Anybody can tape and mud drywall seams and corners, but repeatedly smearing 5 pounds of mud and sanding off 4.9 pounds of it isn’t the most efficient way to do it. Whether you’re a contractor doing occasional drywall work or an advanced DIYer tackling a large drywall project, these professional taping and mudding tips will get you the best results in the least amount of time.
PREPARE BEFORE MUDDING
Professional tapers spread mud in long sweeping motions. Drywall paper tears, rough edges and protruding nail and screw heads slow you down and prevent a smooth application of mud. In fact, you’ll spend far more time removing the mud ridges caused by these protrusions than it takes to prevent them from forming in the first place. Here’s how to get it right from the start:
- Run a clean 6″ taping knife over all fastener holes to make sure they’re set below the surface. Sink any protruding screws. Hammer and dimple any protruding nails.
- Using the OLFA-Pro 18mm Heavy-Duty Utility Knife, cut a “V” groove down both sides of every butt joint seam. That’ll eliminate rough-cut paper edges and provide more surface area for mud bonding.
- Use the same utility knife to trim any rough paper edges around electrical boxes located near a seam.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT MUD
Joint compound comes in many formulations. Pros use the correct compound for each coat. Here’s the lowdown on which compound to use for each of the three coats.
For the first coat:
- “Quick setting” or “hot mud” sets up much faster than non-setting compounds (in as little as 5, 20, 45 or 90 minutes depending on which type you buy), so you can start the next coat much sooner. Plus, it’s stronger and shrinks less than regular joint compound. Use a setting compound to fill the “V” groove in butt joints and to embed tape in the first coat on tapered seams and corners. Always use a setting compound when embedding mesh tape.
- However, if you don’t want to deal with the shorter “open pot” time limitations of setting compound, use a dry or premixed “taping” or “all-purpose” compound. Follow the mixing and blending instructions to get the proper consistency and use it to fill “V” cracks and embed tape in butt and tapered seams as well as corners.
For the second and final coats:
- Use either a lightweight sandable setting compound or a dry or premixed “topping” compound for the second coat.
- Use topping compound for the final coat.
SAVE TIME FILLING NAIL AND SCREW HOLES
Instead of filling each nail or screw hole individually, fill the entire row at once using this two-stroke wiping technique:
- Scoop up compound with a 4″ or 6″ taping knife.
- Starting at the bottom fastener, turn the knife so the handle faces the ceiling at a 45° angle.
- Press the bottom of the knife blade against the drywall and wipe a bead of compound all the way up the row of fasteners. Turn the knife to the right and skim off the compound at the top of the stroke.
- Next, press the full knife edge against the drywall near the top fastener, with the handle facing the floor, and wipe the bead down to the bottom fastener while applying pressure to the blade. Use the knife like a squeegee to fill the holes and remove excess compound. Repeat the procedure for the second and third coats, widening and feathering the swath each time.
ELIMINATE CHUNKS THAT CREATE EXTRA WORK
Dried chunks of compound cause gouges and ridges that require extra time to sand and fill. Reduce the extra work by following these good housekeeping rules:
Wipe excess compound off the sides of the pail with a damp sponge. Then cover the remaining compound with plastic wrap and close the lid between refills.
Partially dried and skinned-over joint compound doesn’t spread like the fresh stuff, and it’s full of dried crumbs and chunks. So dump the old compound in the trash before you refill with fresh material. Go one step further and clean your knife, pan or hawk between refills. Just wipe the dried compound with a damp sponge and dry the tools with a clean dry towel. That’ll keep crumbs and chunks out of your work.
SCRAPE OFF IMPERFECTIONS BETWEEN COATS
Even pros wind up with ridges and globs of compound stuck to the wall. But they don’t waste time sanding them off. Here’s the fastest way to find and remove ridges and globs:
Hold a work light parallel to the wall and move it around all the filled and taped areas to highlight the problem areas. Mark the ridges and globs with a pencil so you can remove them in the next step.
Place the sharp edge of a 6″ taping knife in front of the ridge, with the handle at a narrow angle to the wall (just an inch or so away from the wall). Then push the knife into the ridges to cut them off. Use the same technique to remove globs of dried compound.
Following just these few tips can result in a much better taping job. Follow them all and you’ll save a lot of time and frustration, and have the satisfaction of drywalling like a pro.