Paper is great for skilled tapers. But for the rest of us, adhesive-backed mesh is easier. You don’t have to tool it into a bed of joint compound; just stick it to the wall, then mud over it. More important, you don’t have to worry about bubbles or ripples, wrinkles or slipping. That lets you concentrate on laying down a smooth, even coat of mud.
But there are a couple of catches:
First, mesh is hard to apply to inside corners, so you’re better off using paper tape for those. Paper that’s reinforced with plastic or metal strips helps to keep corners straight, eliminates wrinkles and minimizes bubbles.
Second, mesh isn’t as tough as paper. To create a strong joint, manufacturers recommend stronger joint compound for the first coat. That means mixing powdered “setting type” compound with water—a messy, time-consuming pain in the neck. Use “lightweight” setting compound only. The standard stuff is rock-hard and almost impossible to sand.
— Gary Wentz, Senior Editor