I just completed drywalling a house for a good friend of mine's son. We all know how dumb working for a friend or a relative is. To make it worse, my friend and his son are both custom builders. They also live in Rhode Island, which is a skim coat plaster area.

So, I am doing a drywall job for a friend of mine's son, they are both custom builders, they have a house in a skim coat plaster state and they have both worked with me in trade shows where I do drywall clinics, and they expect a perfect job. When someone asked my friend's son who was doing the plaster work, he stated he was having it drywalled and taped. The guy spits on the ground and stated that was what he thinks of drywall work.

As you can see, I had a lot to lose on this job and when I heard about the spitting incident I felt challenged to do the best darn drywalling job in the state of Rhode Island.

The island

First, some facts and figures: Drywall covers on the average 80 percent of the visible interior of a home and it holds more then 90 percent of the market share of interior finish materials. Drywall has gained this high share of the market because of its relative economy and ease of installation. The work is typically done by the board or square foot and it moves along fast. With the right size crew, the drywall can be hung in one day and finished in three to four. So all in all, the job can be done in one week and the other trades can get back to work. I really do not see why there is such a rush. Just because drywall work can be done at a fast pace in a short period of time, should it be?

Let me explain what I did in this house. It all starts when I measure for materials. I measure every wall and ceiling considering seam placement, butted seams and direction. I plan on hanging the ceilings perpendicular to the framing or furring and using one length when possible.

The upstairs ceilings that had joists 24-inches on center were furred, which I think is good because it brought the o.c. spacing down to 16 inches. It kept potential sagging insulation up and away from the drywall. I think the furring also stabilized the ceiling somewhat, which avoids fastener pops and seams cracking. I also used drywall adhesive on the ceilings and walls. Using adhesive and supplemental screws increase shear strength, reduce sagging and eliminate fastener pops.

The less linear footage of seams to tape, the better. But I will put up with an extra seam or two if it is necessary in order to avoid a seam, which would be difficult to hide (see the sketch of seams illustration).

For years, I have been placing the top screw on walls off of the top plate, down on the stud about 8-inches. This helps to avoid screw pops and cracking along the top edge. Lately, all the houses I work in have hurricane ties nailed into the top plate. Because of the bumps these ties create, fastening is difficult and the edge is crooked if I fasten into the top plate. I keep the fasteners down and have straight corners with no screw pops (see the floating corner illustration on page 51).

Be sure to back-block butted seams. I have been using the Rocksplicer product to create a recessed butted seam for years. This allows me to end up with flat walls and ceilings and it greatly reduces the possibility of butted seams ridging and cracking, which is a frequent problem with skim coat plaster, as well.

I hand taped drywall for many years and have achieved excellent results. Now, I mostly use automatic taping tools and I have to say that the quality achieved when using automatic taping tools is excellent. Seams and inside corners are finished uniformly and very smooth. Because the tools make finishing faster, this gives me the extra time I like to have to point up corners better and to blend in intersecting seams and corners.

Pride and prejudice

I really like to do some layering and I like to use corner beads other than regular square bead. It is easy work and adds a nice touch. On this particular house, I used Trim-Tex Chamfer Bead on all outside corners and on edges of the layers I put in some of the rooms. On the master bedroom ceiling, I put an extra layer of drywall about 10-inches around the perimeter of the room and capped it off with a chamfer stop. This was very simple to do and gave an otherwise plain ceiling a nice accent. That ceiling caught everyone's eye that walked into the room. This was also a great opportunity for me to use Trim-Tex Crown Molding. I put one layer of drywall along the wall edge and two on the ceiling and caped the edges with the chamfer stop and decorative L-bead. In the inside corner I installed the 31⁄2-inch crown. The finish results were really impressive. When I was done I could not believe how good it looked and how simple it was to do.

OK, so I did an excellent hanging job. I used proper layout, minimizing seams, used adhesive, floated some corners, back-blocked butted seams, used automatic taping tools, used chamfer style bead, did some layering and even some vinyl crown. But I was still faced with the challenge of achieving a finish better than skim coat plaster. I not only wanted to have this job be the best drywalling job in the state of Rhode Island, I wanted people to say this house looks better then any skim coat plaster job in Rhode Island.

I had recently attended a demonstration of a new product held by a local drywall supplier. The product demonstrated was sold by Grabber and is called Acrylitex Smooth Wall. The results were impressive and seemed to be just what I was looking for. I wanted to achieve a Level 5 finish and more. I like to put a Level 5 finish in critical areas whenever possible. Most of the time, I hand apply the finish using joint compound. For this particular job, I was looking for a Level 5 on most walls and ceilings, which would be very time consuming to accomplish by hand. In addition, I wanted a hard finish that would offer many benefits of skim coat plaster.

The product I used was a primer surfacer called Smooth Wall, which is distributed by Grabber, as well. It is a spray-on product that is applied to 15 to 20 mils wet. One feature that I really liked is that after the Smooth Wall dried, I was able to give the surface a light sanding. This gave the finish a polished look and allowed me to smooth out areas that were a little rough because of the raised fibers in the paper created when sanding. This light sanding was very fast-maybe only 5 minutes per room and added the extra touch that put my work a notch above the average skim coat job.

I finished the house approximately two months ago and have received high reviews from the owners. The other day I received the confirmation I was really looking for. It was a voice mail message from the owner. The house is an Energy Star home and they were having an open house explaining all the features and benefits of the Energy Start design. The message said that all the visitors of the house wanted to talk about was how smooth and perfect the walls and ceilings were. They also loved the chamfer-bead look, the layering and especially the dinning room with the crown molding.

So, the end result was what I wanted to accomplish and more: A super high-quality drywall job that will stay that way. A job that was kicked up a notch.