Roundtable attendee Richard Schwartz discusses the need for proper heating on the job site.

This article was written to try and define the work conditions of the drywall business during the colder time of year. In my experience, many builders don’t realize that drywall finishing products cannot perform the same way in the winter months as in the warmer months. Workers are in houses to tape, bed and skim under conditions perfect for failure, and the homebuilders just want to close on their houses on their schedule, not ours.

Cold case

My company has 80 to 100 homes active at all times. Without heat, the quality of our product goes down in the winter months. It is impossible to move heaters around during these months. We see a real need to get permanent heat in these homes. The problem is we still see ourselves as living in the south and yet many times we have northern conditions. It would be nice if the builders would begin to treat their homes as we see them: a true asset to their customers.

We find that, as with many things we do, the builders don’t understand the way drywall needs to dry. One of the things we have been doing for years is using smooth wallboard. This product has to be pre-filled with Duo-Bond at all joints. With this product, the joint compound is not trapped under the tape. This helps in protecting the board from staying wet and weakening, which can create ridging and other problems. The last item is wet or extremely cold drywall does not sand well, it will fuzz the paper and destroy the quality of the board.

We continue to search for solutions that will affect the finishing process of drywall. Our customers are counting on us.

Cold weather stocking: distributor concerns

As winter approaches each year, we know that we are going to hear and have to address numerous complaints regarding joint compound storage application problems. All of our centers in Atlanta have the ability to keep our joint compound storage areas above freezing, so that when we ship that product to our contractors we know they are getting a good mud.

In severe weather, joint compound stocked on a job could sit for days in unheated job sites. The compound will work fine if frozen and allowed to thaw under normal conditions. This takes a long time, however, and this is seldom an option as general contractors and builders demand tight schedules.

Once the finishing stage is underway in a “frozen” environment, the cold weather issue becomes prominent. Houses, for example, in the finishing stages, are never heated, and because it is so cold, the windows and doors are always closed, reducing ventilation that further exacerbates the normal drying process of joint compound. These conditions allow the moisture from the compound to soak and weaken the tapered edges of wallboard that are the hardest areas in a piece of wallboard.

Once applied to the wall joints, the compound freezes more easily, as it is in thin layers compared to a 5-gallon pail. Frozen compound also appears to be dry, when in fact it is only frozen. Therefore, finishers are likely to add the additional coats over “wet” joint compound, which creates an additional set of issues. Once finishing is complete, the painters begin even though the compound may still be wet.

Once the house is heated, the “setline” of framing members begins. The softened wallboard tapered edges will bend and curl. The joints could begin to darken as they have been sealed and painted while technically still wet. This movement could continue for six months through heating and cooling cycles. This movement will cause ridging or “beading” appearance of the finished joints that must be sanded down to the tape, refinished and repainted.

The manufacturers state that the entire building or house being finished must be kept above freezing to minimize this damage.