How to Cover Interior Walls

This story shows how to cover a wall with drywall panels.

Intro

Installing wall panels horizontally unites more studs, producing a stronger wall. This installation plan also allows the use of long panels, which can significantly reduce the linear footage of seams, saving both materials and time.

If a panel fits tightly, don't crush it into a corner or try to hammer it into place. That can blow out the drywall or rip the face paper, requiring a time-consuming repair. Gaps of 1/8 inch between panels are perfectly acceptable. But if the gap reaches 1/4 inch in width, you'll have to fill it with setting-type compound before taping.

At first, the process of cutting for electrical boxes may intimidate you, but you'll get great results if you take a methodical approach and don't rush.

The step-by-step installation is shown here on a wood stud wall. If your wall is made from metal studs, follow the special fastening process.

Checklist

Time
15 to 30 minutes per panel; variable by size and complexity of cuts

Tools
Hammer or screw gun, tape measure, drywall T-square, chalk line, utility knife

Skills
Measuring and cutting drywall, driving fasteners

Prep
Framing completed, all utilities installed and inspected if necessary; insulation installed if needed

Materials
Drywall panels, adhesive, nails or screws

Step 1

Measure and cut the top panel to length. If the panel doesn't run the entire length of the room, cut it at the midpoint of a stud to create a butt joint. If you use back blocking, cut the panel so it ends at the midpoint of a stud bay. Lean the panel against the wall and transfer the centerline of each stud to the face of the drywall with a pencil mark. Using your drywall square, make a light pencil line on the panel to show you where to drive the screws or nails. We've exaggerated the darkness of the lines for photographic clarity.

Step 2

Start a couple of drywall fasteners into the panel, and recruit an assistant to help you lift it into position. It's more important to have a snug fit at the top of the wall/ceiling joint than in the corner. In fact, leaving a 1/4-inch gap from the end of the panel to the corner framing is fine for the first sheet; it eliminates stresses that could crack the corner. You don't have to ram the panel into place; light contact is sufficient. Partially drive several nails so that you can release the panel.

Step 3

Start driving the fasteners into a stud at the approximate center of the panel's length. Drive fasteners down the center stud, working from top to bottom. Move to the next stud and work your way to the corner. Repeat the process along each stud from the center toward the free end.

Step 4

If you need to create a butt joint, lift the panel into place, and position it so it lightly touches the end of the first panel. Trying to shove the panels too tightly together will merely stress both of them, inviting a joint that bulges. Begin nailing along the stud at the butt joint, and work toward the free end. Be sure you drive the nails or screws squarely.

Step 5

Installing the bottom horizontal panel follows many of the same steps you used for the top. Be sure that butt joints in the top and bottom panels are offset by at least one stud. If you have to cut the width of the lower panel, position the cut edge at the bottom. Take several measurements from the bottom of the upper board to the floor to ensure that you'll have at least 1/2 inch of clearance between the lower panel and the subfloor. A foot-operated panel lifter elevates the panel so tapered edges meet.


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