Drywall 101

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 basically two types of screws used for drywall, coarse thread and fine thread drywall screws. Fine thread drywall screws are made specifically for use with steel studs. Fine thread screws can be used when installing drywall on wood studs. However, 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. Coarse thread drywall screws should never be used with steel stud framing. Self-tapping fine-thread drywall screws are useful for installing drywall on 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 main consideration with drywall screws is the length. Drywall screws come in a variety of lengths. The most commonly used length is 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. When installing either ½ or ⅝ inch drywall, 1-¼ inch drywall screws are the length of choice. Double layer drywall requires longer screws, usually at least 1-⅝ or even 2 inch drywall screws. When choosing screw length it is best to go with the shortest possible length that allows the shank to sink at least ½ inches into the stud below.

Drywall Nails

Though less common than drywall screws, nails are still a useful method for installing drywall. Drywall nails are unique to other nails because of their head and thin post, or shank. The head of drywall screws is large and flat. 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


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. 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. Most allow you to use much less fasteners in the field of a sheet of drywall when using drywall adhesive.


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