Drywall Butt Joints Made Easy

Techniques to avoid having to feather out butt joints

No matter how well you plan your drywall installation, sometimes you just can't avoid having to tape a butt joint or two. Don't worry. Here are some tips to make the job easy—and the results perfect.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Normal drywall joints

When it comes to finishing drywall, the hardest part of the job is usually the butt joints—the joints formed where two non-tapered ends of drywall meet. Unlike tapered joints (Fig. A), which provide a recess for the reinforcing tape and “mud” (joint compound), butt joints require a buildup of mud. To make that buildup blend into the surrounding flat surface, you have to feather out the mud about 18 in. on both sides of the joint (Fig. B). But there are ways to avoid this slow, fussy process.

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Better ways

The best way to handle butt joints is to avoid them altogether by using sheets of drywall that will span the entire room. Home centers carry 8-, 12- and sometimes 10-ft. long sheets. If 12-ft. sheets aren't long enough, try a specialty drywall supplier, where you'll find 14-ft. and, perhaps, 16-ft. sheets.

If you can't get sheets that are as long as the room, or if there's no way to wrestle long sheets into the room, you can make it a lot easier to finish butt joints by creating a recess at each joint (Fig. C).

To make recessed butt joints, put blocks between the studs or joists. The blocks are set back about 3/16 in. from the face of the framing, so when you screw the drywall to the blocks, the butt ends are drawn inward, creating a hollow recess that's as easy to finish as a tapered joint. This may sound like a lot of unnecessary work, but if you're a bush-league drywall finisher like me, you'll get better results and probably save time in the long run.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Circular saw
  • Screw gun
  • Drill/driver, cordless
  • Combination square
  • Mud pan
  • Extension cord
  • Hearing protection
  • Hawk
  • T-square
  • Safety glasses
  • Utility knife
  • Taping knife
  • Table saw

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • 2x4 blocks
  • Drywall
  • Drywall nails
  • Drywall screws
  • Joint compound