Ask the builder | Tips for a better drywall finish

The interesting thing is that I walk out of the room shaking my head when I watch the home improvement programs on TV. Most of them are unrealistic. They don’t really tell you the truth about how difficult and complex most jobs are.

In addition, they rarely talk about the hand-eye coordination required for many tasks. You’d be surprised how much of it it takes to hammer a nail into wood without bending the nail or denting the wood. You need even more to master the technique of hovering a 10 inch wide knife over a flat seam in drywall!

You put a lot of pressure on me so let’s get started. Hanging the drywall is a very important aspect of the completion. If the hang job is bad, you will fight it to the end.

In a perfect world, all the tapered seams on the long edges of the drywall do not meet any gaps. This is very important on ceilings. If you have flat seams that meet and aren’t tapered, you’ll want those tight too, but you can get by with 1/8-inch spacing. Big gaps cause big problems when masking the drywall.

The screws and fasteners must be countersunk so that they have enough of the bonding compound that covers them. Drywall screws are typically countersunk no more than 1/16 of an inch. If you drive them deeper, there is a risk of tearing the paper around the head of the screw. If the drywall is loose, the surface will fail over time.

Metal corner bead must be installed so that it is snug and does not flex when you hover a finishing knife over it. The nails must face each other and no more than 16 inches apart. When nailing, use a finishing knife to make sure there is a gap on either side of the bead so that the grout covers all of the metal.

It’s tape time! I’m not a big fan of the mesh ribbon. It’s probably a personal preference. Paper tape works great when the drywall grout is the consistency of warm cake icing and you make sure there is always 1/16 inch of mass left between the tape and the drywall. Remember that grout is simply made up of glue and magic dust. So if you don’t have enough between duct tape and drywall, blisters will appear when you apply the second layer of the compound.

When you get a new 5 inch taping knife, use a metal file and round the corners of the knife a little. If you don’t, you’ll tear the tape off as you work in corners. You may need to do the same rounding, just a small amount, on the larger 10 and 12 inch wide knives that you use to apply your second and third coats to the large flat seams and corner bead.

You need to finish one side of an inside corner first before moving on to the other side. The joint must dry completely, otherwise you will make marks in the uncured joint. Professionals take turns on which side of an inside corner to work on to speed up a job.

If you are in a typical room and facing a wall, the first thing to do is to repaint an inside corner along the ceiling. On the walls on the left and right, coat the wall side of the inside corner. On the wall behind you, coat the ceiling side of that corner. They do all of this at the same time. The next day, go back and coat the other sides of each corner.

The key to finishing is getting the connection right consistency. The mixture ex works is always a bit too stiff. Just add a small amount of water and stir until it is like warm cake icing. As you work with the mud, apply it to the drywall, and then scrape off any excess material to put it back in your work tub, the paper will draw water out of the paper. You need to add a very small amount of water to the mud as you work, unless you are working very quickly.

Flat seams are the bane of most beginners. The rookie almost always puts on too much compound and makes a mess. You will apply the joint with a 10 “knife and have about 4” of joint extending down the center of the seams on either side. If you are putting pressure on the knife to make the blade rotate a little, make sure that the joint is completely away from the edges that are away from the center of the seam, but that only a small amount of the joint is higher than that Drywall surface in the middle of the seam.

You will end up with an ugly tiny burr, but after the joint dries you can easily sand it down, which will make the seam flat. The key is to get good as soon as you can so you don’t leave too much connection creating a bump in the wall.

Grinding is the key. I suggest sanding drywall at night with a light that floods the wall at a low angle. You will see all the imperfections if you let a light shine almost parallel to the wall. Work hard to make your wife happy!

Tim Carter is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. Contact him through his website:

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