Following directions step-by-step has not been the easiest for me. Especially DIY. For example, I like to skip steps and rush and basically want to get it done now. Projects take time and I do not like the waiting steps. Now to be clear, I LOVE DIY. Just not typically the amounts of steps and time some of the projects actually require. Drywall Finishing in the basement, for the boy’s bedrooms, took many weeks to complete.
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Published August 14, 2021
Updated March 11, 2022
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Finishing drywall does take patience and steps and time. From the time the boards were first cut, and all screwed onto the walls and ceilings, till the paint went on was around two months. No joke. The amount of prep-work and repeated steps is actually kind of insane. Especially for two basement bedrooms that you have to haul all of the tools into the basement for. And the drywall sheets and wire and studs and tools and paint and…. Oh gosh there was so much to bring down!
It sounds daunting because I am reminiscing and thinking back, but really the work goes quick because the progress you will see as you get boards up and mud on and then primer and paint is just fantastic. When the rooms are painted, and think back to all of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears was involved, the result makes one feel so proud. Especially if it is a new skill you are learning! With honesty and humility, I can say my husband did a fantastic job finishing these two bedrooms.
Cutting drywall is a skill that my husband Tyler has perfected at his job and additionally our own house projects. He is able to use a tape measure and a fixed blade knife to cut the sheets to their needed size. With the additional help of a Cut-out Tool, he sure made it look like an easy job.
If you have any projects that require finishing drywall a Drywall Screw Gun is a must. Seriously, this thing stays on while you drill in dozens of screws. The Cut-out Tool helps to make precise shapes for electric boxes, around pipes and other very small areas. These two tools, the Drywall Screw Gun and the Cut-out Tool, come with a handy carrying case, batteries that are rechargeable, and its own specific charging doc. This is the #1 tool you need to do any drywall project!
After the drywall goes up the screws need to be checked to make sure they do not pop through the finish. I spent an entire day checking for “clickers” by using a 4-inch drywall knife to slide it over each screw. If it catches or “clicks”, take a screwdriver and tightened it and rechecked for clicking. This is one of those jobs that require time because even one that is missed can pop through our finished walls. Take your time and check those “clickers”!
Because we are building two bedrooms in the basement, we decided to use a mold and mildew resistant board; that is why these boards are purple. There was no way to know for certain if there had been any leaks or flooding in the basement. But to be honest in the heavy rains and melting snow and seasons changing we watched the walls like hawks to check if there was water. Even though there was no water that we saw, we still used the mold & mildew resistant boards; just to be safe. Mold and mildew board is also great in bathrooms where the humidity levels are higher.
Spotting Screws for Days
Four whole days were spent “spotting screws”, which means using a 3-inch drywall knife and making an X-motion over each screw while scraping drywall mud onto the screw head. Day one was filling screws with that X-motion. Day two was gently sanding each screw to knock down any high spots and removing any overly excessive amount of mud, then filling the screws again.
Sometimes a big glob of mud would drip or get stuck on a different spot. That is ok because when it is dry you can take a drywall knife and knock it down. Day three was sanding a second time and putting the final X of drywall mud over each screw. Day four was a final day of gentle sanding to make sure all high spots were gone. This is one of the most important steps in drywall finishing because it helps the screws disappear.
Filling the Seams and Sanding
Tyler worked on the seams and corners for a week. He scooped mud into the seams and the next day sanded the lines and high spots. This, too, was a many days’ process and made a lot of dust. Because of this Tyler hung painters’ plastic around the rooms from the floor to the ceiling. It really helped to keep the ultra-fine dust inside the bedrooms and not into our furnace and ruining the filter.
When we moved in, we had the duct work cleaned and we didn’t want them to be newly caked with drywall dust, so having the plastic barrier kept most of the dust from getting anywhere else in the house. While the sanding was going on an important step is to turn your air handler off if you have one. This helps to prevent any drywall dust from escaping into the duct work through the return vents.
To fill joints, use a longer six-inch drywall knife and scoop up drywall mud onto a Metal Mud Pan. Then, scooping up an amount onto the drywall knife spread the mixture onto the seams where the drywall pieces met, i.e., the “butt joint”. The butt joint is where two rounded edges of drywall meet and are tapered for easy finishing. Drywall mud goes onto the butt joint first, then the drywall tape over the joint, then you use the knife to smooth the mud out.
Using a knife that is larger than the tapered edges is important because it gets a smooth finish and you do not see any lines or joints. After the mud is fully dried on the butt joints, sometimes up to three days, add a second layer of mud and let that dry. In between each layer on the joints make sure you sand before each application and let it dry completely.
Here’s hoping the terms and names are right! 😉 I am by no means an expert drywall finisher. Just sharing tips, tools and tricks we have learned!
Corners need a little extra help with “corner bead”. Amazingly corner bead helps to keep the outside edges of your walls intact and not destroyed from bumps and accidents. Corner bead is a must for drywall finishing! To install it, just cut it to the desired length and staple it on the wall. Corner bead comes in a few different varieties; some are solid, wire mesh, different angles, solid corner piece with mesh edges and more. Make sure you do your research at your store to find out which one you specifically need in your space.
In the basement bedrooms Tyler used the full mesh corner bead and stapled it to the drywall. Then, using a 4-inch knife he spread mud onto the mesh sides of the bead like glue sticking it to the wall. Going from the top of the wall to the floor holding the tool with the mud on it and running it down filling in the mesh with drywall mud. These spots took a few more than two days to dry completely. Sand and reapply the mud until the corners are perfectly smooth and you no longer see the corner bead.
Favorite Drywall Finishing Tools
These knifes are stainless steel so there is no worry with rust. Which to be honest is a huge problem with some of the cheaper drywall finishing tools. There were times with older tools, we were not even to the slop sink, that rust started forming on the knifes. Make sure you clean them really well and dry them! Keep your tools clean and they will last you a long time.
You will for sure want a GOOD drywall mixer! One that can clean up well, that is long, so you are not bent over while mixing it, and one that is sturdy and not flimsy. This mixer is all of those things! All you need is a good drill to attach it to for power.
Third, drywall finishing cannot be complete without a mud pan. One that is sturdy, easy to clean, heavy duty, and great to hold. Some use the plastic trays and that is ok!
Next, when finishing drywall, a Hawk or a Mud Tray Trowel is necessary to carry if you are going to do larger areas. This tool has a rubber gasket that helps reduce calluses on your hand. A Masonry Hawk is universally helpful for drywall, mortar, plaster, cement, stucco, and sheetrock. This comes in either a 10″X10″ or 13″X13″.
We were so happy to have drywall on most of the ceilings because it helped keep the tall heights in both rooms. When all of the sanding was done I had to then take a damp towel and wipe down all of the walls to get the dust off before the skip troweling could start.
Skip troweling is a technique that I have never done, and my husband has done one other time at our old house. I cannot even begin to explain how to skip trowel. Honestly just watching him was like watching a dance; the way he slotted the drywall mud onto the wall and skimmed it all over and used his trowel to create the texture was art. He took a day for each room and an additional third day to do the outside walls. The tools he used for skip troweling were:
Lastly, this trowel is also a great universal product. Holding it you can scoop up mud from the “Hawk” and make textures onto the drywall.
And Finally, Paint!
Prime every wall before painting. Not only does it help to seal the walls, but it also helps to highlight any spots that you may have missed while mudding. This is the last stop to fix any mistakes or clickers before the final paint goes on. Paint the primer on thick and don’t be afraid to do a second coat!
The best paintbrush by far is a 2″ angle brush. You can use it for just about any job, cutting in, large spaces, small spaces, projects and more. A good 2″ brush will last years if you take care of it properly and clean it out after every use. There are so many new tools out there to help you keep your brushes and roller covers moist for a next-day project, but in my opinion cleaning them out after each use keeps the brush itself nicer for longer.
The best brush I have found so far is the 2″ Purdy Angled brush. It is sturdy, easy to clean, has stiff bristles that help you cut in like a pro, and best yet made by hand right in the USA. Buying a new paintbrush from Purdy, you will get a sticker or stamp on your packaging telling you who made your brush! How cool is that!?
We let our boys pick their own paint colors and the ceilings were painted a basic flat ceiling white. Painting each room took two days. I love to paint. It is honestly the cheapest way to transform any space. Cleans the walls, gives the room a fresh start, smells cleaner when the fumes go away, and it is just so relaxing. Much easier than spotting screws! Stay tuned for an update on the finished rooms!
Do you like to paint?
What was your last project and what colors did you choose? I would love to hear from you!