10 Hacks for Installing and Finishing Drywall like a Pro9 min read

10 Hacks for Installing and Finishing Drywall like a Pro9 min read

Do you want to transform your basement or an unfinished room in your house?  Nothing will feel like a livable space without drywall. Are you scared about getting a perfect finish like a pro? Let me give you 10 tips for a jaw-dropping finish.

There are very few projects which will give the transformational look at a very cheap cost. Drywall is super cheap.

A 4 x 8 drywall panel (A.K.A. sheetrock) costs less than $12.  And if you can do the work yourself you can save on labor.  You can totally change the dungeon into a livable space in under $150.

While on a cost-benefit basis this is probably the best, you still have to know how to do it right.

You don’t need a lot of tools.  I am pretty sure you have most of it.  Even if you have to buy a few, they are not expensive.

I had a chance to discuss with a couple of pro drywallers to get some quick tips and hacks.

Many of these are not discussed elsewhere.

In general, hanging mudding and taping drywall is a relatively straightforward task. Finishing is where it gets a little difficult for DIYers.  But that is only till you get the hang of it.

10 Tips to Get a Seamless Drywall Finish

1.      Inspect Studs:

Before you begin hanging your drywall, inspect the studs for protrusions such as old screws or nails or staples.

Just run your finger on all the studs and corners to make sure you feel anything.

There’s nothing worse than installing a nice clean sheet of drywall and having an old screw pop through the middle.

I am also guessing that you installed the framing properly.  If you do make sure the studs are not belling in front.

To get a clean straight wall, you want straight in-line studs with no protruding nails or screws.

2.     Ceiling First:

Always hang sheetrock on ceilings before walls.

This way the sheetrock on the walls will help support the corners of the sheetrock on the ceiling.

Hanging the ceiling first is also easier.

Because, when there is no obstruction ceiling can be installed.  But if you have the walls installed, then wiggling the ceiling inside might be very difficult.

So, you will end up terminating where the wall ends.

This will often lead to a gap and then you go with corner beads and mud to fill it. It becomes more time consuming and difficult.

Don’t’ think twice, just install ceiling first.

3.     Run Drywall Perpendicular:

Always work from top to bottom, running your drywall sheets perpendicular to the framing.

There are a couple of benefits of doing this way.

First, a perpendicular ( that is 90 degrees ) drywall is going to have an 8 feet run sideways.

Which makes the room have less vertical seems. And when the natural light shines you will not see as many imperfections.

Besides the drywall is going to be fastened to multiple studs.

Think about it:

Assume your studs are 16” apart. Your drywall is 4 Ft or 48 inches. So you drywall is going to rest on only 3 studs.

Instead, if you install the drywalls perpendicularly, it is going to be fastened on 6 studs.

4.     Take Advantage of Built-in Recess:

Whenever possible, butt factory edges to factory edges. The factory edge features a built-in recess to allow level mudding of the joints.

This is one thing that I love about the factory edges.recess dips make it easy to get a smooth finish

When you cut the drywall and mud two joint you are going to mud, tape and then skim coat over it. This creates a hump.

What hump?

Right. Whether you have noticed or not (know it or not), you will have a hump.

Try to reduce that as much as possible.

You will have a few humps – there is not getting around it. But the skill comes in handy here.

You must mud and feather over 12”. So, the few millimeters of the hump is spread over 12”, making it not noticeable.

5.     Cut with Sharp Knife

The simplest way to cut drywall is by scoring it first with a utility knife. Break the sheet along the score line by applying gentle pressure. Then simply cut the remaining paper on the back edge of the sheet.

Make sure the blade on your utility knife is sharp. This will help avoid tearing of the paper layer on the drywall when making cuts.

You just need to delicately cut the paper and a little cut in the gypsum inside to ensure a good cut.

There is nothing worse than using a knife that is not sharp and you may break a few drywall.  That is a waste.

When the knife is sharp you don’t have to put a lot of pressure on the knife. Your job becomes easier.

6.     Keep Screws Away from Edges:

When fastening sheetrock, keep your screws or nails at least 3/8” to 1/2” from the edge to avoid breakage.

Sheetrock is just gypsum crust on paper. It crumbles easily.

If you crush them, you either throw it and start from scratch.  Or you will have to spot-fix by mudding, which is a giant waste of time.

7.     Remove Dud Screws:

Sooner or later, when fastening your drywall, one or two screws will miss the stud.

It’s tempting to leave them in, but always remove these screws.

Have you heard of nail-pops? That’s an eyesore.

If you leave the nails or screws in, they could pop out later when your wall is finished.

8.     Install Corner Bead:

Outside corners are very susceptible to damage.

To help protect the corner, install a metal corner bead. The corner bead will not only protect the corner, but it will also make for a clean, finished look.

This is a must.  Corner beads can take some abuse and still hold well. Drywall will just give up instantly.

I have seen a frustrated tenant with angry management issues throw stuff around the house when he got evicted.

Corner beads saved a ton of work for the homeowner then.  Even with object hitting the corner at velocity some portion just bent and some lost paint.

The owner then tapped slightly on the crumbled portion of the corner bead to make it straight. Then it was a matter of reapplying mud, sand and paint over it.

9.     Use Different Compounds:

Not many talks about this. You must buy and use two different compounds for different stages of your drywall work.

When mudding, use a joint compound for the first coat. A good joint compound has additional glues that will strengthen the joint and prevent cracking.

For, subsequent coats, topping compound is the best choice. Topping compound is not only easier to work with, but it’s also much easier to sand.

Topping compound is much lighter than the joint compound. When you sand, you don’t have to exert too much.  Save your energy and amount of work with a topping compound.

It’s easier to buy a big bucket of joint compound and use it for everything. But overall, it’s not economical.

On top of this, the joint compound is going to take ever to dry. If you have the habit of doing a level-5 finish and want 3 top coats, forget it.

Again, don’t skimp and use the topping compound for your joints. It will end up with cracks.

10.   Use Corner Tool:

Inside corners can be tricky to mud. And a lot of professionals look at the inside corner to judge the skill level of the drywall finisher.

If your finishing skills are not that great, then use a specialty tool instead.

The job is made much easier with a corner tool. A corner tool will allow you to apply an even coat of mud into the corner for a clean inside line.

Remember not to put a lot of mud. This only makes you work a lot by sanding it off.

Drywall Finish Levels:

There are two important things with drywall finishing.  Skill level and the right set of tools.

One can compensate for the other to a certain degree. However, when you have both you end up with the best of the best.

But how to measure the level of finish. Luckily the industry has a standard and it’s referred to a number between 0 and 5. 5 being the best you can get.

Let me break it down for your understanding.

Level 0

This is nothing more than just having a drywall on the studs. No joint compound, no tape, and no finishing.Level 0 with hang and screw alone

Level 1

When you have joint compound applied and tape on those joints, it is referred to as Level 1.  You just see cracks in between when you have a level 1 job.

Level 2

At this stage, you will have all the screws covered and one thin coat of topping mud on the tape joints.

For any job in your house, you must come until this step.

Even if you are working on your basement wet bar or kitchen, and you are probably going to have a backsplash, you must get the drywall to Level 2 at the minimum.

Level 3

This is where you apply another coat of topping compound, sand and try to get your rough finish.a level 3 finish room with mud tape and skim coat

If you are going to have a popcorn ceiling, you can either stop at level 2 or level 3 finish.

Level 4

A Level 4 finish is what you see in new houses. That is, it is a classic builder grade finish. Which is totally fine for residential and regular jobs.

Level 5

The best you can get with a drywall is Level 5 finish.  If you have noticed a top-class hospitality lounge, you will probably encounter a level 5 drywall finish.

This is almost always seen in commercial jobs, where luxury is standard.


This is by no means a step by step guide. However, we want to give you some tips (hacks) on things that a professional drywall does.

Especially, that which is not discussed elsewhere.

I will get you a step-by-step guide soon to show how it is all done.

Remember one thing: you apply mud and sand the wall to remove that mud, right? So, don’t apply more mud than what is required. It saves you a lot of hassle and dust.

You need a very good finish with no visible bumps – a smooth surface to call a wall.  If you are aiming for Level 5 finish that is one thing. But if you want to finish your dungeon to a living place, then you have enough tips here.

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