DIY Installing a Drywall Ceiling

Ceiling drywall installation is a tough job that will require at least two people to complete. If at all possible the drywall or plaster should be repaired instead, but if a new ceiling is a must this page contains some tips for layout, adding furring strips and supporting the drywall sheets while you're attaching them to the ceiling.

marking joists to hang a new drywall ceiling

Locate the Ceiling Framing

Find the ceiling joists and mark their location on the walls. Tap on the ceiling with a hammer and listen for a solid sound indicating wood framing, a hollow sound will indicate open space.

Go across the ceiling tapping with the hammer and listening for the different sounds, use a drill with an eighth inch bit to bore into the ceiling where you expect to find the joist. If the bit passes right through, drill at one inch intervals until you meet resistance and wood is ejected from the hole, indicating the location of the joist. Measure out 16 inches and check for another joist with the drill. If none is found, use the tapping and drilling method to find it.

marking the ceiling for new drywall

Mark the Ceiling Joists

Locate all the joists and mark their center on the wall at both ends of the room. Have a helper and stretch a chalked string tightly between each wall mark, pull it away from the ceiling and let it snap back to leave a chalk mark indicating the location of the joists across the ceiling.

layout furring strips for a new drywall ceiling

Framing Layout

Plan to fasten the first strip along one wall and then place the center of the next one 16 inches from the wall. Measuring from the wall, install the rest at 16 inch intervals across the ceiling. Fasten each so the center is right at the 16 inch mark to be sure the 4x8 ft drywall sheets will be supported along each edge. At the end of the ceiling there will be something other than 16 inches left, here install the last furring strip butted against the wall like the first one.

fastening furring strips to the ceiling joists

Install Furring Strips

Use 1x2 or 1x3 furring strips placed perpendicular to the joists. Hold them in place, and to avoid splitting the board, drill a pilot hole through it and into the joist. Drive a 2 inch drywall screw to fasten the strips to the joist, use longer screws if you're dealing with thick plaster or the 2 inch doesn't engage the joist. Countersink the screw heads to be sure the drywall will lay as flat as possible over the strips. Go across the room and drill and fasten the strips at each joist, use two drill/drivers to make this part easier.

When all the strips are in place, go along the walls and mark the mid-point of each with a pencil or other non-staining marker. Make the marks far enough down the wall to see them when the drywall is in place.

layout for a new drywall ceiling

Drywall Layout

Some jurisdictions may require a fire resistant drywall, known as Type X, for ceiling installation so check to be sure you use the right kind of material.

Plan to hang the drywall in full sheets along the corner with the first wall, running parallel with the furring strips. Use as many full sheets as possible to fill out the space, butting the opened ends together. At the end of the run, if you need a small piece to finish, cut a full sheet to size and fit it into the last space so the opened end butts to the opened end of the last full sheet.

Run the second row with the first full sheet starting at the opposite end of the room. Hang it so it joins the first row along the finished edges. Run as many full sheets as possible and then cut a small piece to finish out the space butting the ends as before. Staggering the open-end joints like this will make them easier to hide when finishing the seams.

Hang the remaining drywall to finish out the ceiling starting at opposite ends of the run with each new row. At the other side of the room there will likely be a small space left to fill. Cut a full sheet of drywall lengthwise to fill out this space so a finished edge is available to mate with the finished edge of the last full row. Always mate like edges together, don't join a finished edge with an opened edge, it will create a very noticeable bulge in the finished seam.

layout for a new drywall ceiling

Hang the Drywall Sheets

You can use a construction adhesive to help secure the new drywall sheets in place. This is not absolutely necessary and if you decide to do it, use a caulk gun to apply the adhesive along the furring strips just before lifting the drywall into place. Using adhesive will reduce the number of drywall screws needed to secure the sheets.

To install the first sheet, lift it into place and push it tightly into the corner and against both wall surfaces. Check to be sure about half the furring strip is showing on the outer edge and hold or support the sheet (see tee support below) while fastening it to the strips with drywall screws. Use a screw gun with a clutch function to uniformly sink the heads just below the drywall surface without tearing the paper covering.

Drive a few screws at the first strip along the wall and then put a few more along the outer edge to hold the sheet temporarily. To drive the remaining screws accurately, use a chalked string to mark the furring strip location along the sheet. Drive the screws along each strip about every 6 inches, keeping the outer ones back 3/8 to 3/4 inch from the edge.

use a tee to hold ceiling drywall in place

Support Drywall with a Tee

Using a homemade tee for support will make hanging a drywall ceiling much easier. After a sheet of drywall has been lifted into place, wedge the tee under it to support the weight while adjusting the position and driving the screws.

Make the top of the tee about 3 feet long and the leg a bit longer than the new ceiling height.

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