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Musings of an Energy Nerd

Drywall Finishing Tips for Owner-Builders

The Zen of taping and sanding

Drywall finishing requires only simple tools.
Image Credit: Image #1: Martin Holladay

Plenty of owner-builders are happy to hang drywall. When it comes to taping and finishing, however, most feel less confident. Some just shrug their shoulders and announce, “I’m going to hire a contractor to do the drywall.”

Spreading drywall mud is like frosting a cake. You need to have the right touch, and the right touch takes experience. The first time you frost a cake, you’re going to damage the surface of the cake and get cake crumbs mixed with the frosting. You need to take a deep breath, slow down, and adjust the pressure on your knife.

The same can be said for taping drywall. The first time you tape, you probably won’t apply the drywall mud in a consistent manner. It will end up thick, or thin, or bumpy. The more you mess with it, the worse it looks.

After a few days (or weeks) of practice, though, your skills improve. Eventually, muscle memory takes over, and the mud flows smoothly.

Adopting the right perspective

If you’re a builder or homeowner who does a little bit of this and a little bit of that, maybe you tape just one or two rooms of drywall every year or two. You’re not doing this work every day, but you are doing it often enough for your skills to gradually improve. Eventually, if you don’t get discouraged, the work gets easier. Perhaps you will even you look forward to drywall work.

I’m not a drywall contractor. My drywall taping advice comes from the perspective or a jack-of-all-trades builder or an owner-builder — basically, from the perspective of an amateur.

If you’re an amateur, you don’t need to develop the same skill level as a drywall…

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  1. Steve Knapp CZ 3A Georgia | | #1

    I wish
    I had read that tip on the raking light. Natural daylight hides almost any imperfection. Hot LEDs? Not so much.

  2. Malcolm Taylor | | #2

    Zen and the art of drywall
    Great perspective. Unlike tasks such as pouring concrete, there isn't much you can do that can't be fixed later.

    A couple more tips:

    Too much mud under the tape when you embed it and you are hooped.

    Add a little food colouring to the touch-up mud so you can see where you have to sand.

    In general, what distinguishes DIY-ers from pros is the amount of mud they use - and consequently the amount of sanding they have to do.

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