Wondering where you can learn how to tape and mud drywall? If you want to do your own home repairs and/or remodeling projects, knowing how to tape and mud is a good skill to have. You can watch lots of videos but you'll want to get lots of hands-on practice if you're fussy like me and want perfect walls.
One way to build your homeowner skills is to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. They've got the tools and people with experience to teach you how to tape and mud drywall. You can volunteer on a weekly basis or target specific skills you want to develop. If you're uncomfortable working alongside guys, then Habitat's Women Build program is just what you want. Over the years I've had the opportunity to learn how to mud and tape and install vinyl siding. I was amazed at home complicated small decks can be measuring, cutting and installing the floor boards in a three-family house.
With my handyman business I learned how challenging drywall taping and mudding can be. So I was absolutely amazed at how quickly the women volunteers at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland learned the skills to finish a bedroom including a closet, where it's difficult to move around. My guess (yes, I'm biased) is women tend to focus on details. This is a skill that involves removing dimples in the drywall, filling cracks and through several coats of mud, creating a nice, smooth surface so the drywall seams are hidden.
Why Knowing How to Tape and Mud Drywall is So Important
Your ceilings and walls are covered with drywall or plaster. You look at them every day and I'm sure you see imperfections like nail pops or cracks occasionally. What you probably don't realize is that drywall tape and mud are the magic ingredients that make walls look great. It's a lot like makeup. You can hide these imperfections for a flawless look!
Wondering where these imperfections come from?
The most common reasons why you'll need to repair your walls and ceilings:
- New houses settle over the first year and while it's common for the builder to repair nail pops and cracks at the end of the year, there are always a few more after the first year.
- Excessive winds can make your home move, which can cause drywall seams to tear.
- Landscaping problems that allow water to pool around your home may cause more settling.
- Nearby development that changes underground water levels can also cause your home to settle years after it was built. We saw this in my handyman business with basements flooding after 50 plus years with no problems.
- Drywall seams near stress points like a door slamming shut, can cause the seams to tear.
- Hanging pictures on your wall can leave holes unless you use 3M's command strips that don't puncture drywall.
- Holes in walls occur more often than you realize, and need a bit of mud to make them look like new. Door bumpers can prevent door knobs from marring walls but elbows or a fist are likely to leave their mark.
- Wet soggy drywall from a water leak may need repair before you paint.
Building and Remodeling Involves Lots of Drywall Mudding and Taping
Stick-built houses are made up of hundreds of 2 x 6 wall studs and more drywall than you can calculate on the back of a napkin (a 12 x 12 ft room with 8 ft ceilings needs 17 sheets of 4 x 8 drywall). Drywall is pretty heavy too it pays to get the drywall delivered with a boom truck that can hoist the drywall into the house, especially when you're finishing attic.
Buying drywall for do-it-yourself projects can be a little tricky. Here's what you need to know before heading to the store:
- Length – for a standard sheet of drywall is 4 ft wide by 8 ft long, but drywall is now available in longer lengths (9, 10 or 12 feet at the box stores) to match ceiling heights. Longer pieces of drywall mean fewer seams to tape but stairs can be tricky so figure out how you're going to get larger pieces of drywall to the space you're finishing.
- Thickness – varies with 1/2 inch drywall the most common thickness. Drywall comes in 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and 5/8″ thicknesses and don't forget to check on what's required by your local building codes. For walls around HVAC systems and adjacent to a garage, you'll need to use 5/8″ Type X drywall or fireboard.
- New drywall options – are coming on the market now to resist mold and moisture. For bathrooms and other areas of your home that will be exposed to more moisture, check for the best option available to reduce future problems. There are also some new soundproofing drywall products, along with a cement board (also called backer board) alternative typically used as a tile backing board.
How to Tape and Mud Drywall: Follow These Steps
For Women Build, our fearless leader Steve started out reviewing the different tools we would be using (see photo above). He explained how to take mud out of the 5 gallon tub and which tools hold the mud while you're working. He reminded us to put the cover back (upside down) each time, to prevent the mud from drying out.
Respect Your Tools and Materials
Here are the tools we used for taping and mudding. There are many benefits to building these skills on a Habitat for Humanity project. You have someone teaching you on the job, you don't have to buy any tools until you decide you like what you're doing and if you don't like it, you're not obligated to finish the work beyond your one day of volunteering.
Mixer that attaches to a drill, to stir the mud in 5 gallon buckets (can also be used to stir paint)
Drywall knives – you'll need 2.5″, 3″ and 6″ using the larger ones for the 2nd and 3rd coats of mud Drywall hawk is used to hold the mud while you're applying small amounts to the wall using the knives
Mud Your Seams to Hold the Tape
When you first learn to tape and mud, you'll want to practice on walls that are easy to reach. As you get better, you will progress to taping corner seams between 2 walls and/or between the ceiling and the walls below it. Here are some videos to share with you some of the instruction we got from Steve.
Mud Takes Practice & Lots of Patience
Once we learned how to use the tools, it was time to get to work. Some people wanted to get more practice on walls, leaving more skilled or brave individuals to deal with the ceiling and corners. One woman had to rework the tape below a window opening because the drywall crumbled and dumped too many chunks into the mud. A women working on the ceiling found and air bubble under the tape so we got to learn how to use a utility knife to fix that.
Sometimes it just takes perseverance and determination which everyone had that day. One brave volunteer was ready to try a corner seam and wisely choose to practice in the closet. You've got less room to maneuver in a closet but there will be less light on that seam so it doesn't have to be perfect.
At the end of the day, we were all pretty tired and proud of what we accomplished. Someone said “… it looks too good to believe we only learned how to tape and mud drywall today!”
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