Invisible Drywall Seams
Create perfect walls with minimal mess, effort, and frustration.
Synopsis: Myron Ferguson, author of Drywall: Professional Techniques for Great Results, shares his secrets for easy, seam-free walls. With the proper tools and materials used in the right sequence, even the inside corners of this universally dreaded job will be a breeze. Learn how to choose the right taping knife, trowel, drywall tape, and joint compound, and learn how to different approaches you should take when dealing with butt seams, horizontal seams, and inside corners. Finally, read Ferguson’s methods for applying tape coats, fill coats, and finish coats, and discover useful tips such as adding water to your compound for that final coat.
Arguably the most dramatic change in the construction of a house or an addition is when the walls go from bare 2x4s to being covered with drywall. With those first sheets on the walls, spaces that before had been just framed ideas suddenly become rooms. Heck, the rooms even sound different with the drywall up.
But hanging drywall is just the first step. Before the walls can be finished, every seam where sheets meet has to be taped and covered with compound, a task that has caused anxiety in many a builder and adventurous homeowner.
I’ve been working with drywall for more than two decades now; I’ve even taught classes in creating perfect drywall seams. With the proper tools and materials used in the right sequence, your seams will seem to vanish. What was once a source of anguish and frustration becomes a source of pride and accomplishment. You even may start to enjoy working with drywall as much as I do.
Tools, Tape, and Compounds
I use a 6-in. taping knife to spread the compound and bed the tape. For subsequent coats, I’ll switch to a 12-in. knife or a 14-in. drywall trowel, which has a slight bow to help cover seams. I also use the trowel or the wide knife to hold extra compound, but many people prefer to use a drywall pan.
Most of the time I use paper drywall tape. It’s a must for corners (because it’s creased), and I think it’s stronger than mesh tape. Mesh tape has the advantage of being self-adhesive, but I typically use it only on flat, tapered seams, never in corners.
All-purpose joint compound can be used in all phases of drywall finishing, but I switch to lightweight compound for final coats because it’s easier to sand. If I’m in a hurry, I use setting compound, which comes as a powder, hardens quickly, and shrinks less. The downside is that you can’t sand the stuff.
Butt seams are taped first
Most dry wallers try to keep butt seams (where the non tapered ends of two drywall sheets meet on a wall or ceiling) to a minimum. When taping a room, I begin with these seams. Although there are alternative ways of butting two sheets of drywall, you often have to deal with a conventional butt seam where the ends of the drywall land on a framing member. For these seams, use paper tape that is bedded in a 1 /8-in.- thick coat of all-purpose joint compound.
Spread the compound with a 6-in. taping knife slightly wider than the paper tape, holding the knife at about a 30º angle. Next, center the tape on the seam, pressing it lightly into place every foot or so while keeping it taut. To embed the tape in the compound, hold the tape in place with the corner of a trowel. Starting in the middle of the seam, pull up firmly with the taping knife held almost perpendicular to the wall. As you go, excess compound will squeeze out. Then embed the lower part of the seam and smooth out the compound on each side.
For more photos and instructions on creating invisible drywall seams, click the View PDF button below.