Whether adding a cutout between rooms, doing minor wall touch-ups, or bringing your wall’s outdated textures into this decade, you’ll need to get familiar with drywall. Drywall installation has a reputation as a labor-intensive project, and rightfully so. But if you’re an experienced, capable DIYer, you might be thinking about trying to install drywall on your own.
Before diving in, you’ll want to dig into the finer points of DIY drywall installation and determine if soloing is your best bet or if this project is best left to the pros.
When to Consider Replacing Drywall
Here are a few indications that your drywall needs some love.
Holes or Dents
Minor holes or dents are the first signs that you should consider replacing your drywall. They can point to cosmetic damage or more severe damage to your home’s framing. Holes near an electric outlet could also indicate a bigger problem with electrical wiring damage.
Water damage in your drywall can require costly repairs to your ceiling and floors. Once you figure out the source of water damage and stop the leak, replacing your drywall is a good next step toward preventing water damage from ruining your home’s interior.
Drywall cracks tend to develop in high-stress areas and often signify framing problems or deeper structural issues. After determining the source of the cracking, replace your drywall to avoid any unnecessary dust.
Drywall can discolor because of shifts in temperature and humidity, which often signal plumbing or roofing issues. Minor spots left unaddressed may grow and contribute to mold or mildew. Start by addressing the root cause and assessing whether the drywall damage warrants replacement paneling. Once you know what’s causing the discoloration, you may be able to take preventive measures, such as using a dehumidifier.
If you see any of these problems in your drywall, it’s time to get out the repair tools or call a contractor. Leaving these situations unchecked could end up causing more significant damage to your property. If you’re going to DIY it, you may want to consider a few tips for hanging drywall.
Tips Before You Hang Drywall
Once you’ve decided to hang or repair the drywall yourself, keep a few things in mind:
Take Proper Measurements
Measuring twice and cutting once is a smart rule for any DIY project. Taking precise measurements and accurately recording them can help avoid several problems.
Leave a Floor Gap
If your drywall panels intersect with your home’s floors, leave a half-inch gap between the drywall and the floor. The gap will allow your home’s floor to expand without damaging the drywall and help prevent moisture-wicking.
Look for Moisture and Mold-Resistant Drywall
If you’re hanging drywall in a heavy moisture area, such as a bathroom, look for water and mold-resistant drywall, such as green board drywall. While it isn’t waterproof, it is moisture resistant, making it an excellent option for walls in your bathroom that won’t have direct contact with water.
Find the Right Drywall Thickness
Different thicknesses of drywall are needed for different kinds of framing. For example, use one-half-inch drywall for framing with spans of 16 inches or less, and use 5/8-inch drywall for framing with spans of up to 24 inches.
Following these guidelines can help you avoid issues and lead to a better installation experience.
Materials and Tools for Installing and Hanging Drywall
Before hanging drywall yourself, have a basic DIY toolkit with a drill, hammer, screwdrivers, utility knife, and utility saw. Then, you’ll need a few materials and tools specific to drywall installation.
Each drywall panel weighs 50 to 60 pounds, and panels typically come in twos. Despite their size and weight, they’re made of fragile material and can easily break if mishandled. That means you’ll need a second set of hands, so it could be time to cash in a few favors from all those friends you’ve helped move over the years.
These help secure your drywall paneling to studs. Different thicknesses of drywall will require different screw lengths, so make sure you’ve taken measurements and found the right screw according to your drywall thickness.
When you install drywall, you’ll see seams where the separate drywall panels intersect. Drywall tape covers these seams and forms a strong joint between the two panels. The tape is nonstick, meaning you must apply a joint compound to use it properly.
Drywall joint compound, known as mud, is a paste that will cover any seams in your drywall paneling when applied to a properly fitted drywall tape. Mud can help you repair any minor cracks or holes in the drywall. It can also prepare your drywall to be painted, making it essential in the drywall installation process.
Now that you’ve got a good sense of process and materials, you might want to estimate your costs.
Estimating Costs for Hanging Drywall
Drywall installation costs depend on several factors, including:
Drywall sheets cost 50 cents to 80 cents per square foot, depending on thickness. Thicker options cost more but may be worth the price in spaces that require more insulation or moisture resistance. Note that the drywall thickness you choose will depend on building codes and where the drywall is being hung. For instance, one-half-inch drywall is commonly used for most interior walls, while 5/8-inch drywall is used where code requires fire-resistant material.
Room Size and Shape
The size and shape of a room will affect the amount of paneling you need to purchase. Remember that some oddly shaped rooms may have more square footage than you think. To know how much drywall you need for a wall or ceiling, measure the length and width of the area. Multiply the width by the height to get the square footage of the wall. Once you've measured all the areas that need drywall and calculated their square footage, add up all the quantities to get the total square foot amount. To know how many drywall sheets you need, divide the total square footage you've calculated by 32 (for four-square-foot-by-eight-square-foot sheets), 48 (for four-square-foot-by-12-square-foot sheets), or 64 (for four-square-foot-by-16-square-foot sheets).
Removal of Old Drywall
If your project requires removing old drywall before installing new panels, you must factor in disposal costs. You may need to add labor costs if you outsource the work to a contractor.
Taping and Mudding
You’ll need to purchase the right amount of tape and mud to join all the seams in your drywall. Of course, this cost increases with a larger installation. Once you’ve determined the size and number of drywall sheets you need, you can calculate how much drywall your project will require. Multiply the number of sheets needed by the perimeter of each sheet. For eight four-square-foot-by-eight-square-foot sheets, you’ll need (8 x 32) 256 feet of tape. You’ll also need about 0.05 pounds of mud per square foot of drywall.
If your drywall project requires you to install new framing in your home, the extra materials will increase the material cost, plus the labor to install. After all, this part of the project may not be a DIY project if new framing is required, and you don’t have any experience. If framing is necessary, you may want to expand the budget for support from a professional contractor and construction crew.
Let’s talk more about how to tell if your project can be tackled as a DIY or if it’s best left to a contractor.
Drywall Installation: DIY or Contractor?
So, where exactly should you draw the line between trying to DIY hanging drywall or hiring a pro? It comes down to several factors, besides the cost, such as:
How Much Labor Is Involved?
There's a lot to consider when DIYing a drywall project. Will your drywall installation require intricate cuts? Is it on a ceiling or a hard-to-access area? Is it a one-person job? Are you knowledgeable about codes? Minor repairs may be easy to tackle on your own, but for a significant drywall replacement you may need more help than you realize. Remember that hanging panels isn’t the end of the process, and you’ll need to tape and mud the drywall as well.
Will I Need a Permit?
Drywall installation typically doesn’t require a permit unless you work on support structures, load-bearing walls, or framing. You can check local and state government requirements to confirm whether you’ll need a permit for your drywall project. Working with a licensed contractor may save time if the installation requires a permit.
Do I Have Enough Experience in DIY Home Repair?
While drywall installation isn’t the most complicated home DIY project, it can be challenging for an inexperienced renovator. If you haven’t done basic home improvement projects, it may be wise to seek help from a contractor.
When Should I Hire a Contractor?
There are some instances when bringing on a contractor is non-negotiable. Hiring a contractor may be best if your project is large and complex or involves structural adjustments.
Hiring a Contractor: Is It Worth It?
While planning for drywall repair, replacement, or installation, compare the pros and cons of working with a contractor vs. DIY-ing and consider the price differences.
Average Cost of Drywall Installations: DIY vs. Contractor
All elements considered, installing drywall as a DIY project costs an average of $1.50 to $3 per square foot. Contractors typically charge $70 to $80 per hour for labor (plus the cost of materials), but these prices vary per job and contractor.
Advantages of Working with a Contractor
While contractors charge for labor and typically ask you to cover the costs of materials, your financial investment could be well worth it. Contractors can help you save time on large-scale projects. This is especially true if you have less experience in DIY repair and installation. For a small-scale installation, hanging drywall yourself might be more cost-effective. But as your project grows, you will benefit more from hiring a contractor. Of course, working with a licensed contractor means your project most likely will improve in quality, too, thanks to their years of experience and expertise. If you are looking for a contractor for your drywall project, a REALTOR®, a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, can recommend a qualified local contractor.
Putting Up Drywall: DIY or Contractor?
If you’re not feeling confident that you can manage DIY drywall installation, reach out to a pro to get a quote. Then, move on to bigger and better things, like choosing the perfect paint color, thumbing through creative wall ideas (did someone say Lego wall?), or maybe, just maybe, taking a bit of time to relax.