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Expert Tips for How to Install Drywall

Updated: Mar. 21, 2023

Follow these tricks for a faster, trouble-free installation

FH03FEB_FASTIP_04-2 how many screws per sheet of drywall how to put screws in drywallFamily Handyman
A good drywall job starts with solid backing and properly driven fasteners. Learn how pros make their finished drywall look smooth and straight.

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Adjust the screw gun tip for accurate depth

Photo 1: Adjust screw gun depth

Twist the nosepiece on the screw gun to adjust the screw depth. Practice driving screws on a scrap of drywall backed by wood until you get the setting just right.

how to put screws in drywall

Photo 2: Proper screw depth

The screw on the top is too shallow. There’s no space for joint compound. The middle screw is just right. There’s a recess for joint compound and the paper face of the drywall is intact. The screw on the bottom is too deep. The paper face is torn through; the screw won’t hold.

How to Put Screws in Drywall

Don’t be tempted to use your cordless screwdriver or regular drill to drive drywall screws. Neither will give you the precise depth control you need for trouble-free fastening. Use a screw gun instead. They’re reasonably priced and available at home centers and tool retailers.

Photo 1 shows how to adjust the screw gun to set screws at the correct depth. Practice driving screws on a scrap of drywall or in a closet to get the hang of it before tackling your room. Start by placing a screw on the magnetic driver tip. Then line up the screw with the center of the framing and squeeze the trigger to bring the driver up to speed. After the motor is running full speed, press straight in and don’t release the pressure until the clutch starts to ratchet. You’ll know by the clattering sound it makes.

Make sure the drywall is tight

Photo 1: Push drywall against studs

Press against the drywall while you drive in screws. Don’t release the pressure until you’ve driven two or three screws into the framing to distribute the load.

Close up

Screws will pop through the drywall if there is a gap between the stud and the drywall. Pushing the drywall tight and fastening several screws in the area will solve the problem.

Crooked studs or puffed-out insulation can prevent the drywall from lying tightly against the studs. If the gap is too large, the screwhead will pop through rather than pulling the drywall tight.

Tack with nails, but fasten with screws

how many screws per sheet of drywall

Ring-shank nails

Fasten the drywall in place with a few ring-shank nails around the edges.

how many screws per sheet of drywall drywall screws sizes

Drywall screw sizes

Finish fastening the drywall with drywall screws, which resist popping and hold better than nails.

How Many Screws Per Sheet of Drywall?

Buy 1-1/4-in. coarse-thread drywall screws to attach 3/8-in., 1/2-in. and 5/8-in. drywall to wood framing. Use fine-thread screws to attach drywall to steel studs. To answer the question “how many screws per sheet of drywall?” It all depends how big the piece of drywall is. But the most important part is to place screws 12 in. apart where the ends or edges of sheets butt at framing members, and along each framing member in the center of the sheet. Don’t use longer screws unless you’re screwing through soft material like foam insulation into the underlying framing. The screws should only penetrate the wood 5/8 to 3/4 in. Any deeper and they’ll be prone to popping later.

For a speedier job, take a tip from the pros and tack the perimeter of the sheets with several ring-shank drywall nails to hold it. Then return to drive the screws. This saves you the hassle of carrying the screw gun around while you’re supporting the heavy drywall.

Provide solid backing on edges before hanging the sheet

Photo 1: Add backing at corners

Screw 2×4 backing at the intersection of walls and ceiling if it’s missing. Drill clearance holes at an angle through the top plate. Then drive 3-in. drywall screws into the 2×4 while you hold it down with your other hand.

Photo 2: Add cleats

Nail or screw cleats alongside existing framing rather than recutting the sheet. Be careful to align the face of the cleat flush with the face of the existing framing before you nail or screw it in.

Inspect inside corners where walls intersect and along the top of walls where they meet the ceiling. The goal is to provide at least 3/4 in. of exposed framing to drive screws into. If you can’t swing a hammer in tight spots, screw in blocking with 3-in. screws. Keep a few lumber scraps handy so you can add backing on the fly if necessary (Photo 2).

Mark the framing

Photo 1: Mark studs and joists

Avoid missed screws by marking all framing members before you start hanging drywall. Mark the ceiling framing on the top plate of the walls. Avoid climbing a ladder by taping a pencil to the end of a stick and using this to mark the framing. Then after the ceiling drywall is hung, mark the centers of the wall studs on the ceiling drywall.

Photo 2: Show stud locations

Mark the center of wall framing members on the floor with a pencil or marker. When you secure the upper sheets of drywall, make sure to center a fastener on each framing member before hanging the lower sheet. Then align a straightedge with the fastener and the marks on the floor and draw a pencil line to mark the center of the framing.

It’s frustrating to have to guess where framing members are after they’re covered with drywall. Avoid this hassle by marking all the framing members before you start hanging the drywall. Mark the center of each ceiling framing member on the top plate of the walls (Photo 1). After you hang the ceiling drywall, mark the wall stud centers on the ceiling drywall and on the floor (Photo 2). Use a pencil when marking on drywall. Ink from markers and pens will bleed through the paint.

Remove the screws that missed the framing

The problem

Pull out screws that don’t catch the framing; they’ll cause problems later when taping.

Photo 1: The solution

Remove screws that miss framing. Set the screw gun to reverse (there’s usually a little lever near the switch). With the screw gun running in reverse, apply sideways pressure to the tip of the screw gun while you pull it back and away from the wall to withdraw the screw. Even if the screw doesn’t come out, it should be loosened enough to pull out by hand.

Photo 2: Clean up screw tears

Recess the fuzzy holes left from screws that have been removed. Press the back of your utility knife against the screw hole and twist while applying pressure to make a divot. Fill the recess later with joint compound.

Even with careful preparation, you’ll occasionally miss a stud, drive a screw too deep or have trouble driving a screw deep enough. The screws don’t usually back out easily. Photo 1 shows one method of removing screws with your screw gun. If this doesn’t work, slide a putty knife blade under the head and press it against the threads while you back out the screw with your screw gun, cordless drill or Phillips screwdriver. If you overdrive a screw and break through the paper, add another screw a few inches away and then remove the overdriven screw. Locate underdriven screws by sliding your taping knife over each line of screws and listening for clicks that indicate protruding screws. Use a screwdriver to twist them in a few turns, or remove them and drive a new screw alongside with the screw gun.

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
  • Chalk line
  • Cordless drill
  • Drywall saw
  • Dust mask
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Screw gun
  • Shop vacuum
  • T-square
  • 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.

  • 1-1/4-in. drywall screws
  • Drywall
  • Ring-shank drywall nails