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Tips for Finishing Drywall

Learn the drywall taping tips and techniques that pros use to speed up their work. Avoid irritating problems like lumpy mud, nail pops and tape bubbles, and get a better looking job every time.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Tips for Finishing Drywall

Learn the drywall taping tips and techniques that pros use to speed up their work. Avoid irritating problems like lumpy mud, nail pops and tape bubbles, and get a better looking job every time.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Project Overview

Making the joints in freshly hung drywall disappear behind a smooth, flawless taping job will try your patience. Many problems—slow-drying taping compound, crushed drywall edges and protruding screwheads— interrupt the smooth, efficient flow of your work. Other little problems— scuff marks, dips and ridges—won’t show up until the dust clears and you prime the walls. Going back to fix stuff is time-consuming and a lot of fuss.

Resist the temptation to lower your quality standards. In this story, we’ll demonstrate tips and techniques that pros use to avoid the most irritating slow-ups and flaws. We show these tips roughly in the order you’d use them—drywall prep, selecting your materials, applying the tape and three coats of compound, and sanding to finish up. The pros we interviewed stressed a methodical approach; if you skip a step, chances are you’ll lose time later. Although you won’t be able to work with the speed and dexterity of a pro, these tips will make your drywall taping go faster, and it’ll look better for even the most inexperienced hand.   

NOTE: We used water-resistant drywall for visual contrast—the taped seams and strips are easier to see against its green color. Don’t use water-resistant drywall on ceilings (it sags). Also, check with a building inspector; many areas do not permit its use on exterior house walls.

Tips Before Taping . .

Apply Setting Compound to Speed Up Drying Times

Tape with Smoothly Mixed Compound Applied Sparingly

Sweat the Details or They’ll Show Up as Flaws Later

FIG. A Tapered joints and butt joints

Figure A: Tapered and Butt Joints

Tapered joints are easy to cover because the two tapered edges of each sheet of drywall leave a pocket that you fill with drywall tape and compound. Butt joints, the non-tapered ends of drywall sheets, are difficult to hide because the tape protrudes above the wall surface. Pros avoid butt joints by installing longer sheets of drywall that reach from corner to corner.

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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.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Drywall sander
    • Mud pan
    • Dust mask
    • Sanding block
    • Sanding pole
    • Utility knife
    • Taping knife

Required Materials for this Project

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

    • Lightweight joint compound
    • Drywall tape
    • Setting-type joint compound
    • 120 grit sanding sponge
    • 120 grit drywall sandpaper
    • Stain-blocking primer

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 17 of 17 comments
Show per page: 20   All

December 30, 7:56 PM [GMT -5]

Ready to tape? I've used a tapebuddy tool for several years now and love it. It applies the compound to the tape so no need to pre-mud the seams. It's clean and so easy to use. I wouldn't tape without it. Tape goes on flat and since there are no dry spots on the tape, there are no blisters. We teach teenagers to tape drywall in 2 minutes and they love it. Professional quality tool. You should try one.

September 25, 7:44 AM [GMT -5]

Remodeling, basement additions and bathrooms are my side projects...extra cash to supplement my addictions..TOOLS( I will have the most So I will WIN) TRAINS ( HO scale..and now getting into O Gauge..MTH is a "price fixing" SOB )..
My grandfather( a 30 year union carpenter, he was "flipping" houses in the 50's) taught me to do all things "House" the orphan bastards as he called them, Carpentry, electrical, Plumbing and HVAC...not until they all came together did they make a "Family"...
Two things for beginners....get rid of that mud tray...to messy..learn to use a Masons Hawk..an aluminum 12" square flat "tray with a handle underneath, easier to use with a 12" trowel.......with a little practice...
Also after the 2nd coat of mud..get a painters sponge, they are yellow with a white abrasive side...and a bucket of warm water..deep enough to clean the sponge in, use that to sand and feather out mud, after using 6" &12" trowels to "knock down" high spots and "trim" corners... The sponge keeps down dust.- THE ABSOLUTE WORST PART ABOUT DRY WALLING- clean water is a must..so change it often..do not saturate the wall with water, damp sponge only...and the water will help show "shadows" which will need to be "mudded" again...I never have to do more than 2 full coats using this "cheat"...saves time, puts more money in my pocket...and the walls look smooth as glass.....because what you are really attempting to do is hide the fact that you "mud & taped" at all..no shadows from uneven "mud" jobs, "fool" the eye into denying what the brain knows is there...(kind of like politics lol)

November 14, 10:32 PM [GMT -5]

I just finished a project in a log home blending a corner shower with the log wall. I used the plastic round corner bead, trimmed the mud portion with all the holes to match the curvature of the logs, masked the wall and mudded the corner bead holes. I should know in a year, following 4 seasons of movement, whether the project worked or needs to be redone. It really looks good now, and the plastic should allow for some movement.

March 30, 6:50 AM [GMT -5]

Plastic, paper or metal: I like using plastic corners as metal tends to rust. They are easy to place and don't need nailed on. Mix up a 45 or 90 minute setting type compound pretty stiff, apply to the drywall corner, lay the plastic corner over the compound, push it into the compound and clean up the edges. It will set up and stay in place quickly. After about 1 hour you can apply another layer of setting compound on each side and should feather it out about 8 inches. There isn't any shrinking with this compound and the corner will stay tight. The top coats are done with topping compound for easy finishing. It really is not hard to tape and finish drywall but the right tools make the difference. And one comment said, "watch the dust". It's not good for the lungs!

January 22, 9:41 AM [GMT -5]

I used mesh .. taping & mudding drywall is easy.. if it's your first time start by doing a project in the garage or somewhere if it's possible. Make sure you have a air repirator when you need to sand ... that sand goes everywhere and it's messy! Plastic off the area if possible otherwise you'll find it in places a room away.. Forget buying anything fancy. I got a $5 drywall kit at the local bigbox and it was perfect.
I used paper corners and it was fine. Oh and I did my whole garage myself as my first project... I live in Wisconsin so if there was any stretching, moving or bubbling I would have seen it by now... no issues! Nothing more proud than showing off your garage ...

January 09, 10:34 PM [GMT -5]

As far as corner beads Never use straight metal. Paper covered give you the straightest corner possible and will never rust or crack on the edges. Plastic are good, but just as time consuming as nailing on a metal. Corner rollers, corner plows and corner hoppers are the best way to go.

January 09, 10:28 PM [GMT -5]

Ive had a sheetrock company for over 20 years, RonMorton is more on the right path because I don't care what part of the country you are in through the seasons wood is going to swell and contract. Mesh tape will crack over time unless the entire job is done with quick setting mud. Mesh tape is for People who wanna fix a hole in a wall not for pros!

November 27, 1:35 PM [GMT -5]

I've been using mesh tape for over ten years now and never had a problem w/cracking due to 'movement'. If there's movement, it's due to incorrect framing and/or hanging.

Mesh tape is a huge time saver.

October 02, 9:05 PM [GMT -5]

moisten paper tape before and then apply over skim coat of mud. no or at least less bubbles.

September 04, 10:56 PM [GMT -5]

Mesh tape is easy to apply but over time the seams tend to crack. Mesh doesn't stand up to movement on flat areas or in the corners like paper tape. It has a tendency to tear when embedded in the corner. DIY'ers started using the mesh because of the difficulty of applying paper tape by mudding the wall and then embedding the tape. After all the hard work, the air bubbles appear. Paper tape needs compound between the tape and the drywall in order to adhere to the drywall. So if you place the mud on the wall and the tape remains dry when embedded, you will have an air bubble. A tape machine like TapeBuddy takes most of the work out of taping and the tape is applied right. Bazookas, banjos and drywall tape dispensers all apply the mud to the tape instead of mudding the wall first. A machine like TapeBuddy allows you to just work with the tape with no need to carry the machine to the wall. Taping with a TapeBuddy really is as easy as it sounds.

August 17, 8:17 AM [GMT -5]

mesh dry wall tape is better yet......no air no bubbles.......way better than paper tape.....just tape joint then mud over mesh tape

June 25, 6:23 PM [GMT -5]

Wish I had found this a few weeks ago! Well, at least This Time I'll Git Er Done right!

June 17, 1:36 PM [GMT -5]

I am getting air bubbles under the tape and mud, the angle is a little different, almost a barn roof type angle



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May 25, 7:50 PM [GMT -5]

TapeBuddy is a drywall tape machine. visit their website: www.tapebuddy.net

May 22, 4:17 AM [GMT -5]

What is the Tape Buddy?

May 16, 8:05 PM [GMT -5]

Metal corner: I don't like to use metal corner any more. I've had to replace too many that have rusted away. Now I use all plastic and they are doing great. I use a setting type compound to place these on the corner then use the same compound to build out the corner about 10". The last coat of mud is done with pre-mixed compound.

Also for taping, I use a TapeBuddy tape machine. Much easier, faster and no air bubbles. Works great on flats walls, ceilings and corners.

April 27, 12:59 PM [GMT -5]

Thanks for the great tips!

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