DI-Why: My drywalling misadventure

I believe strongly that there is a time in every man’s life when he says to himself and others nearby that he can probably drywall something.

It may sound a little like: “Yeah, just throw some drywall up there and a coat of paint and BAM. Done.”

Why would anyone think they can do drywall themselves? Simple. We live among drywall. It’s all around us. And like just about every man, I think this a lot: How hard can it be?

Well that turns out to be a pretty interesting question.

I thought about drywalling the inside of my closet after an epic rainstorm caused a leak that ended up ruining all the plaster along the roofline. (It’s a small area on the roof that needs flashing is all, and getting a roofer to do it has become just as epic as that storm. We’ll be writing about that someday, too, if we ever get it fixed.)

Some things I learned:

  • Drywall. That shit’s heavy. If you’re the kind of person who has friends, you might want to bring one along (one with a truck would be ideal). Or you can do what I did and wrestle with a sheet of it at Home Depot, break one after it falls off the stack, clumsily maneuver it around the store and not be able to get it into your car.
  • The drywall panel won’t fit in your car. Measure your car. The drywall panels are 8 by 4 feet. It seems like they might fit, and you’ll be tempted to give it a shot, but you will absolutely make a fool of yourself in the parking lot trying to wedge those things back there. Passers-by will laugh at you. Some will point. The good news is that the dudes at Home Depot will cut it for you.
  • How do you cut drywall? I thought there might be a special saw. Nope. No special saw. You just use a razor knife and a straight-edge, score it, then snap. If you need other cuts, more unique shapes, cutouts, curves, etc., a jigsaw works just fine.
  • Corners. The metal stuff is for outside corners. It’s called “corner bead,” and it’s super easy to use. Just cut to length, nail up, done. For inside corners, use the tape. I used the metal stuff for the inside corners, and while it ended up looking OK, it was more work than was necessary. There’s a lot of good videos on the Interwebz about drywalling corners and how-to. A lot of these people know what they’re doing. Take their advice.
  • I mixed a very little bit of water with my joint compound (mud) to make it more milkshakey and easier to spread. It also made it easier to drop onto the floor. Good thing I thought ahead and used a dropcloth.
  • Drywall is dusty. The best time to any significant work with it is when your girlfriend is out of town. Sawhorses in the bedroom aren’t always just for fun. Wear a mask.
  • Sharing a closet with your girlfriend isn’t as fun as it sounds. Additionally, “mistakenly” wearing her clothes is oddly unsexy. Good to know.
  • Since I left the lath up, I used the thinner drywall (it comes in three thicknesses: quarter-inch, half-inch and five-eighths. With these older houses, it looks like if you want to use the thicker drywall, you’ll need to remove the lath, which is a chore I wasn’t really into this time. And also, I kind of like the lath for some reason.
Drywalling the closet in my old house.
Before. Water came in right at the corner there under the window along the roofline and messed up the plaster. Problem? No, sir. We'll just yank all that out of there and throw some drywall up. Give it a good coat of paint, and it'll be good as new.
Drywalling my closet DIY.
Hardest part was this big slanted piece. Like I said earlier, if you're the kind of person who has friends, use them. Me, I figured I'd just hold the drywall slab up with one hand and screw the panel to the studs with the other hand. Didn't quite work out that way, though. I managed to wedge the bottom piece up in the corner with another piece of drywall, which freed me up a little to get the screws in. It's mostly even.
Drywall DIY
All of the pieces finally screwed in, except for the weird-shaped one above the window. I used a paper bag to get a template, then jigsawed a piece of drywall to fit in the space. Genius!
Drywalling is messy
This is what the bedroom looked like while I was cutting the drywall. Good thought that didn't happen in time: Cover the bed with something. Drywall is dusty.
Drywalling mud
After the first coat of drywall mud. The joint compound was hiding a lot of the imperfections, and the more you put on, the better it looks!
Closet window drywall
This window was a huge pain. I wanted to get some better trim, but it just didn't work out like I wanted, so I had to put the old trim back up. Also, why there's a window in my closet at all is kind of a mystery. It doesn't open (painted and caulked shut from the outside). Anyway, you put enough mud and paint on something, and it will end up looking OK.
Drywall DIY inside closet
The finished product. For a low-stakes project (it's the inside of my closet), it's not too bad. Smooth as a baby's bottom*

So that’s it. The project took longer than it should have, but for my first time, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. It was a good first project: Low stakes (it’s not in a highly visible part of the house); small; weird corners and angles (good for practice). All in all, a decent project. Lots of good learning. Next time you’re in my closet, I’ll show you around.


*If that baby had a disorder that made its bottom patchy, lumpy and uneven.