Installing Drywall on Ceilings, Arches and Around Curves
Learn how to install drywall in the trickiest, most difficult spaces.
Hanging drywall over ceilings, arches, and curves takes more patience and requires more hands than drywalling walls. If you are simply repairing a small area, you may not need the aid of a helper. If you are tackling a larger job without any help, there are special tools that are designed to carry, lift, and position drywall, as weight can be a large factor. Whether you have help or not, drywall carriers and lifts are still worth trying, to make the job move more quickly. Before purchasing panels for the ceiling, keep in mind your resources for positioning them in place.
Hanging drywall is often a job that requires more than one DIYer. Never attempt any work that you are not confident that you can complete. Drywall panels can be cumbersome and heavy to lift, carry, and install. Investigate using tools to help with carrying and installing panels. If you need help, it might be a good idea to hire a professional.
Drywalling ceilings is a job that requires at least two people. Drywall panels are cumbersome and heavy, and lifting them overhead can be tricky. Once they are in position, screwing or nailing the panels in place takes an extra set of hands. There are special tools and simple supports that you can construct to help keep the panels in place, including a T-support constructed of pieces of 2x4 wood. T-supports and drywall lifts also are available from manufacturers.
Drywall panels are difficult to carry without help. Drywall carriers are designed to help make a very cumbersome job much easier. There are carriers available for two people to use together to lift and move material, and others intended for just one person to carry a panel. Shown below is a carrier for one person.
If your material supply is on the same floor of your home as the room you are finishing with drywall, a drywall cart is also an option to move material around your project. Drywall carts make it is easier to store and move multiple sheets. When you carry drywall with another person, make sure you are on the same side of the panel. Lean the panel toward your body.
Shown here is a one-person drywall carrier. Its wheels make it easy to transport drywall panels across a room.
You may need to access your ceiling and high parts of walls in your house for many types of DIY tasks. If you are planning to drywall a large section of your house, and finish the walls with paint or wallpaper, you may want to investigate renting or purchasing basic equipment that helps you readily access and safely perform elevated work. Scaffolding is a traditional method of increasing your reach. Unlike a ladder, it provides a longer platform so you can tackle more of the wall without having to keep re-positioning yourself. If you want to be completely free from setting up a work station to reach tall tasks, try using stilts.
Before you begin to consider scaffolding, keep in mind that it is critical to follow all safety guidelines. Each year, one of the top four construction fatalities involves jobsite falls. A few basic safety precautions include making sure that scaffolding has crossbars every 15 in (380 mm). The floor beneath the structure should be sound, rigid, and capable of carrying the load. If the scaffold is higher than 4', you will need guardrails on all open sides. If it is higher than 10', you will also need toerails. Scaffolding provides a platform for performing work. Available in many different types that are appropriate for a range of construction work, scaffolding can be purchased and rented.
A popular type of scaffold, baker’s scaffold is appropriate for most residential remodeling work, as it is narrow enough to fit through door openings. Available in 6', 8' and 10' lengths, the scaffold can be adjusted to up to 6 feet in 4-inch increments. It is recommend for working on ceilings up to 12' high. It is made of two ladder ends, one platform, and two guardrails. If you use an outrigger, you can stack them two high.
If you want to be able to reach the higher parts of walls and ceilings without having to set up scaffolding or benches, try stilts. There are models that are adjustable for different heights and some kinds even flex with your ankle movement. If you are comfortable on stilts, you will save time as you do not need to set up and move benches or scaffolding for each area. Make sure the floor surface is clear and safe for movement on stilts.
Drywall Lifts and Benches
For ceilings that are higher than standard, it becomes even more difficult to position drywall panels and secure them in place. Drywall lifts (Image 1) provide a mechanical advantage to raising drywall to the ceiling. Drywall benches and tall scaffolding are alternatives to get you closer to the ceiling.
Drywall lifts allow you to overcome the awkwardness and difficulty of placing drywall on a ceiling. You load the drywall sheet on it, then crank it up to the ceiling (Image 2). It holds the sheet in place while you nail or screw it to the joists. Lifts are available for rent.
A drywall bench provides a stable surface for working on the higher parts of walls and ceilings. Some, such as the one shown here (Image 3), are height adjustable.
Lifting Drywall With a Panel Lifter
Lifting panels in place is another job where you will need an extra pair of hands. Some DIYers opt to use a prybar to lift panels in place on a wall. There is also a special tool available called a drywall panel lifter. This allows you to adjust the height of the panel on the wall with your foot, freeing your hands to tackle the job of screwing the panel in place. Simply insert the panel lifter under the drywall and step onto it to tilt the panel upward. The small gap created at the bottom of the wall will be covered by baseboard.
Insert the lifter under the drywall and step on it to tilt the panel upward. When it is positioned correctly, fasten the drywall in place.
Although drywall panels are flat, it is possible to cover archways and other curves with the material by bending it into shape. Manufacturers make a specific type of drywall to accommodate this need. It is called flexible drywall, and is available in 1/4" thicknesses. It has a heavy paper face and strong liner that makes it easier to bend without being susceptible to cracking. To cover tighter curves, you may need to wet the drywall before attempting to attach it to the wall. To blend into surrounding wall surfaces that have a thicker drywall, you may need to apply two or more sheets.
Either use flexible drywall or bend it to cover archways and curves. To bend drywall, damp one side of the panel with a sponge.