Drywall adventures

Drywalling at Farm Folly has officially started! I am so happy it is hard to contain myself. The second floor ceilings were finished tonight. I still need to install the final (third) layer of insulation in the walls. Hopefully by this coming week we will start hanging the upstairs walls.

Things I’ve learned about drywall.

  1. We are ridiculously slow.
  2. I need bigger muscles.
  3. You can use your head as a third arm.

Starting this project was a little bit intimidating since neither of us had much experience with drywalling. Lee read lots of books, watched videos, and finally it was time for us to start. We looked like giraffes trying to roller skate while putting up that first sheet.

Lee made two drywall T’s which came in handy.

A new project such as this required new tools. Lee was very excited to try out his new Dewalt drywall screw gun. A few minutes later, the muttering started from his general direction. Let’s just say that doing a new task with a new tool while being slightly OCD does not make sinking drywall screws any easier. After developing about 200 new white hairs, practicing on a scrap piece of drywall, and searching the internet to figure out what he was doing wrong, Lee switched over to a small cordless screwdriver. It gave him more control than the fast moving screw gun. Maybe with a little more experience he can switch back to the new tool.

Lee got to use another new tool, a drywall router, when we came to the first fixture box. I think he developed 5 new wrinkles in that process. Lesson learned: extend the router bit more so it actually follows the fixture.

We got to the second fixture box and learned another lesson. Don’t apply too much pressure to the drywall or it will bust when you are still cutting the hole. I think Lee lost a day off his life to that one.

The third fixture box went slightly better and the fourth box went fairly smooth. I say fairly because while it routered out well, the process started with a little Marco-Polo exercise. We forgot to mark the box location before we installed the drywall.

The first screw lines started out pretty lousy.

The later screw lines got much better. Lee is still having problems getting the screws to not tear out at the butt joints. If someone has a wonderful piece of advice on that, please do share!! I think this is the first time he has wished that a 2×4 was actually 2″ wide.

Man, oh man, what a beautiful sight! Lee knew we would get to this stage but I have to say there were times when I had my doubts. The drywall makes it seem like a real house, not just a bunch of ideas that are so very far from completion. I am so happy!!

We finished the stairwell drywall tonight. I think it’s about time for me to start singing love songs to my new drywall. Or maybe I should run up and down our street screaming “I HAVE DRYWALL!!!” I did tell a few neighbors I was going to do that. 🙂

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32 Responses to Drywall adventures

  1. Snowbrush says:

    You guys will both have necks like Schwarzenegger after a few more days of supporting sheetrock with you heads. That’s the way the pros do it, though.

    • lee says:

      I don’t think our neck muscles will improve at our slow pace! The pros do a lot of things that I’m not even going to attempt (like work with 12′ long sheets), but I’ll be very satisfied if none of it falls on our head and the finish turns out good.

  2. Woody says:

    Looks good to me. I think the cool thing about learning and doing things yourself is that the whole process becomes a part of you. It is your house right down to the studs. Every victory and fault becomes your home.

    • lee says:

      I absolutely agree. I want that experience of knowing every detail of your own home, even if it took far longer than just paying someone to do it.

      Heck, with all the experience, the next house will surely go faster… (ducks and runs away from Robin).

  3. Ann says:

    It looks fabulous! I am so excited! There’s something about the smell of drywall that excites me, sorry to admit!

    You’re probably well-aware that Eric wrote the book on being anal-retentive, so he actually uses a chalk line on the drywall to mark the center of each stud. And he wastes a lot of drywall, trying to avoid butting two cut ends together. That’s the reason my car is sporting a glacier on its roof these days. It’s because the “garage” is full of bits and pieces of drywall we “might” be able to use elsewhere. Hence, my car sleeps in snow and ice. Grrrr.

    Oh. Robin, just wait when you get to the angled parts of the wall – those sheets have a tendency to shear down (obviously), and you’ll develop a crook in your neck as you jam your body against them to hold them steady. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also be yelling at Lee to drive the first damn screw already! Ceilings are a piece of cake compared to the angled parts.

    We have the same drill – I’ve tried to drive a few screws in myself, and know it takes just the right amount of torque, speed and strength to do a good job. Eric makes it look so easy, but I think that’s just practice. I’ll have to ask him if he has any tricks up his sleeve…

    At this point in the game, if you’re interested in adding any additional tools to your already-large arsenal, I can only recommend the Fein Multimaster. When we finally bought it to remove the Varathane from our pine floor, we really wished we had bought it earlier, if only to precisely trim the electrical boxes.

    Things are coming along admirably though. You’re both to be commended, because it’s looking fine already. But that comes from a person who thinks plywood floors are practical LOL.

    • Ann says:

      I just thought I should mention – we have the same regular Dewalt 18V drill you have, not the new drywall drill you bought for the job. If yours has a torque adjustment switch on the top – keep it at setting 1, and go slow when drilling. Eric says it took him a while to develop a technique – but it involves drilling slowly at setting 1 on the 18V Dewalt. He sinks the screw by manually turning the drill and using just his body weight – and this might also be responsible for the tendonitis he has in both elbows for 5 years now.

      I’m sure you’ll find a technique that works before long!

      • lee says:

        This is basically the technique I eventually arrived at as well. My current favorite tool is a little Lithium 12V cordless screwdriver. I bought it run screws in for electrical work (my wrists cannot handle twisting a screw driver), but is has just enough power to run in drywall screws as well. I run them in slow using the variable-speed trigger, and really slow down at the end to get the dimple right. The Dewalt drywall gun would be 10x faster, but I can’t seem to set screws cleanly when working overhead.

    • lee says:

      I continue to think Eric and I would get along just fine. (Or drive each other crazy.) I asked the guys at the hardware store what chalk they recommend for drywall and they looked at each other and then me and said they’d never heard of anyone using a chalk line on drywall. I ended up guesstimating the screw locations for most of the drywall (it’s pretty obvious when you miss since the screw won’t sink). Since the stairwell panels required us to lean out through the second floor walls, I did draw faint pencil lines on them to mark the joists.

      I don’t like hearing that the angle parts may be harder than the normal ceiling. I had thought the hard parts were over. Now that I look at it I can see how it might be pretty awkward.

      I looked up the Fein Multimaster, and it does look very handy. I might opt for the Bosch version if I got one. I’ve been on a Bosch kick for my last couple tool purchases (exempting drywall related tools, but those have been optimistically lurking around here for a while now).

      I’m pretty happy with the drywall progress at this stage, mostly because I tell myself that tape and mud can cover up a lot of mistakes. My future taping and mudding self will probably rue the day I ever said that …

      • Ann says:

        I’ve heard good things about the Bosch multi-tool as well. I read a ton of reviews, and it looked like a tie until we held the Fein in our hands. It’s just that bit beefier, and more comfortable to hold. Mind you – we were using it for HOURS on end, but if you’re using it for finishing bits and bobs, I’d say you’re safe with the Bosch.

        Eric bought this chalk line: http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=49715&cat=1,42936,50298

        The description does not lie – it makes an accurate line – and if I may permit myself to add – it’s fun to use.

        And no, I don’t think you and Eric would drive each other crazy, au contraire, I think you’d be a renovation dream-team LOL. You’re both cut from the same cloth.

  4. k says:

    Consider renting a drywall lift. It’s much easier on you. Mark the stud locations with a pencil line before putting up the sheet. There is a button on the side of the screwgun on the thumb side if you’re right-handed. It’s the hold on button. Squeeze trigger, press and hold button, release trigger. Gun stays on. Load screw-you want a small gap between cone and screw. Important part is to move hand up on handle. more to behind the motor part. Think of it as more ergonomic. More in line with the screw. If it helps, hold the gun upside down for walls. (motor in hand). apply even pressure to engage clutch and screw will go right in. Watch for fingers and hands. Screws will go in them very nicely. Don’t be afraid to add a nailer.

    • lee says:

      Hi k, thanks for the tips. I thought I was holding it right, but it seems my technique is off in the picture above. Perhaps I was off most of the time. The two challenges I recognized seemed to be applying consistent pressure when running in the screw (as pressure does affect depth to a certain extent), and pushing upwards in a perfectly vertical direction. That latter item is surprisingly hard to do. I can drive screws in horizontally with no problem, but vertically they were almost always at an angle. I’m going to give it a try again when we start the walls and go over these tips.

  5. Ron says:

    I found a weird bit / gadget, which had a screw setting and a spring… it was made so you could set the depth of your drywall screws. With a bit of adjustment, you could ram those things in as fast as you wanted, and the gadget would stop them from going too far, just dimpling the right amount. You might check out the local stores and see if they have something similar… I too, had a large degree of frustration with the screws until I tried the gadget.

    • lee says:

      The drywall screw gun I have is basically a motor attached to that gadget. Pressure on the tip engages a clutch, so the motor can run freely when it’s not actively driving a screw. A collar on the drill contacts the wall and causes the clutch to disengage. My problems really come down to coordination and speed. I set about 20 test screws into a scrap of drywall against the wall and they were almost all perfect, so I think my hand-eye coordination when driving screws upwards into the ceiling is at fault here. 🙂

  6. Rich says:

    It’s been awhile since I’ve hung drywall, but if you are using a drywall gun you usually need to hold it differently than a regular drill. It might be a little difficult to explain, but with a drywall gun you hold your hand higher up on the tool so that you pull the trigger with your ring finger and pinky (your index and middle finger will be inline with the screw etc.). Your screw gun should have a groove and a shoulder up towards the top of the drill that the web of your hand will fit into that might make my description easier to understand.

    When your hand is positioned that way, it is easier to control how much force the screw is getting and should be easier on your hands and wrist.

    And, with a drywall router, the direction you move the router makes a difference in how it cuts. I can’t remember it off the top of my head, but if you move the router clockwise (or counter clockwise) it will pull towards the box you are cutting around so that it makes a nice clean cut. But, if you try to cut counter clockwise (or clockwise), the router pulls away from the box and your cut tends to run wild.

    Hope that helps and was understandable.

    • lee says:

      I am really going to have to pay more attention to the hand position next time. I did know the proper way, but that’s not to say I was actually doing it.

      I dug out the drywall router manual after the first box went so badly awry. When you cut on the outside of an object (around an fixture box), you are supposed to cut counter-clockwise. When you cut on the inside of an object you go clockwise. This makes a big difference, but there’s still some technique to learn. The bit is long and thin and cutting through drywall, so there’s a lot of resistance in every direction which makes it a little harder to know when you are against the fixture and when you have started to wander.

  7. Ali says:

    Hoorah for yourah, drywall going in!! Wicked exciting I bet! (We say wicked up here in Maine, its part of the vernacular as you will hear.

    I second what Ann said about the Fein Multimaster. We have a cheapy knockoff and it is AMAZING!! It saved hours and hours and hours of labor repairing some trim work, and I can immediately see its value in putting up drywall.

    ALSO, no e-mail from you yet… did you use henbogle at gmail? That’s the best bet.

  8. Sheila Z says:

    Plaster hides all sins. It just takes more work when you have lots of sins to cover.

  9. Lyssa says:

    I’ve done some bad drywalling here too – after a while it gets easier, and once it’s all textured, your sins will be hidden (along with whatever crazy graffiti your friends wrote on the inside of the wall before walling it in). Mistakes add character, right?

    • lee says:

      The mud will have plenty of mistakes to cover up around here. I don’t want to texture, but we aren’t going for machine-perfectly smooth either. The plan is to do a skim-coat plaster look. We’ll see. It’s hard to find information about skim coat.

      Ah .. yes the graffiti … we have some of that I’ll be glad to lose. It’s funny how an unfinished wall turns some people into a rogue 5 year old with a Crayon.

  10. nice work! We used a drywall bit for our drill worked great. (without reviewing other comments again) It drove me crazy missing the joists and studs so we used a chalk line..basically a string that pulls out and holds chalk..pull the line out to length, make sure it is tight and pull it out and snap it back.

    Let me tell you this..your first room looks way better than our first room! I wasn’t even sure which way to hang the drywall at first!..then I would get to a corner and there would be no stud to attach to thanks tot he guys who built this place being drunk at the time!..but by the end we had it all figured out and the rest of the rooms looks professional. Hell, now that I think about it I used a jigsaw to cut at first until a neighbor saw me and shamed me into cutting drywall like we should..and we thanked him cause the mess level went down dramatically.

    Oh, an important tip too..use the drywall mud that falls directly down instead of the cheap stuff..the mud is messy when sanding ( we also vapor barriered in ‘safe’ areas so we could go somewhere that wasn’t covered in drywall dust…and yes, mud will cover all mistakes!! you should have seen some of the atrocities the mud covered in our first room! hehe

    • lee says:

      We’ve been using drywall clips instead of adding studs around the ceiling perimeter. Not sure about the corners. I think solid wood blocking might be better there in case some leans in the corner. If people are leaning on the ceiling we’ve got big problems than a little cracked drywall.

      Wow, yeah cutting with a jig saw sounds messy. I routered out the attic access hole and completely covered myself in drywall dust in the process. I didn’t know there was drywall mud designed to produce less mess. I’ll have to look into that.

  11. ..went and grabbed out drywall experience post…although I covered most of it in the comment I made ( look closely on the ceiling and you can see a huge gap):


    It really is amazing how far we have come. I actually know things now! hehe

    • lee says:

      Ha ha .. yeah, it’s a learning process. You are way ahead of us. We still haven’t hung anything on the walls. When I start mudding, I’m going to do a closet first, so hopefully the biggest disaster will be where nobody can stare at it with good lighting. 🙂

  12. Benita says:

    Poor Lee! All those additional white hairs!

    Still, I’m in there dancing with you. That drywall is purty!!!

    • lee says:

      I would claim I didn’t have any white hairs before we bought this house, but that’s not true …

      Robin and I are dancing too. It’s actually warmer up here without a massive hole venting to the outdoors! (Who knew?)

  13. Accidental Mick says:

    I’m new to your blog but I hope you dont mind if I leave a note.

    I have renovated 4 homes, starting in the late sixties and finishing about 10 years ago when we could finaly get the sort of house we wanted all along.

    The most useful tool I found (I would call it essential) is a gadget that you run across the finished wall and it senses when you come to a stud. The more expensive ones can tell the difference between a wooden stud and a metal cable. Very good when you have forgotten to mark the stud but indespensable later when you want to put shelves up after the wall is plastered.

    Along the way I became a self taught electrician, plumber, brick-layer and carpenter but I never did get the nack of plastering. After the first house I always waited until I had saved enough money for a professional.

    Good luck anyway and it is a great feeling when you look back at what you have achieved.

    • lee says:

      Hey Mick,

      Comments are always welcome! I have a cheap little stud finder, but I haven’t used it much in this house. At the moment, all the studs are clearly visible. 🙂 It will definitely come in handy for the later stages of finishing and cabinetry.

      I’ll keep your caution about plasterwork in mind when we get to that phase of the project. I want to try my hand at it (in a closet perhaps), but I’ve had several other avid DIYers tell me that drywall finishing is the job they most willingly hire out to a pro.

  14. Rachel says:

    I know this is a way late comment by a lurker, but have you tried a “drywall dimpler”? I got a no-name brand one for super cheap at the local bigbox store and it works great!

    • lee says:

      Nothing wrong with late comments! 🙂 I almost bought a drywall dimpler first actually, and then opted for a complete drywall gun. Both have the same friction-clutch design, except that the gun is more oriented toward speed. (You can keep the motor running as you load the next screw for example.) I’ve decided that my problem is keeping the screw perfectly perpendicular to the surface. I have no problem with this on walls, but overhead on the ceiling I just don’t have the talent for it yet.

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