While wood stud or metal framing and hanging drywall are relatively mechanical activities, drywall finishing is more of an art form, but easily learned.
This article provides step by step instructions for taping and floating (or finishing) sheetrock or drywall on walls and ceilings. A tool and material list is included for your convenience.
A Little Background The Evolution of Wall Construction
Finishing sheetrock or drywall isnt a new trade, but its not as old as its counterparts: carpentry and plumbing. As a matter of fact, sheetrock made its debut way back in 1916, but it really didnt really catch on until World War II.
Before that, interior walls and ceilings were lathe (wooden strips) and plaster. This process petered out when the war loomed; Uncle Sam needed a faster way to build structures barracks, office buildings, etc.
Sheetrock was the obvious candidate. It could be manufactured on a mass scale, was economical, and cut labor drastically. This article will show you, the daring DIYer, how to tape and float sheetrock. The terms drywall and sheetrock are used interchangeably in this article, as they are in the trade (although Sheetrock is actually a brand name).
Of course, this isnt just for new construction. The homeowner needs this knowledge for the day to day drywall patches that come about from accidents or repairs. Very small repairs such as repairing drywall seams are easy.
Drywall Finishing Tools and Material
Heres a list of tools and material youll need to tape and float sheetrock or drywall:
6 taping knife
10 taping knife
Ribbon mixer (found in drywall taping tool area of the home improvement store)
Sanding pad, pole, and screens
Plastic corner bead
Drywall tape (fiberglass mesh type, not paper)
5 gallon bucket(s) of sheetrock mud (drywall compound)or powder
Preparing the Drywall
Go over all the surfaces and make sure that there are no nails or screws above the surface of the drywall. If you find any, hammer the nails or screw in the screws (whichever were used in your home). If there are any other protrusions, get rid of them.
All outside corners need corner bead. If at all possible, use just one stick per corner. This should be no problem in the average home. If the drywall is ragged, use your utility knife or drywall rasp to trim it to a nice, square corner.
There are two types of corner bead--plastic and metal. I recommend plastic; its flexible, easy to work with, and does not rust. Just cut it to length, stick it on the corner, and staple it, making sure its straight. For outside corners, miter it carefully (see photo above).
Mixing the Drywall Compound (Mud)
Buy your mud in the large plastic buckets or use bags of powder (not fast setting). The consistency of pre-mixed mud is a bit too thick to begin with for my taste; when its thinned out it is easier to work with.
Open the bucket and pour in a cup or so of water and thin it out with your drill and ribbon mixer. Add a bit more if you like. I prefer a milk shake-type texture. Note: if you are using mud for drywall texturing, thin it out a lot more. It should easily slide off the end of the ribbon mixer.
Taping the Seams
Stick tape to all the seams and all inside corners. Do this all at once or as you go; it depends on the job. Fill your mud pan about 1/4 of the way full, and using your 6 knife, apply mud to all the seams, inside corners, and nail/screw indentations.
All you are doing with the taping step is initial work. Try to not leave any ridges of mud because youll just have to scrape them off prior to floating.
Floating the Walls and Ceilings
Now that the mud from the taping has dried, its time to float the sheetrock. Use the big knife. The objective here is to cover everything you did before but make the surface as smooth as possible and widen the area covered by the mud. The seams might still be indented, depending on how tight the joints were.
You likely wont meet that objective on the first floating pass. Dont give in to the temptation to just go over it once because the texture will cover it. On this pass you go over the tape filling in the void.
As before, dont leave any ridges. After the mud dries, float it at least one more time. On this pass youll be feathering the joints on the sides of the joint (and going over the nails again).
Final Step: Sanding
Once youre satisfied that your surface is flush and smooth, use the sanding screens to finish it off. Make sure you use your dust mask. Once youre happy with this, youre ready to apply your choice of easy drywall texturing techniques.