Tips for Finishing Drywall

Professional advice for smoother walls and less wasted time

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

TIME

Instant!

COMPLEXITY

Simple

COST

Free!

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.

Back to Top

Tips Before Taping . .

Back to Top

Apply Setting Compound to Speed Up Drying Times

Back to Top

Tape with Smoothly Mixed Compound Applied Sparingly

Back to Top

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

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.

FIG. A Tapered joints and butt joints
Back to Top

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
  • Dust mask
  • Mud pan
  • Sanding block
  • Sanding pole
  • Taping knife
  • Utility 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