Great Looking Drywall Secrets

Whether you’re building a new home, adding a new room or finishing a basement, homeowners can ensure a top-quality drywall installation by following a few basic – but very important – gypsum board application and finishing guidelines.
Installing drywall panels isn’t an overly complex process. The panels are available in a variety of sizes, with 4- by 8-foot and 4- by 12-foot sheets being the most commonly used. If you’re doing the work yourself, the smaller 4- by 8-foot panels are easier to handle.

Drywall panels are most commonly available in 1/2- and 5/8-inch thicknesses. The 1/2-inch panels are ideal for most wall surfaces, while ceilings generally require a 5/8-inch thickness to protect against sagging. However, a 1/2-inch-thick sag-resistant gypsum board panel from United States Gypsum Company, maker of the popular SHEETROCK® brand of drywall, is specially designed for ceiling applications. It is lighter and easier to handle than the 5/8-inch-thick panels and features a stronger gypsum core to protect against potential sagging problems.

Drywall panel installation techniques are fairly standard. The real trick to achieving great-looking results lies in how well the panels are finished.

A poorly finished drywall surface may show visible “joint banding” or “photographing” problems. These terms refer to a noticeable difference in appearance between the drywall panel and the treated joint areas. The problem stems from the fact that the drywall face paper and the joint compounds used to finish panels joints have different porosities and textures. That means that they accept paint differently, and those differences can remain visible even after the surface has been painted.

These problems are especially a concern in larger rooms with an abundance of critical lighting (lighting that strikes wall and ceiling surfaces at an angle) or when semi-gloss or eggshell paints are used.

Priming or sealing the drywall surface prior to painting often doesn’t solve the problem. Conventional primers can help equalize the texture differences between the drywall face paper and treated joints, but they may not equalize the porosity differences. Sealers, on the other, are typically effective at equalizing porosity differences, but often do not correct texture variations.

To completely eliminate drywall joint banding and telegraphing, drywall contractors use a technique called “skim coating,” which involves covering the entire gypsum board surface with a thin coat of joint compound. This process leaves a film thick enough to fill imperfections in the joint work, smooth the paper texture and provide a uniform surface for decorating. After the skim coat has dried, a high-quality drywall primer is applied prior to painting.

A growing number of contractors are now using an innovative spray-applied product, called SHEETROCK Brand TUFF-HIDE™ Primer-Surfacer, which delivers the same results as skim coating followed by a primer coat application, but requires less time to apply.

For homeowners who are tackling drywall projects on their own and don’t have access to professional spray application equipment, the next best technique is to use SHEETROCK Brand First Coat. It’s a specially formulated product that provides a superior prime coat over interior gypsum board. This product minimizes both texture and porosity differences in new drywall, and applies easily with a brush or roller.

Whatever option you choose, remember that there are no shortcuts for creating great-looking gypsum board walls and ceilings. Each step of the installation process must be done carefully and correctly, including board finishing, which has a major impact on how well the finished drywall surface will look.