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How to Save Money Installing Your Own Drywall

Updated: Apr 19

Drywall, Sheetrock, Wallboard, Plasterboard, Gypsum; no matter what you call it, it comes at the same cost. This is ideal DIY skill set to acquire to exchange elbow grease for additional labor cost over the course of many different types of projects.


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Starting Small: Chris and I inadvertently worked up to more and more complex drywall projects organically. We started with patching, then hanging the interior of a small closet, then hanging an entire room and ceiling. While unintentional, our baby steps allowed us to gain confidence and sharpen our skills in manageable increments.

 

Resources


Fave Tutorials and Relevant Links:


Bare Essential DIY Supplies:

  • Drywall Sheets How to Select: Your Drywall Type

  • Drywall Screws How to Select: Your Drywall Screws

  • Utility knife Home Depot | Amazon

  • Lots of Replacement Blades Home Depot | Amazon

  • Cordless Screw Gun Home Depot | Amazon

  • T-Square Home Depot | Amazon

  • Tape Measure Home Depot | Amazon

  • Step Ladder Home Depot | Amazon

  • Level Home Depot | Amazon

  • Stud Finder Home Depot | Amazon

Nice-to-Haves:

  • Drywall Rasp Home Depot | Amazon

  • Drywall Saw Home Depot | Amazon

  • Drywall Carrying Handles Home Depot | Amazon

  • Dremel Home Depot | Amazon

  • Drywall Box Locator Home Depot | Amazon

  • Drywall Lift (Rental) Home Depot

Next Steps:

  • How to Save Money Mudding and Taping

  • How to Select the Perfect Paint Color

 

Hanging Your Own Drywall is a Great Way to Save... for Years to Come.

Warning, I'm about to wax poetic about drywall. I LOVE drywall. It's one the my absolute favorite phases of a project, professional or personal, where spaces take their formal shape. It may also feel so impactful due to how rapidly drywall can be installed. Whether you're patching or hanging a whole room, having the ability to obtain and install your own sheets is a critical DIY skill that will save you a ton of money over the long term, over many different types of projects. This task has a very forgiving learning curve and low risk of error. If you can learn it once, you can continue to save on the labor costs for projects and invest more money directly into your improvement projects... forever.


However, it's very important to note up front that there is a big difference between hanging and finishing drywall:

  • Hanging drywall entails: purchasing and transporting your drywall home, cutting it to size, and screwing it to your framing. There are nuances to shaping your drywall sheets around openings and not tearing through the paper when screwing, but again this is generally low risk. Our favorite tutorial linked above concisely walks through these types of do's and don'ts.

  • Finishing drywall is the process of bringing your drywall to the finish-ready level: mudding, taping, and sanding compound in layers to create a smooth and paint-ready surface. Plain and simple, this is an art. There is greater risk in the quality of the execution, once your wall is painted and light shines on it, it is possible to detect bubbles in your tape or mounds of compound along your seam. Depending on the time and patience you have, it is possible to do this yourself and Chris and I have done so on all of our projects thus far, although we are considering hiring out to keep our current basement project on schedule. While we are capable of muddling through (and may still have to depending on quotes), the time savings may exceed the cost savings. It takes us much longer to achieve a smooth finish with TONS of sanding in between steps and it is painful, slow, and messy. I sometimes watch professional mudding videos to restore my zen because man, it's really magical.

If the cost savings alone hasn't convinced you, here are some other benefits to mastering this skill:

  1. Flexibility and Control: When you install your own drywall, you have complete control over the process and can adapt it to your specific needs. You can choose the materials, thickness, and layout that best suit your project.

  2. Timely Completion: Relying on a contractor's schedule might cause delays in your project. Learning to install drywall empowers you to work at your own pace and ensure timely completion.

  3. Home Repair and Maintenance: Knowing how to install drywall can be a valuable skill for future repairs or renovations. It allows you to address minor issues without having to hire a professional each time.

  4. Customization: DIY drywall installation enables you to customize the finish and texture of your walls, adding a unique touch to your home's interior.

  5. Learning Experience: Taking on a DIY project like drywall installation can be a great learning experience that can be applied to many other tasks in the future.

  6. Personal Satisfaction: Successfully completing a drywall installation can be incredibly rewarding and boost your confidence in tackling other DIY projects.

Know your City Permitting Requirements.

Most home improvement projects require a permit, and there's a very good reason for that. Permits, for the building and construction industry at all scales, allows local authorities to ensure that construction and renovation work is completed in accordance with federal, state and local codes and ordinances - meaning, that the work meets quality, safety, and welfare standards. I won't berate you with the details here but if you would like to learn more or need something to lull you to sleep while simultaneously causing nightmares you can visit this post about how How City Permitting May Determine Your DIY Destiny


The Cliffnotes Version:

  • Cosmetic projects (painting, flooring, general finishes) do not require permits.

  • Generally, installing drywall does require a permit if the addition or replacement of drywall exceeds a certain percentage of the square footage of the room.

  • Permits imply inspections. Typically there is a rough inspection and a final inspection:

Rough: Check for drywall materials that meet building codes, safety standards, and other requirements. Check for signs of damage or deficiencies (air gaps, cracks) and hazards (moisture, mold). Check for proper installation techniques (correct screw type and spacing).

Final: Occurs at the completion of the project with final finishes.

  • There is typically a small(ish) permit fee that directly correlates with the square footage or construction cost.


Drywall Type Really Matters.

Depending on the application, there are several types of drywall to consider (jump to How to Select: Your Drywall Type). These include variations on thickness, moisture resistance, and fire retardance. For most standard projects, 4'x8' sheets at 1/2" thickness is appropriate. The key here is to do yourself, your back, and your hands a favor by opting for the Ultra Light alternatives.


Ultra Light alternatives are typically 25% lighter than conventional drywall. Though it may not sound impressive, a conventional sheet of drywall weighs approximately 50lbs, thus, you can save yourself from hauling an additional (and approximate)12lbs per sheet. There is no negative impact to quality and it has been argued that the additional air bubbles pumped into the gypsum slurry to reduce weight actually increases structural integrity.


Unsurprisingly, conveniences come at a price. Ultra Light drywall typically costs a little more but the benefits to installation is worth it.





Master Your Quantities

Count matters, especially when it isn't the easiest material to transport for purchase or return. Take dimensions, draw elevations, make diagrams - whatever it takes to get an accurate count. Then, add approximately10%. This percentage of additional material is a common factor that is typically applied to material by square footage such as tile or flooring to account for unique cuts, errors and defects. Including overage may seem like a waste of expense on material that you won't get to use. However, the alternative is that you run short which can be more costly. Also, it is typically best practice to keep an 'attic stock' (kept on-site in storage) of project materials should you ever need them again in the future for replacement.


Have a Plan for Transporting Your Drywall.

If you own a pickup truck, congratulations! You're ahead of the game and get to save tons of time and rental fees! Feel free to skim this section, hop in your vehicle and head to the store, now.

If you're like us, limited to our Mazda 3 commuter sedan (which can accommodate a surprising amount of tools and materials), big home improvement retailers like Home Depot and Lowes offer multiple solutions for transporting large materials. Pickup Truck rentals are always our Plan A for bringing large materials or equipment home. Pickup rentals from Home Depot start at $20/hr and they will typically allow you to load the truck prior to the official start time of your active rental window. Time and energy matters here, so having your shopping list, a staging area at home, and any supplies helpful for transport (protective tarp for bed of truck if it is wet or dirty, work gloves for grip) ready in advance is critical to avoid hang-ups and wasted money on the rental.




However, be realistic about your physical ability and tolerance for general pain-in-the-a**ness. Drywall procuring days are my LEAST favorite days of ANY project, hands down. As a 5'-1" female, I am exhausted by the time we get the boards off the dolly and onto the truck before we even leave the store. I feel the need to request multiple breaks during the unloading process at home, which of course, eats into our ticking rental clock. And yes, we do time ourselves just for the "fun" of it (Chris' term, not mine). Depending on your order quantity, it may make sense to schedule a delivery instead. The cost for home delivery from Home Depot starts at $80 and can be scheduled just a few days in advance. You can do the quick math and decide for yourself whether or not the fee is worth the convenience - and yes, I have won this argument before!


It is Possible to Install Alone!

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I immediately played the card to opt out of hanging drywall (sorry, Chris...). However, as a less physically adept human being in general, there are several methods and tools that help individuals complete the task alone (...that Chris can attest to).

  • Rent a Drywall Lift. A drywall lift can be dismantled and assembled without additional tools fit into the trunk of a mid-size car. The lift can be manipulated for both mounting sheets vertically on walls or horizontally on ceilings. Consider it the equivalent to four extra hands.

  • Use a temporary ledger board. A wood stud can be temporarily nailed to a wall to serve as a ledge or shelf to rest your drywall boards prior to fastening. This approach is quite commonly used with wall tile installation to set accurate datums.



 

Next Steps:

  • How to Save Money Mudding and Taping

  • How to Select the Perfect Paint Color


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