Applying drywall mud is like spreading peanut butter? You spread the joint compound with a knife, until you have a smooth coating, to hide the seams joining 2 pieces of sheet rock along with the screws or nails used to hang the drywall. I'm still laughing at the analogy but it's perfect! Credit goes to Chester Spier who I was chatting with this weekend about wallpaper repairs.
Watch a young child spread peanut butter, especially if they're putting it on a cracker which is likely to break. We can't remember when we learned to use a butter knife and that's the point. Once you practice and master a skill like spreading peanut butter, you simply pick up the knife and never give it another thought. Spreading joint compound is just another skill, one that takes practice until you can do it with ease and get the results you want.
Actually, spreading peanut butter is easier because no one really cares how smooth you get it and your tummy doesn't care if you licked the peanut butter off a spoon or ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which I had for lunch today and had to share this story).
Common Mistakes People Make with Sheetrock and Joint Compound
Drywall and sheet rock are different names for the same product, so we'll use both terms here. Plaster is NOT the same as joint compound. Plaster should be done by professionals as it requires more skill, it costs more so it's not as popular while the benefits are a smoother, harder surface.
Running a handyman business includes fixing problems related to home owners attempting do-it-yourself projects.
My funniest drywall story is when John called from the customer's home to review what he was discussing with the wife (who else will call to fix the husband's mistakes). John explained there was so much mud slathered on the walls like shaving cream, that it would take hours to sand it down … and it would be faster to replace the drywall including travel time to pick up new sheetrock. With situations like this, we like a second conversation to confirm the customer understands and agrees with our recommendations before proceeding. We got approval for the new sheetrock!
So here are the most common problems homeowners run into when applying their own mud:
- Applying too much mud to the wall/ceiling, which requires too much sanding which if done wrong, requires more mud and the cycle continues.
- Not keeping the putty knife clean so very small pebbles leave lines in the mud, requiring more work to repair.
- Using joint compound that isn't the right consistency, so the mud dries too thick or runny.
- Using mud that is old and possibly has frozen at some point in time.
- Not understanding that several coats of mud are required, each one wider than the previous one to create a smooth transition to the sheet rock.
- Trying to rush the job and not letting one coat of mud dry before sanding and applying the next coat.
- Drywall tape over the seams detaching from the sheet rock because there isn't enough mud between the tape and the sheet rock.
One of the things that amazes me is how poor workmanship by one contractor is left for the next contractor to solve. A great mud job needs the sheet rock to be hung properly with adjoining pieces level, tight against the wall studs so there's no movement later and screws countersunk so they're below the surface but don't tear the paper covering the gypsum.
Ready to Get Started Practicing Your Mudding?
Now that you realize finishing a room isn't something you can start tomorrow, at least the mud work, you'll want to learn more about the art of applying mud. Here is a book to read and knives to start practicing and we'll be back shortly with learning to mud using a peanut butter approach.
PS The knife that is curved is for small repairs like nail pops while the wider knife is for taping seams where 2 pieces of drywall meet and eventually you need 3 of these knives for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd coats of mud which get successively wider.