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Drywall Finishing Techniques

Surely you have seen a miserable drywall finishing job. One of the first places to look is in a corner. Typically you will see holes and lift marks where the finishing blade was pulled away from the wall. For some reason, finishers seem to get tired as they sand in or near the corners!

I have seen home improvement television shows that tell people how easy it is to finish drywall. Well, it is easy if you know all of the tricks and have had considerable practice. If you don't, you struggle. Drywall finishing is not as simple as driving a nail or cutting a piece of wood. It takes lots of skill to get professional results.

Wipe It Off

One of the neat things about finishing drywall is that if you goof up applying the mud you can immediately erase your mistake and start over. All you do is wipe off the mud from the seam. The only aspect of the process that is critical is the actual taping. Too much or too little mud under the tape can cause all sorts of finishing problems later in the job.

Think Snowplow

Have you ever seen how a bulldozer or a snow plow works? The blade is angled to throw the dirt or snow to one side. This is an efficient way to work. Removing the excess mud from beneath drywall tape uses the same technique. The trick is to make several repeated passes with the taping knife instead of trying to do it all at once.


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Professionals tape drywall in any number of ways. They can use a device called a banjo that applies mud to the underside of the tape as it is pulled from the simple hand held machine. Even more complex machines can apply tape and a coat of mud to a wall in one operation. But if a pro is doing it like you will be, they apply the mud smoothly and at a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch. The tape is then pressed lightly to the wet mud. When you glide your knife over this relatively smooth assembly, the excess mud flows easily out from beneath the tape.

Drying Time

The joint compound or mud you use to finish drywall is water based. It dries fairly quickly if the humidity is low and the temperature is high. Keep in mind that this compound is simply a glue with lots of filler. The color of the compound tells you, to some degree, if it is dry. When wet, the compound is a light gray. As it dries it turns white. You can see this transformation very clearly halfway through the drying process as the edges of the joint will be snow white while the center of the seam is still gray. Do not attempt to sand if you see any gray coloration.

Patching a Hole

Let's say you have a hole in a piece of drywall that is about the size of a golf ball. It is too small to cut a patch yet too big just to fill with joint compound. There is a cool trick that really works well. All you do is take a piece of paper drywall tape and coat the underside of it with a 1/8th inch coating of wet compound. You then flip the tape over and center it over the hole. Gently scrape a little of the mud out from the tape. Once the mud dries in a day, the area over the hole is very stiff. If you want to make it even better, apply a second layer of tape over the first one. Align the second piece of tape at a 90 degree angle to the first one.

Nails and Screws

Professionals do not apply a little dab of mud to each and every screw or nail. They coat three or four at a time with one quick motion. The end result is a stripe of mud on the surface of the drywall. If you see dried polka dots of white on a sheet of drywall, you know a rookie is finishing it!

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