When renovating it's easy to tear out the old walls down to the studs to see what you've got. Except for being careful about the wiring, and wearing a mask for dust, there's nothing really dangerous about stripping a wall. And when it's all done the plumber and electrician can do their magic and you can get the place back together again. Now is the time to ponder if you want to do the drywalling yourself or hire a professional.
Whether you are redoing walls or covering untouched basement studs there is always the notion that you could save a lot of money doing it yourself. There is no question about it — you can. The consideration here is based on the following factors: time, finish, mess and stress. Drywall contractors make it look easy because they have the experience and the right drywall tools.
Hanging and Drywall Yourself
Anyone who is handy can hang drywall. Each sheet is 4' X 8', and if the centers on the studs are 16 this mean that the sheet will cover 3 spaces on the vertical or 6 on the horizontal. Add a drill with a dimpler, or screw attachment, and you are all ready to go — or are you?
- They Are Heavy: For one thing, plan to have a partner help you because these sheets are not light. In fact a 4' X 8' sheet of 1/2 sheetrock tops the scales at 70 pounds. Now multiply that by 20 and you have a rough idea how much you have to pack into the basement for the job.
- They Come in Pairs: Drywall sheets are packed in pairs for shipping. The good sides are facing each other so that there will be no damage because each nick requires finishing later on. Two people will have to carry 140 pounds down to the basement or separate them beforehand. Now, this is the smart idea, however it leaves a pristine side open to many hits and nicks as you and your friend try to get it down the basement. Your fingers will also be aching because it's really difficult to hold onto such an awkward and heavy sheet that is so fragile.
Solution: Buy a panel carrier for you and your partner. These plastic handles allow you to pick up the panel and carry it around easily. (However, you still have to navigate the sheet to the basement.)
- Insulation and Vapor Seal: Unless you put in foam you will have to get the basement walls insulated. This means buying and hauling bales of insulation downstairs. They are bulky but light. Be sure to wear gloves, goggles, a particle mask and long sleeves while insulating. The fibers bet into everything. The plastic poly vapor seal needs 2 people to put up right. Staple this to the studs and seal the seams.
- Hanging: The problem with hanging yourself is positioning the heavy sheets. This is why you need a partner. In addition, all the screws have to hit paydirt. In other words the screws have to go through the drywall and into a stud. If they don't they have to come out. You can fill the hole easily but the screw has punctured the vapor seal and too many of these will allow moisture through the wall.
- Cutting: Cutting requires a long straight-edge. Cutting too long and you have to cut again. Cutting too short means you have to go to another sheet or do a patching job on 2 pieces, which increases your time on the job.
- Taping and Mudding: It takes skill and patience for the finishing work. Each seam has to be taped, as does the inside corners. The outside corners have to be reinforced with a steel or plastic corner piece and then covered with drywall compound. All the seams and screw heads have to be mudded with drywall compound and then sanded. How it works is the seams are built up and then sanded so that the seams disappear. For many amateurs it like an artistic crusade because there is so much sanding and re-mudding as if you are trying to mold the facing on an old cathedral. In reality, you end up using too much compound and then have to spend hours sanding to get a smooth surface. Even then there may be bumps and raised seams because maybe the lighting was not good in the place.
- Mess: Be sure to have a good shop vacuum cleaner on hand with a special drywall filter. If you use your own home vacuum, or anyone without a filter, the fine dust may get in an burn out the motor. In addition wear a good mask.
The professional drywallers are not cheap. A 3-man crew may cost $25 an hour each! However, they are fast and do a superb job with a minimum amount of mess. Once the materials are in place the walls and ceiling are covered quickly. This is because they also come with all the tools like drywall stilts that allow them to reach the high places easily. In addition, they use a minimum amount of drywall compound it takes for a smooth job whereas amateurs almost always use too much.
If you plan to make the job a personal project, and don't care how much time it takes, you will save money doing it yourself. However, for a quick, expert job that makes you space ready to paint hiring a professional makes the most sense.