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.
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When installing or detailing drywall or gypsum board, you may wonder if you need to dimension the pieces centered on the studs of the wall or ceiling you are working with.
Ideally, you want to ensure that the drywall seams are centered on a stud frame to secure it adequately to the structure. In situations where drywall is not able to be mounted to studs or other structural members, failure in the joint is likely.
If you have no choice but to hang the drywall joints in between the studs, the best alternative is to install a new stud in between. Similarly, blocking can be used in between studs to provide a surface for the drywall to attach to.
In addition to this, there are other practices that can make installing or detailing drywall more effective. Spacing of the fasteners can play a big role as well as minimizing gaps between sheets and floating the joints. Next, I’ll discuss these aspects in more detail.
As with any project, proper planning can make a big difference in terms of productivity and quality of end result. For this reason, you want to make sure you make notes of all the conditions of the space before you even begin your project.
Stud spacing is typically 16 inches on center. Sometimes it can be spaced 24 inches on center or at another dimension. To be sure, it’s always a good idea to measure the stud spacing ahead of time.
Take this time to make any notes of stud locations at corners. If there are none, make a note of it. If there are any openings in the wall for doors and windows, take measurements as well and note where the structural members are located.
You’ll want to survey these locations before you begin your drywall installation. This will allow you to plan ahead and should give you a starting point for your drywall sheet sizing. Ideally, you want to use sheets that are sized to align with the stud spacing.
Drywall Corners with No Stud
There are sometimes situations where you have to hang drywall on a corner where there is very little surface to attach to or even no stud at all to work with. Ideally, you want to have at least 1 inch of surface to attach the drywall sheet to.
In situations where you have less than 1 inch, you can install a new stud adjacent to the existing stud. If you are working with wood, a 2×4 nailed to the side of the existing stud should work.
Be sure to inspect the corners of the room before beginning the drywall installation. This will allow you to address these issues ahead of time so that you can focus on laying out the drywall more effectively.
How Much Gap Between Drywall Sheets?
Ideally, you want joint spacing between drywall sheets to be minimal to none. If at all possible, the joints should be snug against each other so that there is no gap between the sheets.
However, in practice, this is not always feasible. In situations where there are gaps between sheets, you can use drywall mud to cover the gaps and then tape over the joints.
Small gaps, say less than 1/4 inch, should be fairly easy to fix with drywall mud. Anything more than that will become unnecessarily labor-intensive and require more drywall mud.
As long as a stud is behind, mud can be applied to the gaps with as much as 1/2 inch spacing, though this is not ideal. Aim to keep the joints tight against each other to allow the sheetrock to perform better and reduce added labor.
Drywall Screw Spacing
The spacing of drywall screws is important, as too few attachments can result in sheets coming undone and bulging at the edges. While there is no set standard, and the exact spacing can vary depending on who you ask, there are some general guidelines to follow.
First, the spacing should be closer at edge conditions. Edges are where two walls intersect or where the wall meets the ceiling. Second, because drywall on ceilings is subject to greater stress due to the pull of gravity, the spacing should be closer than on walls.
On edges where walls intersect or on walls that meet the ceiling, 8 inches of spacing is a good rule of thumb. For the ceiling drywall, 7-8 inches is more appropriate where it meets walls. Interior wall attachments can be spaced at 16 inches. The interior portion of a ceiling can be spaced 12 inches.
How Far Should Drywall Be Off the Floor?
If drywall is installed so that it comes in contact with the floor, it can lead to wicking, that is, moisture damage along the bottom edge of the panels. This is particularly true for concrete floors.
In order to avoid this condition, it’s best to allow a bit of a gap between the floor and the drywall. Usually, about 3/8 inches is ideal, but as much as 1/2 inch can still work.
To align the bottom edge of the drywall sheets properly and ensure that they are 3/8 inches from the floor, you can use temporary 3/8 inch plywood sheets underneath.
Can Drywall be Hung Vertically?
While on commercial jobs, drywall is usually hung vertically due to code requirements, on residential jobs, it’s common to hang them horizontally. However, there are situations where hanging the drywall vertically can be more efficient.
This is particularly true when ceiling heights are 9 feet or less. Since sheets are commonly available in 8ft lengths, you can install a single sheet the full height of the wall, reducing the number of required joints.
One additional advantage is strength. Drywall sheets are stronger when hung in the long direction. This reduces the likelihood of sagging. The combination of strength and reduced need for joint flashing makes hanging the drywall sheets vertically a good option
Floating Drywall Joints
Drywall is designed so that the edges are thinner than the rest of the sheet. This is to allow for the application of thin layers of drywall mud and taping between the joints without creating a build-up.
The process of adding the mud and tape to the joints is referred to as “floating.” Typically, floating is done in layers and sanded to provide a smooth edge transition between drywall sheets.
The ultimate goal is the seamless transition at the edges so they are not noticeable. Be sure to wear a dust mask when sanding the drywall seams.
What Causes Drywall Seams to Bulge?
A few conditions can result in the bulging of drywall seams. One possibility is that the sheets are not properly secured to studs, as has been discussed. A second possibility is that the fasteners were driven in too far.
Insufficient fastening is also a possible cause, which results in the drywall pulling away from the structure. Yet another common possibility is moisture from pipe or roof leaks. In all cases, the result can be an unsightly bulge in the surface of the wall or ceiling.
To repair these conditions, you can remove portions of the drywall that are damaged or swollen. Patch the area with a joint compound. Allow the application to dry, sand to smooth it out, and paint to finish the surface.
I’ve covered a few best practice approaches to installing and detailing drywall. There are of course other tricks of the trade that those who regularly perform installations use.
Like anything else, practice and experience in performing the tasks will get easier with time. Don’t expect perfection the first time around. By adhering to some of the issues I’ve covered, however, you should make the process more effective.
The goal when installing drywall is to create as smooth and continuous-looking surfaces as possible. While joints are a necessary part of the installation process, visually, they should not be noticed.
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