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When installing drywall, having the seam become flawlessly hidden can be tricky. Even years down the road the seam may begin to show once again.
Drywall seams may become a nuisance, but they are capable of being hidden with some of these tactics:
- Apply a skim coat of setting compound
- Use drywall tape
- Sand the seam
No one wants to see those ugly seams in the wall. However, drywall seams that begin to show can be caused by a number of different problems that you will soon learn about below.
Why do Drywall Seams Show?
So, your drywall seams are showing, and you have no possible idea as to why or how it started. Well, drywall seams will begin to appear because of the following issues:
- Your house is settling: Over the years your house begins to settle. This settling shifts the house unevenly and this is where you will see cracks start to form and drywall seams become more visible.
- Poor installation of drywall: For a drywall installer, there is a certain way that the settling compound has to be applied to the seam of the drywall. Layers of the compound need to be placed properly and sanded down to create a smooth finish.
- Mesh tape was used: Mesh tape stretches more than paper tape. Over time, the mesh will stretch more and make the drywall seams noticeable. Some installers prefer paper tape as they believe it is stronger than mesh.
If the building was built on fill-dirt, which is just the top layer of dirt that is usually transported to the construction site, this will not help the drywall seam. Fill-dirt is softer, and the foundation will continuously be pulled down by gravity, which leads to more settling and more alignment problems.
Now, there is no way of stopping the building from being built-on fill-dirt, as this is the standard for the construction of buildings. So, there is no need to beat yourself up about drywall seams that will show, as most buildings have this problem.
The seam of a drywall is the point that is most vulnerable. It is weak so it must be reinforced with the tape and compound. Any sign of poor installation or poor use of materials used will give you a visible seam down the road.
Although, if there is proper installation and the seams still begin to show, there could be something wrong with the foundation or the walls of the building. The seams may also become more prominent if cracks begin to show alongside them. Cracks can happen in areas around:
- Door frames
Any area that is likely used the most, will begin to see cracks. The different changes in temperature can affect the seams. As the temperature becomes hotter, the compound may swell as more moisture is produced. When the temperatures grow colder, the compound shrinks and thus shrinks the tape.
This constant tug-of-war on the tape will weaken it and start to make the drywall seam more visible. It may be hard for locations with extreme temperatures each season but try to use the temperature in the building to almost match what is happening outside.
There is no easy way to combat a drywall seam, so, here are 10 clever ways to hide them:
- Apply a skim coat of setting compound
- Use drywall tape
- Sand the seam
- Use dark or matte paint
- Hanging up wall décor
- Color washing technique
- Use paper tape
- Use better drywall mud
- Use a primer
1. Apply a Skim Coat of Setting Compound
Applying a skim coat of compound to the entire wall will remove the seam for good. This eighth inch-thick single layer of compound will act as spackle to cover any holes or seams that need to be filled.
With this method, you will want to hire someone who is capable of doing the work. A skim coat requires a fine eye and the know-how of expertly using a trowel.
You will notice that the suggestion of skim coating will be brought up a lot in your research. While this process does take more time after it is done, any light that reflects off of the place where the seam used to be will no longer catch your eye.
There are 6 finish levels for gypsum board:
- Level 0: This is the base level on which every building starts out as. Nothing is finished and no wall has a definitive purpose of what it will be used for.
- Level 1: Tape for any seams that are on an angle is finally placed and can be set with a small bit of compound to hold them.
- Level 2: This level of finish would be a part of the atmosphere of an area that most guests are not welcome to. The tape and compound are set but any excess compound is removed.
- Level 3: Requires a steadier eye on how to finish the wall. This finish will be used on walls that will have decorations on them later.
- Level 4: This is the time for the decision to be made on using flat paint. Flat paint does not show any blemishes or shadows in the light and keeps the finish looking smooth.
- Level 5: Use all of the combining methods to create this high-quality level of finish. It starts with the use of a trowel, skim coat layer, two coats of compound, and a great primer.
2. Use Drywall Tape
Drywall tape is used to hold the compound in place to create a smooth finish. Whether you use paper tape or mesh tape, this look can be achieved. Because the seam is considered a weak point, the tape, and the compound will make the seam stronger.
If you were to use just the compound and no drywall tape, then the seam would become visible once the compound dried. As the compound is laid on the tape, it is important that the tape be completely covered. If not, the compound will dry, and the tape will not be able to do its job.
3. Sand the Seam
Once the drywall tape and the compound have settled. The next step is to sand the seam. Sometimes when the compound is laid it looks well. After the compound dries up, the edges can be rougher than was previously thought.
At this moment, sanding the seam lightly will create the flat texture that is needed to give a seamless look. Drywall sanding will require a 150-grit sanding paper and a sanding sponge for fine details. Sanding lightly will allow you to not overdo it too much at one time. If you put a light near the seam you can spot the few defects easier.
4. Use Dark or Matte Paint
After looking at your seam with a consultant, they are best equipped to tell you which type of paint is best for your wall. Matte paint is best for drywall seams as it eliminates flaws that can be seen by any type of light.
Now the color that you should consider is a dark color. If you are unable to purchase a matte finish a darker color will take away from the reflection of the light as well.
With an easy cosmetic change such as this, it is much easier to obtain rather than hiring a professional to skim coat your visible drywall seams.
5. Hanging up Wall Décor
This is one of the easier ways to hide a drywall seam for those that may be unable to hire a professional or do it themselves. Use different sizes and shapes of wall decorations to hide the seam.
You can use:
- Wall Tapestry
This may require a small effort on your part to determine which wall decorations will best suit your space and the size of the seam, but that is a small price to pay to hide it.
6. Color Washing Technique
Color washing is a painting technique that requires little skill. You must first choose the colors that will represent each other well and choose colors that can show through each layer.
All you need to complete the color washing technique is:
- Angled Brush
- Dry Brush
- Three Paint Buckets
- Semigloss Base Coat
- Two Different Matte Paints Plus Glaze
Below are the steps to do the color washing technique yourself and with confidence:
- The first step in color washing is to wash your walls and prep the room to be painted. You can now spackle any other holes and use sandpaper to clean up your seam and other areas if needed.
- Now, it’s time to lay down the base coat. With this step, don’t worry about the base coat’s layer being perfect. Cut the corners with an angled brush and use a roller to do the walls quicker.
- The glaze is used to create depth so that the next layer is not so one dimensional. You will add the matte paint to the glaze and stir them both until they are combined. It is usually best to start with an X in the middle of the wall to get your bearings together.
- Continue to do random brush strokes everywhere, even over the X, before your brush runs completely out of paint. The tricky part is that you want to make sure that the base coat is able to show through a little, while not leaving empty spots open.
- With the matte paint, you are also going to cut in with short strokes pointed at the center of the wall. You can still have a bit of fun when cutting, you just want to make sure you do not put paint on the floorboards.
- With the first layer painted, allow it to dry now.
- Now, for your second layer, this is where your second matte paint comes in. You will also mix this paint with the glaze.
- As you are brushing the paint on in random strokes, stop every few feet to use the dry brush, and soften the harsh strokes. Take note, that the more you use the dry brush, the more the strokes will disappear.
7. Use Paper Tape
So, it was explained earlier that there should be some usage of drywall tape to lessen the visibility of the seam. More specifically paper tape should be used and is highly recommended.
Paper tape is seen to be stronger than mesh tape and does not give way to stretching as time progresses. If the tape that is being used has elastic capabilities, it will begin to crack along the drywall seam, thus making it an eyesore.
While mesh tape does have an adhesive backing, paper tape comes with a crease in the middle to help the installer fold straightly. With mesh tape, it is capable of being off-center as the fold is being worked down.
As the paper tape is lain down with the compound, both components begin to harden. Since the paper tape hardens as well this gives you more support and more strength. Dry or setting compound will work best with paper tape.
8. Use Better Drywall Mud
Drywall mud is another name for joint compound. This is what is used with drywall tape and to fill in any holes or cracks. There are four different types of compound that can be used for tapes and finishes.
- All-Purpose Compound: This compound is already mixed and can be used at any point during the repair of a drywall seam or the installation of drywall. It can be maneuvered easily as it takes longer to dry.
- Topping Compound: Typically used after the tapping compound, as the topping compound acts as the final step. It is a topping compound because the finish should be rather smooth. Water can be added to the mix to thin it out enough.
- Taping Compound: Taping compound is used when you are laying down your tape. This solidifies your tape to the drywall. This compound is there to help prevent cracks and seams from showing.
- Quick-Setting Compound: Used when a job needs to be done in a day. It can fill in where needed and can work in areas with high humidity.
The right compound and the best quality of compound needs to be used to ensure that every step is taken to prevent drywall cracks from showing. If you use topping compound for an overall job, the seams are bound to show later and ruin the finish of the wall.
9. Use a Primer
Using a primer can hide any imperfections before the paint is put on. Be sure that the drywall seam is sanded if needed and that the application of the primer is applied well. The primer that you will need to use is polyvinyl acetate (PVA). This primer works best directly on unfinished drywall.
If this is done during the construction of drywall, it would be wise to make sure that the compound on the seams is completely dry. If not, the compound will continue to shrink if you place the primer on before it is done. This will cause cracks to be shown after the primer has dried.
The job of a drywall primer is to make sure that everything is sealed in for the paint to lay evenly. If you were to apply paint directly to drywall, the finish would look rough. There are many different primers that are tailored to specific needs. For example, you need to hide a drywall seam, there is a primer to use for cracks.
Wallpaper is used the same way as wall décor. It can easily be placed over any cracks and seams that may show through.
This method also does the same job as color washing as the patterns and textures of the wallpaper will deter the eyes from the visible seam. If you are placing wallpaper up by yourself, this job may begin to become tedious and frustrating.
The seam should still be dealt with by using compound just to smooth it over if necessary, but if you are unable to fix the seam before laying down the wallpaper, this method should still work.
If there are other nicks and holes that can be spackled in, please do so, as too many cracks can lead to trapped air that will begin to bubble out the wallpaper. This is where you can let your creativity shine and this method is also great for those who are renting.
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Giovanni Valle is an architect, designer, internet entrepreneur, and the managing editor of various digital publications including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place. He is the founder of BuilderSpace LLC.