How Many Coats of Mud on New Drywall?

When I chose to put up drywall in my garage, I had a lot of questions about how many coats of drywall mud to finish it correctly. In addition, it can be frustrating if the final result doesn’t look like you want. 

The first time I attempted to tape and mud drywall on my own, it took much longer than I thought. But thankfully, the more I had to do, the better I got at it, and now I can smooth out the mud in less time than ever before. 

This guide can help you decide how many coats of mud you need for your drywall project. You do not want to run out of supplies when you are halfway through a big DIY job, so having enough drywall compound on hand is a critical component that will save you time and hassle. 

What Factors Alter How Many Coats of Drywall Mud You Need

Some factors will alter the number of coats you need for drywall mud to give that smooth, finished look. These elements include: 

  • How flat your drywall panels are
  • How much mesh or paper tape was used to cover drywall screws 
  • The quality of the drywall mud you use
  • The type of drywall putty knife you have
  • Your skill level 

Naturally, with high-quality drywall mud and tools and a bit of practice, you can become proficient at taping and mudding drywall, so you have a terrific finished wall. 

How to drywall your garage

Drywall Flatness and Uneven Seams

When you first install drywall, getting it to line up correctly will save you a lot of time on the mudding and taping process. Try to ensure the seams are even so it will not require much mudding to smooth it out and have it look great.

The Types of Drywall Mud 

Not all drywall mud products are the same. As a DIYer, you have several options to help make your task easier.
Here are some of the choices for drywall mud you may come across at your local supply store:

  • Taping Compound: It is useful for doors, windows, and edges since it dries harder than All-Purpose drywall mud. Alternatively, it is harder to sand down than other mud types. 
  • All-Purpose Drywall Mud: This choice is the most popular for DIYers since it is versatile enough for all layers. Although, some professionals prefer a product like Topping Compound for the final coats.
  • Topping Compound: This drywall mud comes as a powder to mix with water. It adheres exceptionally well to lower base coats and can be stored for later use when in powder form. 
  • Quick-Dry Compound: This drywall mud is ideal for small areas you can touch up without waiting 24 hours in between coats. Because it dries quickly, you need to work with it in small batches to avoid drying out before using it on the drywall. 

The Drywall Knife Styles 

If you are new to mudding and taping drywall on your own, there are several tools that you’ll need.

Although many drywall knives look similar, they have specific uses, so be sure the use them for their particular purpose. 

Putty Knives 

These knife-scrapers are thinner and smaller to handle small screw holes and edges easier than wider blades.

As a result, the blade is less rigid and has more flexibility for scraping and smoothing mud. 

Drywall Scrapers

Drywall scrapers typically contain longer, wider blades that are rigid and stiff to help smooth out large surface areas of mud.


Trowels sport an offset handle and are common among drywall professionals.

However, these tools aren’t ideal for small areas and can be tricky to use if you are still learning the ins and outs of mudding. 

Your Skill Level 

As with any DIY task, the more you do something, the better at it you will become. The same principle goes for drywall mudding and taping. Try not to get frustrated if you have to apply multiple coats and sand more mud than your neighbor.

Before long, you will perfect your technique, and the entire process will only take three or four coats the next time you have to put up new drywall in your home or garage. 

How Many Coats of Drywall Mud Do You Need? 

Now that we know what to use to perfect your mudding, let’s dive into what each coat of drywall should look like. This way, you can figure out how much you will require for your next project.

Remember, it’s better to apply thin coats of drywall compound to cut down on sanding.

First Coat 

Your first coat of drywall mud should be smoother and softer, having a consistency much like sour cream. This layer will hold your drywall tape in place and fill in any screw holes or imperfections on the surface. This step will require a small, thinner, putty knife to tackle the tiny areas.

The seams should be smooth, and this first coat should dry for 24 hours. You will not have to sand much after the first coat as long as you remove any clumps or bumps with your putty knife during the application process.

Second Coat 

The second coat of drywall mud will go directly over the drywall tape. In some cases, you can apply the second coat immediately after the first coat when you adhere the paper tape to the wall. This process can save time since the first coat will be thin and will help the drywall tape stay in place.

Other times, you will need to sand down the first coat in spots with uneven texture or lumps. Once the sanding is complete, you can apply the second coat of mud.

Touch up any spots you missed around the corners or screw heads the first time. A wide, flat putty knife will help distribute the mud efficiently and make the sanding process less hassle.

Allow the mud to dry completely for 24 hours or more.

It should be white and chalky-looking. If the drywall mud is off-white or beige, it is still wet and will need more time to dry.

Applying the mud too thick will take extra time to dry, so scraping and smoothing are critical steps that help save time in the finishing process.

Third Coat 

Sanding the second coat is vital in preparation for the third application of drywall mud. You want smooth edges around any taping spots, corners, or imperfections you touched up.

Then, use thicker drywall mud to go over the previous layers and scrape it evenly across the drywall.

There should be no visible bubbles or ridges. This coat can be challenging if you are a beginner and use a thin putty knife. If you are still relatively new to drywall mudding, opt for a broader knife to help create a smoother surface.

The third coat will need at least 24 hours to dry before you sand it down thoroughly. 

Fourth & Fifth Coats 

Many DIYers will need to apply a fourth and fifth coat to their drywall in the final preparation for any painting. It is normal to continue with an extra coat or two for the perfect finishing touches if your drywall is uneven or you are still new to smoothing the edges down.

Remember always to allow each coat to dry between application and sanding. Otherwise, you risk damaging the area and having to restart the process all over. It is always better to wait a little longer to ensure the mud is dry rather than take the sandpaper to it too early.

No matter how many coats of drywall compound you use, the final coat should always be sanded perfectly flat. Any imperfections on the drywall panels will show up under bright garage lighting.

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Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.