How to cut drywall

How to cut drywall

Read this DIY guide to learn how to cut drywall.

Drywall, often called wallboard or by the proprietary name Sheetrock, isn’t usually cut like wood. Consisting of two paper faces surrounding a core of gypsum, making all the cuts with a saw would produce a tremendous amount of dust.

How to Make Simple Knife Cuts to Drywall

In most cases, drywall is cut by scoring through the paper on the finish side (the one with white paper) using a sharp drywall knife.

  • As soon as you notice the blade dulling, turn it around or replace it. Blades are cheap. Once that side is scored, bending the drywall away from the cut breaks the gypsum core.
  • Cut the brown paper on the back of the board at the break to complete the cut. The cut gypsum is usually ragged, but a pass or two with a drywall rasp cleans it up nicely.
  • There’s no point in cutting drywall precisely—cutting it about ¼-inch short makes it easier to fit, and the gaps will be filled with joint compound.
  • For crosscutting, guide the knife with a 4-foot drywall square to ensure accuracy. To cut along the length, snap a chalk line as a guide.

Making Saw Cuts to Drywall

There are times you’ll have to use a drywall saw. For example, if you need to cut out for a door, you’ll need to make the two vertical cuts with a saw.

Then, connect the ends of those cuts with a regular knife cut and snap the piece out. The saw cuts can be made with either a drywall saw that resembles a regular carpenter’s handsaw, or with a wallboard jab saw. If you buy only one saw, make it the jab saw.

Tip: It’s easiest and most accurate to hang the drywall before cutting out door and window openings. Use the studs on the side of the opening to guide the saw cuts, and the bottom of the header to guide the knife cut.

How to Cut Out Drywall for Electrical Boxes

It’s important to lay out the location of electrical boxes and rough plumbing carefully.

  • Draw the cut on the drywall about 1/8-inch larger in all dimensions than the outside of the box. You can skip this step, but for the cleanest cut, score the drywall with a knife.
  • Then, push the jab saw through from the front of the board and cut along the layout lines.

It’s harder than you might think to accurately lay out for cutting electrical boxes. For speed and accuracy, pros make these cuts with a drywall router instead.

  • Drywall routers are small handheld routers that use 1/8-inch-diameter self-guided bits.
  • The center of the box is marked on the board, and the rough wiring is pushed well back into the box (be sure the circuits are turned off).
  • Then the board is screwed in place with just a few perimeter screws.
  • With the bit set about ½-inch deeper than that drywall thickness, the router is turned on and plunged into the center of the box.
  • The cut is made by cutting to one side until the bit contacts the electrical box, then the bit is carefully hopped over to the outside of the box. Running the router around the box in a counterclockwise direction will cleanly cut it out.

Cuts for doors and windows can also be made with a router. When the router is guided by the inside of the opening, the cut is made in the clockwise direction.

Once all the boxes and openings are cut out, the rest of the screws needed to hold the sheet up are driven.

I admit, before I started hanging my own drywall, I thought it looked like it would be too hard for me to do. But, guys, it’s really not. Today, I have 15+ beginner tips for how to cut drywall and hang drywall on walls, by yourself!

How to Cut Drywall & Hang Drywall

Now, I’ve been hanging my own drywall for about 20 years. And, I’m sure I’ve saved myself thousands of dollars at this point. Cutting and hanging the drywall is actually the fastest and easiest part.

Taping and mudding the seams to get perfectly smooth walls is the part that takes the most time and effort.

This post will cover the most common questions I get or have had in the past. And, I have a short video showing most of the steps you’ll need to know to hang drywall in your home.

Instead of babbling on, let’s get to those beginner tips for how to cut drywall and hang drywall. 🙂

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Table of contents

  • How Do You Cut A Piece of Drywall
  • Watch This Beginner Drywall Video
  • Can You Hang Drywall By Yourself
    • Tip 1
    • Tip 2
    • Tip 3
  • Steps to Hang Drywall
  • Does Drywall Have to End on a Stud

How Do You Cut A Piece of Drywall

Let’s start with how to cut drywall. Here are the basic steps to cut straight lines in drywall.

  1. Carefully measure and cut drywall.
  2. Use a level or a Drywall T Square or 4′ Level to mark and cut straight lines.
  3. Only use a pencil to mark drywall. Pen and marker ink will bleed through most paint and primers.
  4. Always use a sharp blade in your utility knife when cutting drywall.
  5. Cut the face of the drywall first. That’s one of the most important things to remember for how to cut drywall. Make sure to cut through the paper or deeper to break the board with clean, straight lines.
  6. After cutting apply pressure to either side of the cut or the back of the cut to snap the drywall.
  7. Then cut the paper on the back to separate the 2 pieces of drywall.

Watch This Beginner Drywall Video

If any of the steps for how to cut drywall are confusing, I highly recommend watching the short video. Hopefully seeing it done can help clear up any confusion.

Now that you know how to cut drywall, let’s talk about how to hang drywall by yourself.

Can You Hang Drywall By Yourself

If you can lift the drywall alone, you can generally hang drywall by yourself with a few tips.

Tip 1

The first tip is to use framing nails to hold drywall in place. Just partially nail in 2 framing nails a hair below where the drywall bottom should be, one at each end.

That will help you hold the weight of the drywall and line it up while you screw in the first few screws.

Tip 2

The second tip is to use a drywall jack. You can rent a drywall jack at most tool rental stores. The drywall jack can hold a sheet of drywall on walls or ceilings for you.

Drywall jacks are essential when hanging drywall on ceilings. Even if you’re hanging drywall on a ceiling with someone else, a drywall jack will save your arms and shoulders. Which will help you work longer and faster.

Tip 3

The third tip is to build and use a dead man’s brace to hang drywall on a ceiling. These only work on ceilings. A dead man’s brace is built with 2×4’s to the height of your ceiling.

How to cut drywall

A Dead Man’s Brace generally T-shaped or a T with 2 45-degree supports to strengthen the top of the T. But, these are harder to work with by yourself than a drywall jack.

Just imagine lifting a sheet of drywall above your head and holding it while you try to position a dead man’s brace in place. Some people use a tall ladder and a dead man’s brace to help move the drywall in place.

But, honestly, it is harder and a bit dangerous. I only recommend using a dead man’s brace when you have 2 people lifting the drywall into place and only need a dead man’s brace, or two, to safely hold the drywall while you are screwing it into the framing.

Steps to Hang Drywall

For this DIY drywall project in my house, I’m only hanging drywall in a small area. But, I have the steps below for how to hang drywall across a whole wall, or multiple walls, by yourself. Again, you can see me doing most of these steps in the how to cut drywall and hang drywall video above.

  1. Use a Drywall Screw Setter Bit to easily set drywall screws at the perfect depth.
  2. You can u se partially set framing nails, or similar, to hold drywall up while you screw it in place.
  3. Start by hanging drywall horizontally from the ceiling. Hanging drywall horizontally has been shown to reduce material usage and the amount of seams to tape and patch.
  4. Hang the drywall all the way across the wall before moving to the next row beneath it.
  5. Stagger the joint on that row for less obvious joints.
  6. Starting at the ceiling and working down a wall keeps most of the seams within easy reach for patching. It will also, in most rooms, keep the seam below eye-level so that any imperfections are less obvious.
  7. When you hang drywall you need 7 screws on the left and right sides, spaced 8″ apart. And, 4 screws along each stud in the center, spaced 16″ apart.
  8. Use your 4′ level to mark the studs with pencil to make it easy to place the screws.
  9. Keep all screws along the edges 3/8″ away from the edge to avoid damaging the drywall.
  10. You always need studs at each end of your drywall, the drywall should be supported by at least 1/2 (3/4″) of the length of a stud on each end. You can screw a new stud into place when you don’t have a support.

Does Drywall Have to End on a Stud

Yes, drywall does have to end on a stud. You need to have the left and right sides of drywall halfway over a stud. A stud is 1 1/2″ thick, so the drywall should cover 3/4″ of that so that the next piece of drywall also has 3/4″ to attach to.

Also, if you are cutting out corners to fit a space, you really need any corners of drywall ending on a stud too. That’ll give that cut out the strength and support it needs to avoid extra damage if that spot is ever bumped hard enough at that spot.

That’s it, guys. Generally your next steps would be to tape the seams and mudding. I will actually be covering my drywall with some DIY Paneling and Wainscoting.

More DIY Projects For You

You can see what this finished wall looks like now in this How to Remove an Arched Doorway in a Wall post. Grab the printable version of the steps for how to cut drywall and hang drywall below.

UPDATE: Check out how different this Foyer looks now in the Before and After 2 Story Foyer Makeover post!

Looking for more of my Home Remodeling Videos? Check out this DIY Home Improvement playlist on YouTube.

How to Cut Drywall & Hang Drywall By Yourself

How to cut drywall

Here are 15+ beginner tips for how to cut drywall and hang drywall by yourself. You can do this!