Drywall Tools and Prep

Find the essential tools needed for installing drywall.
From: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement
nail drywall to framing

nail drywall to framing

Preparing for drywall work involves more than just choosing the right type of drywall and the number of sheets you require. You will need to make sure that you have tools that will suit your situation and the room will need to be prepared for the work. Temperature and humidity can also affect your work and determine how quickly the joint compound dries. To make the process even easier, the delivery of drywall panels should be planned to fit within the installation schedule, so you do not have to worry about storing the panels.

Building Regulations

Before starting to apply drywall to your wall frames, it is important to schedule an inspection for any interior wall systems: electrical, plumbing, mechanical. If you do not fulfill the requirements of your local inspections, you may need to open walls later. You must comply with all building codes.

Room Preparations

As with any DIY work, the room must be prepared for the task at hand. Safety precautions must be made and space must be created for the tools and materials required. At the end of each stage of the process, properly store and stack all materials and tools.


Drywall is best completed in rooms that are ventilated and are no warmer than 55 degrees F (13 degrees C) for at least two days prior to beginning work.


Gypsum dust from cutting drywall can cause eye and respiratory irritation. Protect your eyes and lungs by wearing safety glasses and particle masks, when appropriate, and provide proper ventilation for the work site.

Drywall Tools and Fasteners

Successful drywalling depends upon you having the appropriate tools, and there are tools designed specifically for drywall installation. However, most of the basic tools that you will need are not unique to drywalling. A tape measure, T-square, framing square, chalkline, and pencil will be needed no matter the size of the space and the height of the ceiling. You will also need drywall screws or nails, mixing tools, taping knives, and sanding tools.

Drywall saw
These are designed to rip through the paper face and gypsum core of drywall. The one shown here is a drywall utility saw. Use point to break through material and start cut.

Drywall Saw Used to Cut Around Obstacles

Drywall Saw Used to Cut Around Obstacles

Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Drywall hammer
Has a gently tapered head that creates a natural recess for joint compound. When it strikes the paper surface, it creates a waffle contour that helps lock the compound.

Drywall Hammer

Drywall Hammer

©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Drywall hammers have tapered heads that help create a natural recess for joint compound.

Drywall screw gun
Used to drive screws into drywall. It has a clutch so that the drywall screw will go just below the surface of the drywall sheet and dimple the sheet.

Drywall Screw Gun Drives Screws Just Below Surface

Drywall Screw Gun Drives Screws Just Below Surface

Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Utility knife
Used to make cuts through the face of the paper to score the panel before snapping it to length. Make sure the blade is sharp.

Utility Knife

Utility Knife

Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

A basic utility knife is used to make cuts through the face of the drywall paper to score the panel before snapping it to length.

Screws and nails
Drywall screws are the preferred method of installing drywall, as they provide a more secure and longer-lasting connection. If you have a large drywall job to tackle, try using a self-feeding screw gun to speed up the task. The depth of the screw gun can be modified to work with different thicknesses of board. Screw guns are available in both corded and cordless models. If you use nails, use a drywall hammer.

Mixing tools
When working with joint compound to fill nail holes, secure tape, and fill gaps, you will need mixing tools. You can either mix the compound by hand or use an attachment to your drill — a powered paddle.

Taping knives
Depending on the stage of the drywall process, you may select a knife that is 1–6 in (25–150 mm) wide. Knives are used to embed the tape along a seam and to spread and smooth joint compound.

Sanding tools
After you complete the taping and joint compound application process, you will most likely still need to smooth any imperfections. Sand paper is ideal for small areas and corners. Sanding sponge is another option. For ceilings, a pole sander is a good option.

Tape and Joint Compound

After you have cut and installed in place each drywall sheet, you will need to smooth the joints. Creating a smooth finish between drywall panels requires both tape and joint compound.

Joint tape is used to reinforce the seams between drywall panels. You can also use it to repair any cracks in your walls. Paper tape used to be the only option available for drywalling, and it is still in use. Paper tape is 2" wide with a light crease along the center for folding to create straight inside corners. Fiberglass mesh tape is more popular than paper tape because it is easier to work with. Available in widths of 1-1/2" and 2", mesh tape can be found in non-adhesive and self-adhesive rolls. It is used along gaps and around holes in walls. It is more difficult to create a straight seam in corners with mesh tape and it is more easily torn than paper tape. If you are drywalling a large space, mechanical taping tools are available.

Joint compound
Premixed and powdered joint compounds are available, and are rated by drying time. You may hear about taping and topping compounds. Taping compounds are used for the first coat, where you embed the tape along the drywall seam. Coarser, fast-drying compounds are usually used during this first pass. Thinner, topping compounds are used on the top coats. All-purpose joint compounds are somewhere in between. These are a good choice for small areas, and for DIYers wanting to tackle drywalling for the first time.

Powdered joint compounds need to be mixed with water, and come in a variety of textures. Usually available in bags, the powder can be stored at any temperature.

Premixed joint compound is available, ready-to-use, in buckets. Keep out of sunlight, and do not allow it to freeze. It lasts about a month after opening.

Fast-setting joint compound is called "setting type." Products are available that can set in as little as 20 minutes. The benefit of working with fast-setting joint compound is that you can apply a second coat sooner. If you choose to work with fast-setting, be aware that you have limited time to apply the mixture, so be careful to mix only an amount that you can use in the time you have available.

Fiberglass non-adhesive tape
This has to be stapled over seams to be secured in place. It is harder to work with than self-adhesive tape. It can be cut using a utility knife.

Fiberglass Non Adhesive Tape Stapled Over Seams

Fiberglass Non Adhesive Tape Stapled Over Seams

Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Fiberglass self-adhesive tape
Self-adhesive tape can be simply pressed over seams to adhere in place. With the ease of use comes a higher price tag–it is more expensive than non-adhesive tape.

Fiberglass Self Adhesive Tape

Fiberglass Self Adhesive Tape

Photo by: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Corner Beads

While inside corners are finished with drywall tape and joint compound, outside corners are covered with corner beads to create a sharp 90-degree angle. Since walls take the brunt of wear and tear in a home, corner beads also protect the corner surface of a wall. Available in a variety of types, most can be either nailed or screwed in place. If you choose metal over plastic, you will need to use a crimper to set the metal and hit it firmly with a rubber mallet. No matter what type of corner bead you choose, try to install it in one piece to create a seamless finish. Standard length of corner bead is 6'10", but it ranges up to 10'.

Types of Bead

Metal bead used to be the only type available, but vinyl and plastic covered in paper are also common. Metal corner beads are available in varieties with a paper cover. Bullnose corner beads give a rounded corner.

Flexible wire bead
This has plastic beaded edges, and is nailed in place (image 1).

Bullnose bead
If you want a rounded corner, these are a good option (image 2).

Vinyl bead
Has a pre-snipped edge that is glued and stapled in place (image 3).

Composite bead
Composite bead usually has a PVC core and a paper surface (image 4).

Additional Types of Drywall Bead

J-trim bead
Used to cover the edges of drywall panel at shower stalls or windows (image 1).

L-channel bead
Finishes drywall that butts up against other types of material (image 2).

Metal corner bead
Can be nailed or screwed in place. Some have a paper face (image 3).

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