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The Basics of Hanging a Drywall Ceiling

By HHr Staff ~ Colbyt

If you have not read our articles Tools and Materials for Hanging Drywall and Cutting Holes in Drywall for Outlet Boxes, we suggest you review those before reading this article as we will mention the tools and techniques discussed in those articles.

The quality of the installation will go a long way towards ensuring a proper finish; therefore there are a few basic facts to keep in mind when installing drywall. In most cases the drywall will be installed perpendicular to the existing framing.

An important step to perform before you begin hanging is to make there is no electrical power servicing the device boxes in the room in which you are working AND that all the wiring in those boxes is tucked as deeply as possible into the back of those boxes.

If you are working on a sub-floor this is a great time to mark all the electrical box locations on the floor for later reference when hanging the wall. If it is a finished floor a strip of masking or even better duct tape may be applied to mark the box locations.

The ceiling is always hung first and then the walls. This enables a cleaner, tighter fitting of the boards and improves the quality of the finishing process. A minor gap along the wall of the ceiling will be hidden and covered by the board on the wall. A temporary scab board can be secured to the wall down about 5/8" from the ceiling framing to serve as a support for the board if you are a little short on manpower.

You always want a tapered edge next to a tapered edge and best results are obtained when you always place a factory butt edge next to a factory butt edge. If your money is tight, you can use cut, well planned edges next to other cut or butt edges but it will slow you down in the finishing process.

As stated earlier you should always use a pencil or chalk line to mark on drywall. Once marked you simply score the wallboard with a sharp utility knife and then snap the board along the scored line. It is not necessary to cut it all the way through. As long as the paper is cleanly cut and it is scored to a depth of about 1/8" it will break fairly cleanly. Best results are obtained when the paper is cut and the wallboard scored on the room side of the board.

Planing the cut edges.
Planing any scored and broken edges with the rasp plane will ensure a tighter fit and less wasted finishing material. It also reduces the goobers that can foul your mud and leave finishing blemishes. It is a very important, necessary step if you are placing a cut edge next to a factory butt edge or joining two cut edges together and it is a workman like practice for all cuts.

Trimming the first piece:
Most beginners would think you just grab a sheet and start in one corner. Wrong! This is where you plan your attack if you haven't already done so. You need to know the length and width of the room because the last thing you want is some little sliver of drywall along any wall.

For example, if your room is 12' 6" wide, it makes a lot more sense to reduce the width of that first board to 3' so that last piece you hang is 1.5' instead of 6". This will be easier to finish. Also you may need to trim the length of the board for the same reason or to ensure that it centers on the joist. Always place the cut, planned edges or ends next to the wall.

Hanging the board:
You will also need to determine which way the "on centers" run. Framing is generally "on center" from one edge of a ceiling to the other or from one wall to another. Fail to determine this and you will be cutting or trimming every piece you hang. Even so It is quite common for 3/4" to be removed from the first piece to establish the "on center" for the rest of the run.

Once you get the first piece in place, you continue that run until you reach the wall on the opposite side. Then you come back and repeat the process making sure that the butt joints are staggered. There should never be an 8' run of butt joints to finish. The more staggered they are the smoother the finish will go.

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