New Video: How to Finish Drywall

Posted by John on April 27th, 2014

Hey gang,  it’s been well over a week since our last post and even longer since we last checked in with an office update.  Well, I’m happy to tell you that we’ve completed the long drywall finishing process and we’ve started priming and painting.  Pretty soon, we’ll be installing crown molding and moving onto furniture building.  It’s been four months since we ripped out the carpet to kick off the office renovation.  Getting the drywall done is a huge victory and having it out of the way will hopefully give us some momentum going forward.

While I was spackling (or mudding) the drywall, Lisa helped me out by being my cameraman or camera lady and we were able to capture the process of applying all three coats.  As promised, here is a video on how to finish drywall.  Keep in mind that this video is fairly long at nearly 22 minutes, but I take my time and show you exactly the process I follow.

 If you can’t see the video, you can use this link: http://youtu.be/12Z9_g5CiK8

Some key takeaways:

– For better results, use both the chemically hardening joint compound and the air drying joint compound.  I personally prefer the “blue” bucket, which is the lightweight joint compound over the “green” bucket.

– Use the chemically curing compound for the first or the first and second coats.  Use the air drying for the second and third and any follow on coats.

– Use progressively wider knives.  Start with a 6″ wide knife for the first coat, a 10″ knife for the second and a 12″ or 14″ knife for the third and fourth coats.

– Don’t sand until right before you prime.  You shouldn’t have to sand between coats.

– Always prime the sanded drywall before painting.  Never put finish quality paint directly over the joint compound.

Are there any drywall finishing tips that you’d like to add?  Leave a comment below.

If you liked this post and video, please share it.

Posted in DIY Projects,Drywall. Tagged in ,, , ,

Tips for Hanging Drywall

Posted by John on March 27th, 2014

In the past week or so, we started hanging drywall in our home office.  It’s not a terribly quick process and it’s been consuming a few hours a night.  Consequently, our post frequency has been low lately.  Whenever we’re knee deep in home improvement projects, that sort of thing is going to happen.  Today, I want to share with you some general DIY advice for hanging drywall or sheetrock (if you call it that too).  This weekend we’re going to be applying the first coats of joint compound and my goal is to put together a video tutorial for that process.

In other news, in last week’s newsletter, I asked our readers to tell me what set of woodworking plans they’d like to see next.  The response was unanimous.  Everyone wants the router table plans.  Look for those next week.


Tips for Hanging Drywall

1.  Proper Framing.  The most important part of a quality drywall job, in my opinion.  The drywall gets secured to the framing lumber on the wall.  If that framing is incomplete, poorly done or didn’t take the drywall into account, then the drywall is not going to be done well either.  Everywhere you have a seam in the drywall, which is everywhere one piece meets another, there should be a 2x piece behind it.  When we designed our coffered ceiling, I intentionally took the drywall into consideration and it wasn’t an afterthought.  This may mean adding more boards than is required by framing code.

2.  Use the Right Drywall Thickness.  Drywall sheets come in 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and 5/8″ thick.  5/8″ thick is typically used for ceilings and is required for fire protection in certain spaces.  Our garage, for example, should have 5/8″ thick drywall throughout, but most of our interior walls probably just use the 1/2″.  The thinnest drywall, the 1/4″ sheets are mainly used on curved walls since it’s not as rigid as the thicker material.  The 3/8″ sheets can also be used in place of the 1/2″ sheets in some situations.  You’ll want to double check with the builder’s code before you tackle a larger job to verify what thickness you should use.  Since we’re covering over coffered ceiling framing that actually sits beneath a finished ceiling, we’re just using 1/2″ thick drywall.

3.  Drywall Screws.  Use the right drywall screw length.  I mainly use the 1-1/4″ long coarse drywall screws, which don’t go all the way through a 1-1/2″ thick 2×4.  Anything longer than that and I’d need to be aware of what’s on the other side of the 2×4, since the screw can go through the board and make contact with anything on the other side.  Also, make sure to protect any electrical work with the appropriate cover plates so you don’t accidentally drive a screw through a wire.  That would be bad.

drywall drill bit

dimpled drywall

4.  Drywall Driver.  This is my biggest pet peeve with drywall installation.  There is a special bit that you can buy for your drill that is specifically designed for installing screws into drywall.  It dimples the drywall board and sets the depth of the screw to just the right amount.  I pull the hair out of my head when I see people on TV (typically, Renovation Realities, go figure) using a regular Phillips head bit.  These drywall bits are majorly inexpensive.  I got 4 for $5 at Home Depot.  Don’t work without them.

chalk line

5.  Use Chalk Lines.  My chalk line tool is easily becoming my favorite tool on this office project.  So let’s say I need a 5″ wide piece of drywall at some length.  I measure down 5″ from the edge of each side and then snap a chalk line down the entire length of the sheet from one end to the other so the 5″ mark is visible.  Then I just trace the line with my box cutter and I know I have a nice accurate piece.


6.  Use a Rasp.  The best way to get clean pieces of cut drywall is to use a hand held tool called a rasp.  The rasp is basically a cheese grater that you use to clean up the cut edge of a freshly cut piece of drywall.  It removes any high spots, smoothes out the cut and must be done before you throw the drywall sheet onto the wall.  It will help keep your drywall seams much tighter.

drywall floor protection

7.  Protect your Floors.  When you cut and rasp drywall, it gets all over everything in the space.  I protected our new hardwood office floor with some rosin paper I had left over from the floor install.  I prefer this over plastic as it doesn’t move around and is much more durable. You can also use general construction paper since it’s cheaper.  Don’t skip this step though unless you’re working right over the subfloor.

So that’s all I got for hanging drywall.  I still need to add my corner beads all over this ceiling and I’ll be starting my mudding process this weekend.  Good times.

Do you have anything to add to this list?  Have you every hanged drywall before?  What is the hardest part for you?

Posted in DIY Projects,Drywall. Tagged in ,,

Hiding Flat Screen TV Cables

Posted by John on July 31st, 2012

So on Monday we shared our experience mounting a flat screen TV to a wall. Today, we’re going to show you how to hide the TV’s cables to get a totally sleek look. This is the second TV we’ve done this procedure to at Mike and Dana’s house and this version seemed to work better than the first, which used a slightly different product. In my opinion, this modification isn’t very difficult to do and can probably be done by anyone with a little bit of DIY experience.

We last left off with the TV hanging on the wall to test the bracket out. It had to come down in order to hide the wires. To hide these cables, Mike bought a Powerbridge from Best Buy.  (This current model is no longer available from Amazon, but you can try Option 1 or  Option 2 as they are essentially equivalent).  This device consists of two plastic boxes that get inserted into the wall. One will be located behind the TV and the other will go behind the TV stand. Between the two, the wires will be run in the wall for the power and whatever audio or visual cables are required.powerbridge-1024x682


In order to install these two Powerbridge boxes so you don’t see them, we need to make sure we’re putting it behind the footprint of the TV. Before we took the TV off the wall, we marked the perimeter of the TV with a couple of post-it notes. The boxes will need to stay within that area AND since the Powerbridge box is fairly large, it will need to sit roughly in the middle of the area between two wall studs.flat-screen-TV-mount-1024x682


We used those magnetic wall stud locators we discussed in our last post and then marked our wall with the wall template that was provided with the Powerbridge. We needed to mark the wall for both the top box and the bottom. The bottom was pretty much directly below the top box and low enough to be out of view behind the TV stand.powerbridge-template-1024x682


With the templates marked, Mike used a drywall saw to cut the openings for the boxes. You need to be careful whenever cutting into a wall so you don’t actually cut into a gas line or a power cable.drywall-saw-1024x682



After the holes were cut, Mike inserted the top Powerbridge cable and fished it through the wall. This was apparently an exciting moment for him. The boxes stay in place by pop out wings that are tightened with screws. Very simple. Before we connected the bottom box, Mike pulled through a couple HDMI cables.fishing-cable-e1343788365105-836x1024


The power cable that comes with the Powerbridge is connected with a unique click together fastener.  We actually needed to fix it before we made that connection as one of the wires was visibly detached, but that wasn’t very hard.  After you snap the connector together, the cable slack gets stuffed into the wall and the bottom plate gets tightened to the drywall.


The photo above shows it all completed. The Powerbridge comes with an additional cable to plug into a nearby outlet that gets run to the bottom box.Flatscreen-TV-mounted-1024x682


All told, it took a little over an hour to get this project done. Mike and Dana really like the new look and Lisa and I are considering it for our family room at some point.

Any upgrades coming to your TV? Cut any holes in your walls lately?

***Full disclosure:  Lisa and I are members of Amazon.com associates.  If you purchase a Powerbridge, we get a small kickback.  If you’re interested in joining Amazon Associates, go to Affiliate-Program.Amazon.com ***

Posted in Drywall,Electrical,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Fix Large Holes in Drywall

Posted by John on May 7th, 2012

Another weekend come and gone.  They always go too quick!  Luckily, we managed to finish one project and make some progress with another.  We finally finished our cabinet drawer additions!!  Been a long time coming!  We’ll show you the details later this week.  In the meantime, in today’s post we’re showing you how to fix large holes in drywall.

In the dining room, we’ve finished the electrical work.  We have an inspection later this week and then we can begin the part I’ve really been looking forward to: building and installing the frames for the paneling.  Before that though, we had to repair the walls from our trim removal and the wall surgery we performed last week.  We had some major holes in our walls.

Here’s how I made those repairs… btw, there are a LOT of pictures!  This is basically a general how to on fixing large drywall holes.

So, every hole will get a small piece of drywall inserted into it.  The drywall needs something to screw into.  If there’s nothing there, you need to add something.  You could also use one of those metal mesh screens, but I’m personally not a fan of those.  I think you get a better result using the method that follows.  You can see in the photo below that the top hole has a piece of 2×4 that I’ve added.  It’s only held in place by the screws directly above and below it.

With the 2×4 in place, now you can add the drywall.  The drywall plugs I used are the very same ones I removed when I cut the holes.  I didn’t throw them out because I knew they would go right back in!

To get that small 2×4 in the wall, it needs to be just a little bit longer than the opening.  Any longer and you’ll have a hard time inserting it into the wall.

I used a set of channel locks to hold the piece in place while I screwed into it.  I even made the hole a little bigger to accommodate the channel locks.  Definitely worth it.

One the drywall plug is in, I add the mesh tape.  You could also use paper, but the procedure would be slightly different.  Plus, I think the mesh works better for repairs.

I could probably add some spackle to that hole below before I cover it with mesh, but it’s OK to skip it.  If it were any bigger, I would open it up and use a bigger piece of drywall plug.

I’ll also need to cover that white strip below with spackle.  The chair rail molding was there and when it was removed along with the caulk, it tore some paper.  The future raised paneling will should cover it, but I thought I should repair it anyway, just in case.

My first coat of spackle on any large repair job or drywall installation for that matter, starts with setting type joint compound.  This type of spackle is a powder that gets mixed with water and then chemically hardens in a certain preset amount of time.  It comes in 20, 45 and 90 minute periods last time I checked  The beauty of this product is that it sets so quickly, you can apply multiple coats and finish an entire room in one day.  The air dry type stuff requires at least an overnight before you can sand it and apply another coat.  One bag of this powdered stuff goes a loooonnggg way too.  I’ll use about 2-3 cups of this compound for the first coat of this repair job and because it’s a powder, I can store it and use the rest whenever.

For the first coat, you just want to make sure all the tape gets covered.  It’s not going to look good, but that’s OK.  It’s going to take at least three coats.

For my second coat, I’m switching to an air dry type joint compound.  The advantage of the air dry stuff is you have a little longer to work with it.  I’m also going to use a wide knife.  The one below is about 6″ wide and has seen plenty of action if you can’t tell.

There are two basic ways to apply joint compound.  The first is shown below.  You load up your spackle knife and apply it to the wall in one or two passes.

You repeat that until the entire area you’re working in is covered.

Then, you run the knife the other way in long, slow strokes.  You want to try to feather the compound out at the edges.  Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to try to avoid major lines.

The other method it to apply and smooth it out in one stroke.  This is a little trickier, but can be a little faster.  When I load the knife up for this type of application, I try to keep the compound away from what will be the bottom edge, so it won’t drip onto the floor.

You can either start high or low and then draw the knife across the area.

Same basic finished look.

Once that coat has dried (at least overnight), it’s time for the last coat (you can do a 4th if you want).  For this last coat, I bring out the big guns.  This knife is 12″ or 14″ wide.  I first use the knife to knock down any raised edges or dried blotches of compound.  You don’t want to gouge the wall, but if you do a decent job of knocking down the lines you won’t need to sand.

This third coat also uses the air drying compound and the basic approach is the same as the last coat except for this application, the joint seams are much wider.  Generally, you want your application area to be about twice the width of the knife you’re using.

After three coats of spackle on the holes and two on the chair rail section, this wall is ready for paneling!!  I’ll probably do some light sanding where the top of the paneling will be, but that won’t be too hard.

Any wall repairs in your future?  I sure hope not. 

Posted in DIY Projects,Repairs. Tagged in ,,

Adding a New Outlet

Posted by John on May 2nd, 2012

I enjoy doing electrical work.  It’s usually fairly straight forward and doesn’t involve me getting very dirty.  Usually.  Sometimes I have to cut holes in the wall, like in our dining room.  Since we decided to add some raised panel wainscoting, we’re adding a new outlet behind this buffet.  The lamps we have on there don’t have an outlet close enough so we have to run them out across the wall.  Talk about first world problems.  Oh, the humanity!

In reality, it does make sense to get the cords out of the way with a toddler and a schnauzer occasionally running in here.

What I don’t like doing is showing my readers how to wire something because I don’t want anyone to get hurt.  So, I’m not going to show how to actually wire up the outlet.  I will show you how I put the new receptacle box in and how I ran the new romex cable in the wall.  If you’re looking to get into doing your own electrical work, I recommended a really great book last week here.

I did all of this work with the power to the room off at the circuit breaker.

Here’s the wall with the two original outlet visible.  To begin, I marked out the wall with the stud locations using a stud finder and then with the locations of my vertical wainscoting boards.  I want the new outlet to be somewhere in the raised panel section and not in the middle of an edge or something.  When I did this step, I also found another outlet on the opposite wall needed to be moved since it was too close to one of these edges.

Here’s the basic idea behind adding an outlet.  The picture below shows how the cables are run to each outlet.  The power comes in from the right, hits the first outlet and then carries over to the second outlet.  Sometimes these cables can be run in the wall or they can be dropped into the basement and run down there.   By doing a quick inspection of my basement ceiling, I could tell that the lengths are run down there.  Doesn’t really change much either way.

Here’s how I’m going to add the new outlet.  First, I’m going to add the new hole in the wall where the outlet will go.  After that, I’ll pull the long red cable out of the first outlet and take it over to the new outlet location.  I’ll then add a new cable section between the right side outlet and the new outlet.

To mark off for the new outlet, you can measure the existing outlets to get an idea of how high off the floor they are… or you can do this method… snap a chalk line.  The chalk line gets me some more flexibility.

I use a thumb tack (or a tum tack as they say in NEPA) above one of the outlets.

Then, pull the string tight across the wall to the same location on the other outlet.  Snap it.  Repeat that step for the bottom of the outlet.

You end up with an entire zone across the wall where the outlet can be located.  All you need to do is pick a spot.

The outlet boxes I’m using for this project are “Old Work” since they’re not going into an open wall.  “New Work” boxes are used during new construction.  These old work boxes have flip up tabs that grab the drywall from inside the wall.  Here’s a tip though:  Get the screws started for those tabs and use a cordless driver.  The screws are very difficult to turn and even harder if they’re not started.

I take my outlet box over to the wall, line it up with the chalk lines and mark the sides of the outlet.

The opening can be cut with a drywall knife or a box cutter.  I used both.  Once the hole is cut, we shift to moving the cables.

So, with the new outlet hole in place, it’s just a matter of moving a cable out of an outlet box and running a new one.  I opened up the wall below a couple of the old outlets to get the cable out from a staple.  In my opinion, it’s easier to open the wall than to try and rip the cable out from the staple.

To get the cables into the new outlet, I had to drill a hole in the basement ceiling directly below the new outlet location.  Sounds tricky, but it was easy.  I just found the hole for the existing outlets in the basement, measured over and drilled (the photo below was taken from another outlet move).  See that hole on the right?  That’s where the cables used to run.  Now they run to the hole on the far left.  Again, different outlet, but you get the idea.

Here’s what the new outlet looks like now.

I still have to prep the wires for the electrical inspector.  Oh, and I’ll show you how I spackled some extra holes I put into the wall!

Any electrical work on your horizon?

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical. Tagged in ,, ,

How to Repair Drywall Tears

Posted by John on February 6th, 2012

Well that was a fun weekend! Lisa and I had a family party for our daughter on Saturday afternoon… and it went off without a hitch. I can’t believe she’s one already! Where does the time go? We basically spent the last six weeks preparing for this with all the projects and cleaning and it was well worth it! We were both so beat by the end of the weekend, that Lisa asked for one more day before she writes her post on the party, the food and her decorations. So, please stop by tomorrow and the rest of the week for all the party details!!

Despite how smooth the party went, we did run into one minor snafu two nights before the party. When I was removing one of our baby gates, the pads that make contact with the walls, tore the drywall paper on one side and removed the paint on the other!! Yikes! Check out the photos here…

Upon seeing these, Lisa asked “How long’s that gonna take to fix? Until Saturday?” Nah, two hours. Here’s how I fixed it.

How to Repair Drywall Tears:

1. Rip the rest of the paper to make sure there’s no more loose paper or paint hanging on.

2. Locate some quick drying spackle. I’m using a light compound that the builder left us for quick repairs. You can always use the “blue” or “green” joint compound, but they’ll take much longer to dry. You’ll also need a 6″ drywall knife. Don’t use the 2″ wide knife. They’re not really useful for much of anything except spooning the spackle out of the container. I’m using a wooden shim for that instead.

3. Scoop some of the spackle onto the knife and apply generously. You want to make sure you can’t see the torn area coming through the spackle. The biggest mistake people make with these type of repairs is they try to get it right in one coat. It’s going to take AT LEAST THREE coats of spackle and two coats of paint to get it to where you can’t see the damage or a lump from the spackle. Make sure your first coat is about as wide as the width of the knife you’re using.

For minor tears in just the paint, you may only need one coat of spackle. This repair below is ready for paint after only one coat.

4. Once the first coat has set up, it’s time to scrape off the high spots. To reduce the mess, I tape a plastic bag underneath the area I’ll be working. I then use the same spackle knife to scrape the area lightly towards the bag. You won’t need to sand if you do this effectively. The bag will catch all the waste. And don’t press too hard or you’ll gouge the spackle and have to start over.

5. The second coat of spackle will go on about the same thickness as the first, but much wider. Rule of thumb is the spackle area should be twice the width of the spackle knife. You want to start blending the spackle further out into the wall and feathering it out so there are no abrubt thickness changes.

6. Now scrape and repeat. Your third and if you feel necessary, forth coat, will be extremely thin and wider than the last coat.

7. Now sand lightly and you’re ready for paint. Two coats, because the spackle absorbs some. The photo below was taken while the first coat of paint was still wet.

So crisis averted. We repaired the damage in under two hours and no one was the wiser!!

How was your weekend? Any disasters averted on your end?

Posted in DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, ,

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