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Installing Wallboard (How to Build Additions Guide: Simple Room Additions)

You should hire professionals to hang, tape, and texture wallboard for large areas, but you may want to tackle some or all of the job yourself for a small addition.

Hanging wallboard is fairly easy, as long as you have help lifting the panels. Do not try taping or texturing unless you already have some experience and skill. It is impossible to hide poor results.


You should plan your layout in advance so you can estimate and order accurately. Consider using long panels, such as 10- or 12-foot sizes, to reduce the number of seams. Ceiling panels should run perpendicular to joists. Panels can be hung vertically on walls with 16-inch stud spacings, but horizontal placement is stronger. Plan full sheets around tops of windows and doors to eliminate joints that line up with corners—a weak point for cracks.

Lumber may shrink after wallboard is installed, causing nails to pop. To minimize shrinkage, close doors and windows and try to keep room at about 72° F for a week or two before nailing up wallboard. Using kiln- dried lumber for framing also helps.

Stack wallboard upright against the last wall you plan to cover. This leaves maximum floor space and makes layout and cutting easier.

To prepare surfaces, examine framing and straighten bows or crooked studs by planing down high spots or doubling straight stock next to them. Install blocking wherever joists aren't available to give ceiling panels edge support.

Try to rent a wallboard jack to do the ceiling. This device cradles a full sheet of wallboard and raises or lowers it with a simple crank. It is mounted on wheels so you can position wallboard easily as you raise each panel into place.

Make sure all electrical boxes are mounted so face will be flush with finish wall. Wires should be at least 1¼-inches from faces of studs or joists. If they aren't , nail on metal protectors.

Installing wallboard: Chalk marks at studs, Joint located away from corners, Metal corner bead, Chalk marks at studs

Installing Ceiling Panels

The first step is to mark all joist locations on wall plates so you will know where to nail after panels are in place. Next, starting along one wall, lift first panel into place and attach to joists with 1¼-inch ring-shank wall board nails or 1¼-inch type W screws. Begin in center and work outward. Space nails 7 inches apart, 12 inches if using double nail technique. Space screws 12 inches apart. Nails or screws should be at least % inch from panel edge and embedded slightly into the paper (without ripping it) so compound will cover them easily.

Measure, cut to fit, and install remaining panels. Stagger end joints at least 16 inches. If you cut any panels full length, place cut edge against wall, leaving a slight gap, and place beveled edge of panel against matching beveled edge of previously in stalled panels.

If there are any electrical outlets, flues, or other obstructions, measure and mark hole locations carefully and cut out with a wallboard saw. Cut from the face and bevel cut away from the cutting line to make slight adjustments easier as you install panel. Gaps around obstructions should be no more than ¼ inch.

Installing Wall Panels

First, mark all stud locations on ceiling and floor. If you are installing panels horizontally, place top panel first so you can snug it up against ceiling. Then snug bottom panel up against top panel and fill any gap below it with narrow strips of wallboard.

Attach panels with screws or nails that penetrate studs at least ¾-inch. Cut panels with enough clearance so you don’t have to force them into place. Nail spacing for walls is 8 inches; screw spacing is 12 inches. Snap vertical chalklines to indicate stud locations before nailing, using the marks on the ceiling and floor for reference.

Next, cover all outside corners with metal corner bead, angling nails away from corner.

The last step is to get the wallboard inspected, if required, before covering the joints and nails.


To tape and fill joints you will need a few specialized tools: three sizes of putty knives, usually 3- or 4-inch, 6- inch, and 10- or 12-inch sizes; an angled knife for corners; a tray for holding compound; and a sanding block (or pole sander, if possible). You will also need wallboard tape, joint compound, and topping compound (all-purpose compound may be used for both).

Taping joints requires at least three applications. The first step is to mix compound with small amount of water in tray in order to make it more workable. Clean out tray often to ensure smooth results.

Spread layer of compound along entire length of joint. Then wet tape, lay it on wet compound to cover the joint, and smooth it with a 3- or 4-inch knife.

With 4-inch knife, apply a thin layer of compound. Feather edges carefully, using corner tool for inside corners. Fill and smooth all dimples with a layer of compound.

Let compound dry thoroughly, usually overnight. Then smooth by sanding or by moistening with a wet sponge and flattening high spots with a knife.

Now apply second coat. Smooth and feather edges with 6-inch knife. Do only one side of inside corners; do other side when you apply third coat.

When second coat dries, repeat sanding or sponging process and apply third coat with broadest knife. Be sure to coat nail dimples as well. After sanding, check to see if a fourth coat will be necessary. If not, you are ready to paint or texture.


There are many wallboard finishes, from textureless smooth wall to heavy, lumpy textures. But none of them will hide a poor taping job, so be sure the joints and nailheads are covered completely and feathered smoothly. Do not texture where you plan to apply wallpaper or similar covering.

To texture, mix compound with water to a fairly loose consistency. Experiment on scrap wallboard, using sponge, brush, roller, or trowel to get the right effect. Try various tools: a brush for swirls; a broad, floppy blade for a flat “knock-down” look; a plush roller for stipples. Adding a small amount of silica sand to the compound makes it easier to produce a “skip trowel,” or map-like look, with a broad knife.


Wallboard is painted like any interior wall surface except that it must be well sealed first to prevent absorption of paint into the panels. The most common primer is PVA (polyvinyl acetate), which creates an acceptable surface for most latex and some alkyd (oil-based) paints. Do not paint PVA primer where you will be applying wallpaper, as it will prevent the wall paper from adhering. For rooms that will be painted with alkyd paints, such as a bathroom or kitchen, use an alkyd primer.

Covering outside corners: 1. metal corner strip, making sure it fits smoothly and tightly; 2. Apply compound with a putty knife or a corner trowel; 3. Finish as for a taped joint

Taping and filling joints: 1. Spread a layer of compound along the entire length of a joint; 2. Lay tape into wet compound and smooth with a 3” or 4” putty knife. Wetting the tape keeps it from binding; 3. With a 4” knife, apply a thin layer of compound. Feather the edges carefully; 4. Fill and smooth all dimples with a layer of compound; 5. Let compound dry thoroughly, then sand or moisten the compound with a wet sponge and smooth it with a 4” knife; 6. Apply a second coat. Smooth and feat her with a 6” knife. Sand when dry. Apply a third coat and sand lightly when dry.

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