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I've given you some hints on cutting batt insulation and cement backer board, so let's move on to sheet rock (or dry wall), the staple of many home wall coverings. It's made of gypsum, has various qualities (e. g. mold resistance, flexible rigidity) and is manufactured in various sizes and thicknesses, the most common being 1/2" x 4' x 8'. On a vertical surface, it goes up pretty quickly and is fairly easily installed by two folks, and with some increased exertion, by one.

I want to show you how to hang sheet rock overhead. It requires tools similar to those needed for cutting backer board plus two very important extra items -- an extra pair of hands (preferably attached to an extra person) and a sheet rock lift. If you can hang sheet rock overhead, you can easily handle vertical surfaces, save a tool rental, and allow your significant other to do something other than muck about with gyp board.

Check out the gallery to get a feel for the process, then read on.

Hanging sheet rock overhead(click thumbnails to view gallery)

Hanging sheet rock overheadHanging overhead sheet rockHanging overhead sheet rockHanging sheet rock overheadHanging sheet rock overhead


  • sheet rock -- add 10% to your measured square footage for waste; don't try to measure in 4 x 8' or 4 x12' increments to save on cuts and joints (the kind where two pieces of material meet); you'll be dealing with studs on (maybe) 16" centers, warped wood, HVAC vents, and electrical penetrations. Get the 4 x 8' size if you can -- the stuff is heavy and clumsy enough as it is, without adding an extra 16 square feet of board to wrestle. Just figure the area, divide by 32 to get the number of sheets, and add the 10% extra (if this is your initial foray into hanging gyp board, perhaps a bit more, and you can have some to "practice" with.) Remember, you can always get more and you'll be a whole lot less aggravated picking up one more sheet than returning one.
  • sheet rock screws -- you'll need about 30 screws per 4 x 8' sheet; they come in various lengths; get either the 1 5/8" size or the 2" -- I like the extra length and it doesn't take that much extra effort to drive them.

Time: inexperienced installers, working overhead, will get about 3 sheets an hour in place, depending on the space restrictions, height overhead, etc; be patient -- it does get faster with practice.


  • a sheet rock lift rents for about $35 a day and is worth many times that amount; it's a bit clumsy to operate but a big help, believe me. Don't start without one unless you're putting up pieces generally smaller than half a 4 x 8' sheet.
  • the aforementioned extra help; also worth many times whatever you'd give.
  • utility knife with sharp blades.
  • straight edge (I use a 4' level) or a T-square (thanks, Mike J).
  • tape measure.
  • carpenters pencil.
  • screw gun.
  • small "pencil drill" to cut circular holes for ducts, outlets, etc. You can use a jig saw as an acceptable substitute, but then you have to initially drill a starting hole or wait until the saw blade finishes bouncing off the surface of the board.

Safety: if you are working around existing electrical fixtures, throw the circuit breaker off -- nothing focuses your attention like cutting through a hot electrical line. Also, eye and ear protection, gloves, dust mask, stable work platform; you know the drill.

The process:

  • Cut the sheet rock as shown in my backer board post -- don't make me go through the whole thing again here. I know that you've already clicked on my post link in the first sentence. It was good for your soul and my stats!
  • As depicted in the gallery, the "table" of the lift goes up and down and tilts and telescopes to allow you to easily (sort of) load the various sizes of sheet rock; it also allows you to make the "tweaking" cuts without having to return the piece to the work platform -- very handy. Don't say you won't have to make extra cuts after you position the sheet the first time -- we both know better.
  • So, load the sheet rock. Now the fun starts and you'll quickly see how accurate your measurements weren't. Be patient. Home construction is rarely square or plumb; after all, that's what sheet rock is for -- to cover the mistakes, right? You may have to run the lift up and down several times, trimming the edges to get it right. As with backer board, the material can have some ragged edges or gaps. It's going to be taped and mudded, or moulded over at some point, so it's not like finish cabinet work. That said, 1-2" gaps will subject you to muffled laughter and will be more difficult to cover.
  • Using your screw gun with (conveniently named) sheet rock screws, drive those babies so that the head of the screw is just below the surface of the board ("dimpled"). If you don't, the finish work will be more difficult. Put the screws in about 1/2" from the ends of the boards and on about 16" centers along the overhead joists, starting from the center of the sheet and working outward. HINT: before you position the sheet rock, note the location of the overhead stud that you're fastening to and you won't be shooting screws into air instead of wood -- not that I've ever done any thing like that.
  • The sheets don't have to have staggered joints on the ceiling; there's no strength contribution to be gained, and if you're looking for anti-sway stability, from an engineering perspective I submit that sheet rock is not the answer.

There, you're finished. The next step is to take some pain relievers, a shower and call it a day -- you can hang the second sheet tomorrow!

Finally, of course, the sheet rock has to be taped, mudded, and sanded prior to paint or wall coverings; but that's a post for another time.

Have at it!

  • Willy

    How long did the first piece take you to hang?

  • Bill Volk

    Willy--good question. Actually, not long at all; conveniently, the initial (full) sheet went up in a corner that had great access for us and the lift, so it was hung in about 4 or 5 minutes. The problems came, of course, when we had to cut odd-shaped pieces for light fixtures, etc. But the whole job took a day and a half, with me working small pieces (less than half a sheet) by myself at the end; with the lift, of course.

  • David

    I have hung a ton of sheet rock for home renovations. Up, down, sideways, cuts all over the damn board, but curving it as I am doing now is a serious pain in my arse!
    I am learning as I go. I have found little to no information on this type dry wall installing and most pro's I talk to have never done it.
    All I can say is foam board failed, wet drywall failed so I ended up scoring the boards every 1 in for 5" inches then 1 1/4" from there on. Earch board is 8'ft by 20 1/2"
    Here are my latest pics of my dry wall curves.

  • Maurice

    For curves it takes patience. If possible build a form on the ground with the same curve as the wall or ceiling, wet the sheet on both sides, then hang on the form, mist with water occassionally (do not get sopping wet, slow and steady wins the race), and let gravity work for you. Once the sheet has conformed to the form, remove and hang. This may take hours or a full day depending on the degree of curve. For really short (fast, sharp, close) curves use 1/4 inch rock and double layer.

  • Haudy Kazemi

    Here are some DIY sheetrock/drywall lift/hoist ideas:

    And a commercially made lift listed on Amazon for $80 before shipping:

  • Scott

    Here is another site with drywall lifts:

  • todd

    alittle question I'm going to dry wall a ceiling in a furnace/boiler room at a condo complex about 12x12 should i use the 5/8 and does it need to be the moisture resistent stuff? What about fire proofing is that necessary do they make fire proof dry wall? reply asap if possible need to get started.

  • Noah

    I'm putting up some drywall for a ceiling project. The sheetrock I have is 5/8" thick and is the Type-X fire resisitant. My questions is: Will this sheet rock be too heavy for a ceiling? If so, do I need to attach "furrings"?

  • todd

    5/8 drywall being thicker will have a less of a chance to sag so it would be a good idea anyway

  • WifeOfEngineer

    My wonderful engineer husband and his son, after 14 years of "thinking", rented a sheetrock lift this past weekend. My wonderful engineer husband had already installed about 25 canned light fixtures. After watching the initial "x" and "y" drawing commence on the back of the sheetrock for these 25 canned light fixtures, I suggested putting chalk on the outside rim of the light fixture, hoisting the sheetrock up to the ceiling hard enough to get a good chalk mark, and lowering the sheetrock to get a perfect circle for the canned light (wipe off the chalk with a damp towel before screwing down the sheetrock). My husband took a ready-made cardboard circle already cut out from the canned light, and voila! No missed drilling or bad cuts, and best of all, no measuring required.

  • cliff

    good postings/help. Note; Sept 2010 price has risen to 139

  • 11 Comments / 1 Pages

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