Outside drywall corners have traditionally been protected with nail-on metal corners, but paper-faced corner bead is simpler and resists cracks and chips better. All you need to install it are taping knives and a spray bottle filled with water.
Traditional metal corner bead is tedious and time consuming to install, and if you don’t cover it with tape, it’s likely to develop cracks along the edges. Luckily there’s an alternative that’s simpler to install and won’t crack. If you’re an old-school carpenter like me, you’ve probably dismissed paper-faced corner bead as an inferior DIY product, but trust me, once you try it, you’ll never go back.
You’ll find paper-faced corner bead alongside standard metal corners in home centers and drywall supply stores. It costs a little more, about $3 for an 8-ft. length vs. $2 for metal bead. But it’s worth every penny.
Pros use a special hopper to apply joint compound to the corner bead and an expensive rolling tool to embed the bead, but you can get the same benefits using a 3-in. stiff putty knife, a 5- or 6-in. flexible putty knife and a spray bottle filled with water. Here’s how to install paper-faced corner bead, including a few tips to simplify the job and avoid problems.
If you need to cut pieces to length, simply hold the bead in place, mark the cut, and cut the bead with tin snips. Where pieces run to the floor, cut them about 1/2 in. short. The baseboard will cover the gap.
Spread a thick layer of all-purpose joint compound on both sides of the corner and smooth it off with a putty knife. Avoid lightweight joint compound because it doesn’t adhere as well to the corner bead. Strive for an even, consistent layer of joint compound about 1/8 in. thick. Don’t leave any thin or dry spots.
Wetting the paper covering on the corner bead helps create a better bond and better adhesion and cuts down on wrinkles. Do this by spritzing the corner bead before you stick it to the wall. You don’t have to soak the corner bead; just dampen it a bit.
Press the dampened corner bead into the joint compound with your fingers. Run your fingers up and down while pressing evenly on both sides to embed and center the corner bead.
After positioning the bead, wipe and smooth off excess joint compound with a 5- or 6-in. putty knife. Press the edge of the tape with the knife blade to ensure a tight bond with the drywall.
Beads that intersect at corners have to align perfectly where they meet. But without nails to hold them in place, the beads can slide out of position. The solution is to slide the corner bead into alignment with the adjoining bead and hold it in place with a few staples.
A perfectly positioned corner bead protrudes slightly at the corner to allow a void for joint compound. After you place the bead, check for a void by setting your 6-in. putty knife against the corner to make sure there’s a space under it. Check both sides in several places along the length of the corner. Slide the corner in or out to make adjustments. Use staples to hold the corner in place if it won’t stay put.
Scraping dried joint compound from the corner can damage the paper tape. Remove excess joint compound before it hardens. Carefully slide a putty knife along the outside edge to knock off excess joint compound.
After the embedding coat of mud is dry, apply another coat of joint compound and smooth it. Do a final coat after the second coat dries. Sand the corner with 150-grit drywall sandpaper mounted on a drywall sander. Sand carefully and only enough to blend the joint compound into the drywall and remove high spots. If you sand too much, you’ll damage the paper face on the corner bead. If you do sand through the joint compound and create a fuzzy area, cover it with a thin layer of joint compound and resand when it dries.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
You’ll also need a spray bottle
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.