Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Most builders have a preferred method of installing Sheetrock (or drywall): vertically or horizontally. But why does it matter how Sheetrock is hung, and can it safely be installed vertically?
Sheetrock can be hung vertically. Hanging it vertically is a safety requirement for most commercial buildings. On the other hand, residential Sheetrock installations can be vertical or horizontal. The best option depends on the wall width and how much time you have for the installation.
This article will discuss Sheetrock and look at the pros and cons of hanging it vertically and horizontally. I’ll also look at which method is better for you so that you can make an informed decision. Keep reading to learn more.
Are Sheetrock and Drywall Installed the Same Way?
Sheetrock and drywall are installed the same way, as Sheetrock is a name brand of drywall. It’s known for its high quality and is more expensive than generic drywall brands. However, it doesn’t contain the same harmful toxins as some more cost-effective brands.
Sheetrock is multi-layered and consists of gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate) and other reinforcing materials. It undergoes rigorous quality control testing before being sold.
It is also flame-resistant, making it an incredibly safe material for interior walls.
Pros and Cons of Hanging Sheetrock Vertically and Horizontally
To decide if Sheetrock can be hung vertically, it’s a good idea to consider the pros and cons of horizontal and vertical installations.
Builders commonly hang Sheetrock vertically and horizontally, but this doesn’t mean either practice is correct.
Hanging Sheetrock Vertically
Sheetrock is commonly hung vertically in commercial buildings as most cities require this kind of installation to comply with the fire and safety code.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of hanging Sheetrock vertically:
- Safer during a fire or earthquake. In most states, the fire code requires commercial Sheetrock to be hung vertically for safety purposes (Sheetrock is tested and fire-rated vertically). In a fire or earthquake, vertical drywall will fall safely and away from the danger. Horizontal Sheetrock, however, can pile up, causing a greater risk.
- Convenient for walls less than 4 feet (1.2 meters) wide. Instead of having to cut several Sheetrock panels to accommodate the horizontal installation, if you install the Sheetrock vertically, you’ll probably only need one panel for walls less than 4 feet (1.2 meters) wide. The result is less work and fewer seams.
- Commercial vertical Sheetrock installation is typically fast. Installing vertical Sheetrock in commercial settings usually is quick, and one person can often hang a Sheet themselves. No butt joints need to be installed, and the vertical joints are quick and straightforward to tape.
- It provides easy access for building inspections. Commercial buildings require periodic inspections by city-approved building inspectors to meet the fire and safety code. Vertically-installed drywall panels are more accessible for the inspector to lift and check.
- Vertical Sheetrock is more prone to cracking. When installing vertical Sheetrock on a wood frame, it can gradually develop cracks where the two Sheets and the joint meet. Wood frames continuously shrink and swell, and the weak spot – the seam – may eventually crack.
- Panels often need to be cut to accommodate standard, residential wall sizes. Residential walls are typically shorter than most Sheetrock panels, so builders need to cut them to size when installing vertically. When installing Sheetrock horizontally for residential purposes, less Sheetrock cutting is required.
Hanging Sheetrock Horizontally
Horizontally-installed Sheetrock is more prevalent in residential buildings, and many builders prefer this method.
Let’s consider the pros and cons of installing Sheetrock horizontally:
- It helps prevent wall sagging. Horizontally-installed Sheetrock walls are less prone to sagging than vertical Sheetrock walls. Gravity eventually causes vertical Sheetrock to sag but securely-fastened and taped horizontal Sheetrock is not likely to sag.
- More straightforward to finish due to the convenient height. Since horizontal seams are typically more accessible, builders don’t have to use ladders or reach high up and bend low down to finish the seams.
- Fewer seams result in a professionally-finished wall. Hanging Sheetrock horizontally results in fewer seams than vertical Sheetrock installations, resulting in less seam taping. This makes it easier to achieve a professional look.
- It provides more wall strength. When installing Sheetrock, the wall’s strength lies along the wall frame’s vertical axis. Builders recommend installing Sheetrock perpendicular to the strongest axis to ensure maximum wall strength. Horizontally-installed Sheetrock increases the building’s resistance to wind and extreme weather.
- Installation is slower and requires more materials. When Sheetrock is hung horizontally, it’s more challenging to cut Sheetrock pieces at an angle. More materials (such as butt joints) are also needed. This can slow down the installation process and increase the risk of injury.
- It’s tricky to replace single panels. If you need to replace only one horizontal Sheetrock panel, depending on its location, you may have to remove other boards as well. A problematic vertical Sheetrock panel is much easier to remove and doesn’t affect adjacent panels.
Which Way Should I Hang My Sheetrock?
Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of vertical and horizontally-installed Sheetrock, you can decide which way to hang your Sheetrock.
You should hang your Sheetrock vertically if you’re installing walls in a commercial building, your walls are less than 4 ft (1.2 meters) wide, or you want a quick installation. Consider horizontal installation if it’s for residential walls or you want it to be easy to achieve a professional finish.
If you’re still undecided, it may be worth consulting with a Sheetrock installation specialist for expert information.
There are pros and cons to hanging Sheetrock vertically and horizontally.
Vertical Sheetrock installations are usually a fire and safety requirement for commercial buildings as they are safer in a fire or earthquake. They’re also more accessible for city fire officials to remove when conducting inspections.
Although they’re quick to install, vertical Sheetrock walls are more prone to cracking.
Many builders prefer horizontal Sheetrock installations for residential walls as they provide more strength, prevent wall sagging, and are easier to finish.
- Pro Builder: Details Matter: How to Hang Drywall in the Proper Direction
- Home Efficiency Guide: Should Drywall Be Installed Vertically or Horizontally?
- Building Knowledge: Horizontal or Vertical: The Proper Direction to Hang Drywall
- How Stuff Works: How Drywall Works
- The Exit Light Co: United States Fire & Building Codes
- Woodwork Basics: Butt Joints
- Carpentry Tips and Tricks: Interior Wall Framing
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