How to Install Wallboard

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Step stools or ladders
  • Safety goggles
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Drywall T square
  • Chalk line
  • Keyhole drywall saw
  • Utility knife
  • Surform tool
  • Pry bar
  • Nail/screw pouch
    or tool belt
  • Drill holster (optional)
  • Tin snips
  • Staple gun
  • Screwgun or drill/driver
  • 5- or 6-inch taping knife
  • 10-inch smoothing knife
  • Hawk or mud pan
  • Drywall sanding pole
  • Window or box fan
  • Plastic sheeting
    and duct tape
  • Soft brush, broom
    and dustpan
  • Bucket and sponge
  • Shop vacuum
Materials Required
  • Gypsum wallboard (drywall)
  • Lumber and screws for
    a deadman brace
  • Canvas drop cloths
  • Drywall screws and nails
  • Joint tape
  • Corner bead
  • 3/4-inch staples
  • All-purpose joint compound
  • Disposable dust masks
  • 150-grit sandpaper

Before You Begin

Follow the instructions below to install wallboard. Sound too complicated and time consuming? Here's a link to Home Advisor, a free referral service that matches homeowners with local contractors.

  • Step 1 : Plan, measure and mark

    Install wallboard horizontally on walls and plan to use as long a panel as possible to avoid creating unnecessary butt joints. Plan the job and lay out the installation so butt joints are staggered by at least 32 inches and joints between upper wall panels don't meet at window or door edges. The joint compound left in the corners during the finishing process makes it difficult to get tight joints when casing is later applied. If more than one panel is required for a span of wall or ceiling, measure from the corner to the center of a framing member so you have something to attach both panels to.

    Stand the panel on its long edge and lean it against a wall. Measure the area to be covered with a tape measure and transfer those measurements onto the face (good side) of the panel. A little tick mark is all you need for cross cuts guided by a drywall T square. Use a chalk line to mark a cut along the length of a panel. Stretch the line taut between dimension tick marks at each end of the panel. Then lift the line and release it to transfer the chalk to the wallboard surface.

  • Step 2 : Cut length and width

    Cut length and width

    To cut wallboard from edge to edge, score the face of the panel with a utility knife. Press the knife firmly enough to cut through the paper facing and about 1/8 inch into the gypsum core. Then move around to the back of the panel and tilt it slightly away from you. Hold it on each side of the scored line and give the panel a sharp tap with your knee to snap it along the scored line. Cut the paper backing with a utility knife and smooth any rough edges with a couple quick passes of a plane-shaped rasp, such as a Surform tool.

  • Step 3 : Notch for windows and doors

    For internal cutouts or large notches, plan the cut so that a single panel spans the window or door opening. Joints at the top edges of a window or door tend to crack. Use a drywall saw and cut all the way through the panel. To make a notch at a corner of a panel, use the saw to cut the short side of the notch. Then use the utility knife to score the face of the panel as you did in Step 2. In most cases, window and door trim will cover a gap between the wallboard and the wood frames so plan a loose fit.

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