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Taping Drywall

How To Tape Drywall

Taping, or finishing, drywall is a bit of an art, or at least it can seem like it. Once you understand the way the pro's do it, it's a piece of cake. Getting smooth surfaces is possible, even with very little sanding.

 
 
 
 

Taping Sheetrock

After hanging your drywall, you'll have to get it ready to be painted. This entails taping all the seams, adding corner bead, and spackling over the nails. There is a proper sequence, but done out of order won't result in any problems. It just makes it a little more difficult.

It makes sense to get all the tools and supplies ready, before you start. You'll need a "mud pan", a taping knife, a roll of drywall tape, which isn't really tape at all, but a roll of heavy paper. You'll also need joint compound, and since it's best to mix the joint compound before using it, (even the pre mixed stuff), something to mix it with. I use a mixer in a drill. You can also use a manual mixer, which is sold where the other supplies are sold. You can also mix it as you get it from the bucket, using the taping knife. It's just not as effective, since you can only mix the top couple inches.

You'll also need corner beads, a pair of snips to cut the corner bead, and a corner bead tool and rubber mallet. And either a hammer and some nails, or a screw gun and some drywall screws. The nails and screws are for the top middle and bottom of the corner bead, after it's been installed wth the corner bead tool. Some people don't bother with this step, but if the corner takes a whack sometime down the road, the fasteners give it a better chance of being an easy fix.

If you're using pre mixed joint compound, open the bucket, and mix it up. While this step isn't absolutely necessary, you'll get better results if you do it. Load the mud pan, or spackle tray up with joint compound. About 3/4 full is about right.

TIP: Keep the lid on the bucket, and always use the knife to scrape the joint compound off the sides of the bucket, as well as the rim. The reason for this is it will dry, and fall into the joint compound, leaving you little with clumps to contend with.  

The first step is taping the inside corners. Starting here will prevent you from messing with taped seams on the field, or wall area. Tear off a piece of tape long enough to do the corner. You'll notice the tape has a line in the center of it. It's there to help you fold the tape into a corner. Fold it flat and squeeze it between your fingers to get a nice sharp corner.

Starting on one side of the corner, load some joint compound on to either a 5" or a 6" taping knife. Working from the top, spread a bed of mud on one side if the corner. You want about 1/16" thick bed of mud for the tape to lay into.

Do the second half of the corner the same way, being careful not to remove the mud from the first half.

TIP: Always clean off both sides of the knife with the edges of the tray, between steps. You can't clean the excess off the wall if the knife still has joint compound on it.

Carefully, working from the top down, stick the tape into the corner, and work your way down, taking care to get the tape into the corner. Using the taping knife held vertically, use it to push the tape in the center, forcing it onto the corner. Now, working on one side, and from the top, hold the edge of the knife against the corner, and the width of the blade against the wall. 

Work to about halfway down the wall, doing one side first, repeated by the second in the same manner. The idea is to remove as much of the mud as possible, so you need to push fairly hard on the taping knife. You need to be holding the knife on a downward angle, which will keep you from dragging the tape off too. Now do the same procedure on the lower half of the of the wall.

When you have completed that step, start again at the top, and run the knife down the entire length of corner on one side, followed by the other. You won't be able to go all the way to the floor, so do the last six or eight inches working from the floor up.

The purpose of this final pass is to remove any excess joint compound, while also smoothing it out. What ever excess mud is left on this step, will either need to be sanded of, or it will effect the final product. This is the step most beginners get wrong. They leave too much mud on the joints. You're actually trying to remove all of the mud, except what's under the tape. If you get any loose edges under the tape, you can lift it a little using the knife, and force some mud under the loose area. Then smooth it off again.

In the process of taping the seams, I'm also spackling the nails, (or screws). There are two ways of doing this. One is to cover each nail seperately, covering it with mud, then removing the excess. This is time comsuming, and often leaves imperfections to deal with. The second way is to treat the nails like a group.

Since they're nicely lined up, (since they follow the studs), put some mud on the taping knife, and holding the knife so the edge is paralell to the stud, run it up the line of nails, leaving a bead of joint compound covering them. Now, holding the knife flat across the bead, and clean off the excess.  

After all the corners are done, it's time to do all the flat seams. Again, load some mud onto the knife, and run the mud on the seam, working parallel to it. Again, you want to leave a bed of mud, about 1/16" thick. Now lay a piece of tape along the seam, and press it into the joint compound. With the knife straddling the seam, and on an angle, move it along the seam, bedding the tape, and removing the excess mud from under the tape, and from both sides of the tape. 

After you have completed this step, now hold the knife so the edge is in the middle of the tape, and overhanging the tape. Remove all the excess joint compound, and smoothing it out as you go. Do the top half, then the bottom half of the seam, in this manner. Again, any excess will only need to be sanded off later, so it's best to remove it now. The idea is to fill in the recessed part of the joint, but nothing more.

After all the flat seams are done, you can install the outside corner beads. Installing the corner beads could have been done first, but then the tape wouldn't go under them. Not critical, but better.

Installing the corner bead is easiest with the corner bead tool. It seats the bead squarely over the corner, and with a good whack from the rubber mallet, crimps the edges in to grab the sheetrock. I crimp it about every 8 inches, followed by a screw on both sides of the corner bead on the top, at the middle, and also on the bottom.

With the corner beads all set, it's time to add the mud. With a fair amount on the knife, and working on one side, do from the ceiling down about halfway to the floor. Put the mud on a little thick, followed by smoothing it out, working from the top down. Now to the second side in the same fashion.

Repeat the same for the bottom half of the corner bead. Once the entire length is done on both sides, you'll want to make the final passes, which will feather the outside edge of the mud, and remove any excess. Working from the top, hold the knife so one end of it extends past the edge of the mud, and the other is sitting on the corner bead.

Here's the trick to getting professional results with taping drywall. With the knife held on an angle, and the edge of it out past the mud, flex the blade of the knife, so it is really pushing on the edge where the mud meets the sheetrock. Now run the knife done the bead.  Do the entire side, from ceiling to floor, then repeat the same on the other side of the corner bead.

The idea is to leave a feathered edge, while smoothing out the mud on the corner bead. Again, any excess will have to be sanded off, which is no fun. Don't worry too much about dents and imperfections in the surface of the joint compound. You still have two coats to go, and they'll get filled in by them.

To Be Continued...
 

     

 
 
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Written by Lee A. Jesberger © 2010
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