A man cuts a large sheet of drywall with a utility knife and uses a level as a straight edge.

How To Hang Drywall

Originally contributed by • last updated 5/28/2021

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Knowing how to hang new drywall and how to replace old drywall is a fundamental skill in DIY renovation and repair.

Sheetrock installation can also save you a lot of money when you do it yourself.

We’ll teach you how to put up and install drywall/ sheetrock like a professional.

If you’re want to know how to finish drywall, see our lesson on how to tape and mud drywall.

Let's Make It

Equipment

  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Utility knife
  • Straight edge/square
  • Crowbar
  • Screw gun or cordless drill
  • Screw setter adapter (if using cordless drill)
  • Drywall router

Materials

  • Drywall
  • Drywall screws
  • Angle iron (when applicable)

Answers To Common Drywall Installation Questions

Difference Between Drywall And Sheetrock

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We’re frequently asked the question, “what is sheetrock?” so we thought we’d set the record straight.

Drywall is a panel of gypsum plaster between two sheets of thick paper. 

Sheetrock is a specific brand of drywall material, like how Kleenex is actually a ‘facial tissue,’ but the term has become synonymous with all facial tissue brands.

The terms ‘drywall’ and ‘sheetrock’ are used interchangeably in common usage. Both essentially mean the same thing.

Drywall Screw Spacing

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Another question we’re often asked is, “how many screws do I use per sheet of drywall?”

4x8-foot sheets need roughly 32 screws to keep them secure when hung horizontally.

This means that each side edge of the panel has about 6 screws holding them to the studs. Each middle stud that the sheet touches (roughly 5) have approximately 4 screws per stud.

This equates to a screw spacing of 12-16” apart.

Drywall/ Sheetrock Sizes

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The most common size is 4x8 foot panels. However, you can also purchase smaller or larger sizes depending on your project and the availability at your local hardware store. 

Tip: Try to use the largest size of drywall sheets possible for your project to minimize seams. Doing so will create a much cleaner finished product.

Drywall Thickness

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The most common drywall thickness for walls is ½, ⅜ and ¼ inch.

½ inch drywall is the industry standard for walls. ¼ inch is often used to cover damaged plaster or curved walls. This is because the thinner sheet is easier to bend.

When in doubt on which thickness to use for your project, opting for ½ inch is an excellent standard to follow.

Drywall Installation Tools

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One quick note before we get started, and it’s in regards to tools.

We understand that not everyone may have the exact drywall tools recommended for sheetrock installation. And this is especially true for a screw gun or drill.

We realize that cordless drills are much more prevalent than screw guns. While screw guns are optimal for hanging sheetrock, if you don’t have one, we want to set the record straight and say, ‘that’s okay!’

When installing drywall, you can purchase an adapter for cordless drills to turn them into a screw gun. This is called a screw setter adapter.

We highly recommend picking one up before replacing or hanging new sheets. 

Why Do I Need A Screw Setter Adapter?

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A screw gun has a stopper on the front that puts the screw just below flush of the paper. This is important because it makes sure the screw does not break the paper.

Screw setters help cordless drills achieve the same result. Without a screw setter, you run the risk of seating the screw too far and breaking the paper.

When a screw head breaks the paper, it essentially makes that screw useless. The paper is what holds the weight of the sheetrock and keeps it secure to the wall.

For proper installation, you must not break the sheetrock paper when fastening the screws.

How To Hang Drywall / Sheetrock

01/8

Measure

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Use a measuring tape to measure the entire length and width of the wall you plan on covering.

Tip: If the length and width of the wall are greater than the size of your drywall sheets, hang a complete piece, then measure.

The measurement for this purpose is to determine sheets that will need to be cut to size.

02/8

Cut Drywall

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Use the measurement gathered from the previous step to cut the sheetrock to the proper size for installation.

To do this, first, use a straight edge (a level or square works well) to ensure you cut a clean line.

Next, use a utility knife to score one side of the drywall panel.

Now lift or turn the sheetrock over so that you can break the sheet from the opposite side, bending the sheet away from the scored line.

Then use your utility knife to cut the paper on the opposite side from which you made your scored line.

03/8

Install Angle Iron (When applicable)

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For corners and edges that don’t have backing studs for the drywall to attach to, use a low gauge angle iron.

Info: Sheetrock must be installed at the edges of the panel to ensure it is secure and won’t warp, so don’t skip this step by relying on studs that are ‘sort of’ close!

Tip: We don’t recommend cutting the plastic to install an actual wood stud beside the insulation. Rarely are you able to seal the plastic as well as it was before attempting this. Also, it’s challenging to fit a new stud amidst existing insulation.

Cut the angle iron so that it runs from the ceiling to the floor.

Install the angle iron on the front of the stud on the adjacent wall so that the metal piece is flush with the other studs on the bordering wall. This is also known as surface mounted.

A level will help ensure you install the angle iron straight.

Use a drill to screw the angle iron into place.

Info: The angle iron provides a corner edge that the drywall can be screwed into. Think of angle iron as makeshift drywall studs for corners and edges.

04/8

Set Drywall Into Place (Upper)

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With your sheetrock cut, it’s now time to start drywalling!

Info: In drywall installation, it’s best to start at the top and work your way down. This ensures you create a nice straight edge at the top.

Use a pencil to mark the center location of the wall studs. When installing sheetrock on a wall, use the floor and ceiling to make your stud marks.

Tip: You a pencil, and not a felt tip marker. A marker can sometimes show through even after the drywall has been painted!

With one hand, lift from the bottom of the sheet and push it up until the sheet is nice and tight to the ceiling.

Don’t drywall a wall until the ceiling has already been drywalled.

05/8

Fasten Screws (Upper)

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Use a screw gun or cordless drill with a screw setter adapter to fasten a few screws into the studs along the bottom edge to hold the sheet in place. 

We can’t stress the importance of this next point enough. Do not break the paper on the outside of the sheet with the screw’s head when fastening the screws. The screw head needs to be seated just below flush of the paper. For more information on why see the ‘Why Do I Need A Screw Setter Adapter?’ section above.

Once screws are fastened along the bottom of the sheet, you can let go of the weight of the sheetrock.

With the sheetrock held to the wall, fasten the rest of the screws.

See the Drywall Screw Spacing section above to learn how many screws you’ll need and how they should be placed.

Tip: If you’re new to hanging drywall, use a straight edge to connect the indicator lines you made on the floor and ceiling to draw a straight line on the sheet. This line will ensure you are hitting the center of the stud with each screw.

Congratulations! You’ve just learned how to hang and install your first panel!

When all the screws are fastened into place, you can move onto the lower portion. 

06/8

Set Drywall Into Place (Lower)

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With your piece cut out for the bottom section of the wall, make pencil marks on the floor and recently installed sheetrock as indicator points for stud locations.

Tip: When cutting pieces for the lower section of the wall, don’t make the pieces too big. You don’t want the sheet to be too tight and risk breaking it while trying to squeeze it into place. Jamming the drywall into place might compromise your ability to create a straight edge/seam.

Info: If there’s a bit of a gap at the bottom where the sheetrock meets the floor, that’s okay. The gap at the bottom will be covered with baseboards. 

Put the sheet in place on the wall. Then use a crowbar to prop up the panel to create a tight joint between the upper and lower sections.

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Tip: Using a large crowbar may provide the weight you need to hold the drywall in place without needing to keep one hand on the crowbar. Sometimes the weight of the bar will be enough to hold up the sheetrock.

07/8

Fasten Screws (Lower)

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Use a screw gun or drill to fasten the drywall to the studs.

When working on the lower portion, first fasten screws at the top edge of the panel to hold it in place.

Once the sheet is held in place from the top, and the screws can bear the weight of the panel, continuing to secure the rest of the screws.

Again, make sure the screw head does not break through the sheetrock paper!

Tip: Connect the stud indicator marks on the previously installed drywall and floor with a straight edge and pencil line to know exactly where the centre of each stud is located.

08/8

Cutting For Electrical Boxes

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Okay, so you now know how to hang drywall over an empty wall, but what about walls that have electrical boxes for switches and outlets?

Luckily, there are some fantastic tools to make the job a little easier. A router makes cutting around electrical boxes easy and precise.

A drywall router will cut through the sheetrock and hit the edge of the metal casing on the electrical box at a set depth that won’t damage the wiring.

The router will then make a perfect cut around the electrical box in the precise location the hole needs to be. Pretty neat!

Before preparing to cut sheetrock with a router, remember to make stud indicator marks as you had done before in the previous steps.

Tip: Push any wires as far back into the electrical box as possible to prevent damaging them while cutting the drywall with a router tool.

I) Make Indicator Points

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Start by using a tape measure to determine the exact location of the electrical box. Measure to the center point of the box.

Info: If there is a switch or outlet already in the electrical box, measure to where there is a gap in the box where the router bit won’t damage the switch.

To do this, measure the distance between an adjacent wall (that has drywall installed) and the electrical box. 

Then measure the distance between the floor or ceiling (depending on where the electrical box is located) and the electrical box.

Transfer these measurements onto the sheet that will cover the box. Use a pencil to mark the center point of the electrical box onto the panel.

II) Temporarily Attach

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Use a screw gun or drill to temporarily attach the panel to the studs. 

Attach the sheet to the wall with screws at the furthest section away from the electrical box. 

For example, if you need to cut around a light switch, only fasten the screws at the top edge of the sheet at this time.

Tip: Remember to use your indicator points to ensure you are hitting the center of the studs.

There just needs to be enough screws to hold the weight of the sheet while keeping it steady as you make your cut(s).

III) Cut Drywall With Router

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Push and hold the drywall tight against the electrical box.

Turn on the router and insert the router bit into the sheet at the indicator point.

To avoid damaging the wires, only insert the router bit a little more than the depth of the drywall — about ¼ of an inch deeper.

For example, if your sheet is ½ inch thick, insert the bit at a depth of ¾ of an inch.

Cut out to the side until you have reached the inside edge of the box. Lift the router slightly away from the wall to jump the bit over the edge. The bit should now be against the outside of the metal box.

Proceed to cut around the outside edge of the box in a counterclockwise motion.

Keep the bit tight against the outside edge of the electrical box so the line is cut flush.

When you are finishing cutting around the perimeter of the box, the cut section will fall out effortlessly.

What you’re left with is a perfectly cut line around the electrical box. How cool is that!

IV) Install Drywall

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With the sheetrock that was obstructing access to the electrical box cut away, proceed with screwing the rest of the sheet to the wall studs.

Tip: When drywalling, it’s good practice to inspect your work after each sheet is installed. Check to make sure your screws are set at the correct depth and haven’t broken the sheetrock paper. Also, make sure you have enough properly spaced screws to hold the section, that they’re fastened to the wall studs, and that you haven’t accidentally sealed off any electrical boxes! It’s better to catch any mistakes right away!

And that concludes our lesson on drywall installation!

Hanging sheetrock doesn’t have to be intimidating. And knowing how to drywall is such a fundamental skill for home renovators.

With the right knowledge and tools, we’re positive that you can DIY drywall like a professional!

Follow this guide for your next DIY drywall installation project and achieve fantastic results.

Happy sheetrock installation!