Options to Secure Drywall

Options for securing drywall

Sheets of drywall can be secured using a variety of methods. Below we describe some best practices for fastening drywall. Residential homes are often built using wooden stud framing while commercial buildings often use steel stud framing. The type of framing does not greatly affect the method of fastening but it may affect the type of fastener chosen. Obviously, nails cannot be used in steel stud construction framing.

Drywall screws

Drywall screws are the most common fastener used to install drywall. There are two main types of screws used for drywall, coarse thread and fine thread. Fine thread drywall screws are made specifically for use with steel studs. Fine thread screws can be used when installing drywall on wood studs, but coarse thread drywall screws cannot be used with steel stud framing. Coarse thread screws are better suited for wood stud framing. Coarse thread screws drive into wood slightly faster than fine-thread and bite stronger in the wood below. Self-tapping fine-thread drywall screws are even better than regular fine thread screws for steel stud framing, particularly when installing drywall over heavy gauge steel studs.

Picture of self-tapping fine thread drywall screws:

Photo of self-tapping fine thread drywall screws used for steel stud framing

The second thing to consider when purchasing drywall screws is the length. Drywall screws come in a variety of lengths. The most commonly used lengths are 1-¼ and 1-⅝ inch long drywall screws. The shorter the screw, the easier it is to install. Long screws have a tendency to lean over so you have to be extremely careful to keep them strait when pushing them in with the screw-gun. Even the slightest pressure off-center will tip them over.

Drywall Nails

Though less common than drywall screws, nails are still a useful method for installing drywall. Drywall nails are unique to other nails in the construction of their cupped head and thin post, or shank. The head of drywall screws is large and flat with a slightly cupped top. The flat large head serves to hold pressure against the drywall paper while not perforating the surface. The thin, strait shank allows the nail to drive through the drywall and into the wood below while not cracking the drywall as it penetrates. Unlike wood framing nails that get holding power from both shank friction and head pressure, drywall nails holding power comes mainly from the pressure of the head against the paper. Friction from the shank against the gypsum does little to secure the board.

Picture of ribbed drywall nails:

Photo of ribbed drywall nails used for securing drywall to wooden studs

Spacing

Most sources recommend spacing nails no more than 7 inches apart. When using screws, fasteners can be spaced 12 inches apart. In practical terms this translates to about 7-8 nails or 5 screws on each stud when hanging 48 inch sheets perpendicular to the studs. Nails can be installed either one every 7 inches or 2 every 12 inches. Double nailing every 12 inches makes for an easier finish job. When determining fastener spacing whether using nails or screws, it is important to consult local building codes. Most municipalities have specific regulations governing the number of fasteners and their spacing. Some even require the drywall hanging be inspected by a local building inspector before taping and finishing can begin. Most allow you to use less fasteners in the field of a sheet of drywall when using drywall adhesive.

What length nails or screws for drywall?

The length drywall screw or nail used depends on the thickness of drywall you are installing. You need to use a fastener that is long enough to secure the drywall sheets properly but drywall screws that are too long are a pain to install. If you are using a drywall screw gun or even a cordless drill, long screws tend to fold over before they go into the drywall. You must make sure that the screw is inserted exactly perpendicular to the sheet to prevent this. As mentioned above, the most common length drywall screws used are 1-¼ and 1-⅝ inch long drywall screws.

You should always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to determining the type of fastener to use. In general, the principles below will give you a basic idea of what type of screws or nails can be used. However, if the manufacturers recommendations are different from what is presented here, you should always go with their recommendation.

Guidelines for determining drywall screw length

In general, use fasteners that are at least ¾ inches longer than the thickness of drywall used.

Single layer drywall:
  • ¼ inch drywall - 1 inch drywall screws are long enough
  • ½ inch drywall - use 1-¼ or 1-⅜ inch long drywall screws
  • ⅝ inch drywall - use 1-⅝ inch long screws
Double layer drywall:
  • Double layer ½ inch drywall - Use 1-¼ for the first layer and 1-⅝ for the second layer.
  • Double layer ⅝ inch drywall - Use 1-⅝ for the first layer and 2 inch long screws for the second layer.

Glue

Drywall adhesive is a very effective means of adhering drywall panels. Glue is an excellent way to prevent screw-pops and cracking joints. When using drywall adhesive it is not necessary to use as many nails or screws. Generally, glue is applied to the studs and then a few fasteners are used on the edges and a few in the middle to hold the sheet in place until the glue dries. The main negative to using glue is the extra time involved needed to squirt adhesive on the studs and the added cost of glue. Drywall adhesive is available from a variety of different manufacturers. One type glue of interest is Green Glue noise-proofing adhesive. It helps to dampen noise transfer between walls and is best used in conjunction with a total sound dampening system