close attention to the sheets. Sheetrock sucks up moisture like nobody’s business. Don’t run any showers in rooms nearby and avoid bringing in open beverages to the workspace.

Don’t Forget Finishing

The final step when laying down drywall is finishing, otherwise known as taping or mudding. In other words, just because the sheets are placed correctly and screwed in tight, you still have plenty of work to do. Finishing is a complicated and time-consuming process all on its own. 

Here are some common-sense guidelines for finishing, taping, or mudding:

  • The first step is applying a mudding compound, a thick paste, to every seam. Make sure to fill both seam gaps and nail divots and take care to smooth out the paste. 

  • Apply finishing tape to each and every joint. 

  • Lay down another coat of paste once the first one is dry. Then a third coat. Each of these coats is several inches wider than the last, which is where newbies run into trouble. 

  • Using too much mud leads to days of sanding down the excess paste and using too little leads to improperly filled joints. Practice makes perfect. 

  • Wear a safety mask and gloves during the entire process, as sanding down paste creates plenty of clingy dust.

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