If you’ve been following along in my personal garage transformation, I’ve reached the point where my garage wall is framed and insulated. I only need to install the drywall and slap some paint on it before this part of the project is complete.
Should I drywall my garage?
There are several good reasons why you should drywall your garage.
Your garage would be more comfortable year-round. If you live in a colder climate, installing drywall over insulation can keep your garage above freezing in the winter, which helps keep your pipes from freezing. In warmer climates, like Florida where I live, insulation and drywall help keep the hot air outside where it belongs. Either way, your garage is more comfortable to work in.
It’s much easier to add additional electrical outlets. Adding electrical outlets to concrete block can be messy and difficult. Once the house is built, it’s very difficult to run the wiring through the cinder block. After you frame the wall, it’s easy to add additional outlets and hide the wires in the wall, like you would throughout the rest of your house.
Finishing your garage will add value to your home. Studies have shown that a finished garage can add several thousand dollars to the sale price of your home. Even if it doesn’t directly add money to the sale price, a well-done garage will set your home apart from any other homes up for sale in your area.
Other frequently asked questions:
Can drywall be installed in an unheated garage? Yes. The biggest thing to worry about is moisture, not heat. If there are large swings in temperature, moisture could form inside your walls and form mold or rot. Having a climate controlled garage helps to minimize the risk of mold and rot, but you can still add drywall and add heating or air conditioning later, if necessary.
Can you drywall a garage with no insulation? Yes, but it will only be for cosmetic effect. The drywall itself does very little to stop air-flow. Unless you live somewhere that is a constant (and comfortable) temperature year-round, I highly recommend adding insulation before you decide to drywall your garage.
What is the building code for garage drywall? Most residential building codes only specify the wall between your garage and your living space. On that wall you’d need a ¾ inch thick drywall was a fire barrier. For exterior-facing walls, you can use ½ inch drywall, but ¾ inch drywall is still recommended. As always, check with your local building codes before starting your project. Remember to check to see if you need a permit to drywall your garage before you get started.
How to drywall your garage step-by-step
At this point in the process, you should already have your garage wall framed with pressure-treated lumber and insulated. The only thing left is to seal it up with drywall and mud, then prime it and paint it.
We’ll be covering both in the remainder of this article, but I’ll split the tutorial into three sections:
- Installing drywall
- Finishing drywall
- Priming and Painting
The reason I’m doing that is that the tools and techniques you’ll use are very different at each step of the process.
So let’s get started.
Installing the drywall
In this section, you’ll be installing the drywall panels on your wall. Professionals will call this Drywall Finishing Level 0, because technically the drywall is just hung and not finished.
Tools you’ll need
- Cordless screwdriver
- 1 5/8” drywall screws
- Heavy cutting knife
- Tape measure
- Carpenter’s T-Square
- 4’ level (or longer)
- Carpenter’s pencil or marker
This is the first time I drywalled anything larger than a patch in the wall, so I made some mistakes along the way that I want to correct when I drywall the other wall in my garage.
The major thing I’m doing differently next time will be to start at the top of the wall instead of the bottom. Most garages are around 10’ high, which means you’ll need to cut some of the drywall sheets to fit. It’s better to have those joints and seams near the bottom of the wall instead of the top.
The empty space near my ceiling is right next to my garage lights, which highlight any imperfections in the wall. The area near the floor is going to be much farther from the light and you’re likely going to have tools or cabinets covering them anyway.
I’ll also be using more drywall screws for the wall on the other side of the garage. You want to be sure that the wall is snug to the studs and doesn’t pop out. In the image at the top of the article, you can see that I only used drywall screws around the edges of the drywall sheets. I noticed while I was finishing the drywall that the sheet was popping off the stud so I had to go back and add additional screws to make it fit right.
I also highly recommend getting another set of hands to help you lift the drywall sheets into place and secure them. It’s possible to do this on your own, and I’ll show you how to do that. Having help makes it a lot easier and lessens the chances that you’ll strain your back in the process.
Where the drywall meets the floor
There needs to be a small gap where the drywall meets the floor.
Drywall and concrete are both extremely porous. Any water that’s left on your garage floor can seep into the concrete and up through the drywall itself. If it can’t dry quickly, mold can grow behind your walls and create big, expensive problems down the road.
I’m going to go into more detail in another article, but my plan was to leave a two inch gap between the floor and the bottom of the drywall. Ideally, the gap doesn’t need to be that large – ¾ of an inch will do. I went with a larger gap because I’ll be installing garage flooring down the road and I wanted to leave myself enough room so I didn’t have to cut the drywall later.
I also added an L-shaped metal channel designed for roofing applications to help channel any water spills along the bottom of the wall and out through the garage door. All it took was a little construction adhesive to lock it into place, and a small bead of silicone sealant to keep water from getting underneath the metal.
For less than $10 per wall I have a water-tight barrier for my drywall walls.
Step 1: Plan it out
Most drywall sheets come in 4’ x 8’ panels and you can hang them either horizontally or vertically.
If your garage is 10’ x 20’, you’re going to have to make some cuts, no matter how you hang the drywall.
The object is to make as few cuts as possible and make them in inconspicuous places.
In my case, I opted to hang the sheets horizontally, which meant I’d have narrower sheets along the top and one side that would need to be cut.
I had slightly more cuts to make this way, but ultimately less wasted drywall sheets.
Step 2: Hang the first drywall sheet
It’s critical that you get the fit on the first sheet as good as possible. Every other sheet of drywall you hang will depend on this. If you make a mistake here, you may not figure out how bad it was until you reach the end.
I’m speaking from experience here.
Put the first piece of drywall snug up in the upper corner of the wall where it meets the ceiling. You want to make sure it’s as close as possible to the walls and ceiling. Don’t worry about leaving a gap for this sheet.
If you elect to start from the bottom like I did, you can use scrap pieces of wood to raise the drywall sheet off the concrete floor.
I only recommend starting from the bottom if you have a garage that will exactly fit your drywall sheets without cutting any to fit. Otherwise, start from the ceiling.
Either way, it’s good to have a helper hold the drywall in place while you secure it with drywall screws.
Since I was using ½” drywall sheets, I opted for 1 5/8 inch drywall screws. You’ll want the screws to be at least an inch longer than the width of your drywall so they have enough room to sink into the stud and keep the drywall sheet secure.
Once the drywall sheet is in place it’s time to make any small adjustments to ensure a good fit.
Take your time here. It’ll pay off in the end.
Once you’re satisfied with how it looks, it’s time to lock that first sheet of drywall down.
Screw in a drywall screw every 8”-12” along every stud – not just the studs along the edges of the drywall sheet.
By securing the drywall sheet along every stud, you’ll make sure that there aren’t any gaps where the drywall can pop out from the stud.
Tighten the screws just far enough into the drywall so that they’re flush with the drywall sheet. Too high and they’ll bulge out from the wall Too deep and you’ll actually shred a bit of the drywall.
If you don’t feel confident in getting it just right, use your cordless screwdriver to tighten the screw most of the way and finish it off with a hand screwdriver.
Step 3: Hang the remaining full-size drywall sheets
Once the first sheet is secured in place, it’s time to install the rest of the full-sheets of drywall. Start with any that will be snug against the ceiling and the first sheet you’ve already installed.
You’ll probably have pieces that don’t fit exactly flush to every edge. Garages are designed to slope slightly so that any liquids that spill on the floor will run out towards the garage door.
Somewhere along the line, it’ll feel like you’re trying to put a rectangular peg into a trapezoid-shaped hole.
When you have to decide where you have to leave a gap, look for the place that will stand out least.
For example, if you have to leave a gap between the wall and the ceiling, or between two pieces in the wall, I’d choose to leave the gap in the ceiling. We can cover up both gaps, but the farther away the gap is from eye-level, the easier it will be to cover up.
Secure each sheet of drywall with drywall screws along each stud, just as you did with the first sheet.
Once you have all of the full-size pieces in place, it’s time to start making some cuts.
Step 4: Cut drywall pieces to fit
Unless you’ve got a perfectly sized garage, you’ll be cutting several pieces to fit.
When you make cuts, you want to leave no more than ¼” gap along each edge. We can fill anything up to a one-inch gap, but ideally, you want to make the gap as small as possible.
Take measurements at the top and bottom of the empty section. Grab a fresh sheet of drywall, or a scrap section with enough area to make the cuts.
Important note: If you’re using a scrap sheet of drywall (one that you’ve already cut pieces out of), try to use as many of the factory edges as possible. Even if you make perfectly straight cuts, the factory edges are rounded slightly to help them fit together smoothly.
Once you’ve got the measurements, mark them on the top and bottom of the new drywall sheet with a carpenter’s pencil or marker. Mark them on the front of the sheet, not the paper backing.
Using a carpenter’s T-square or long level, connect the two markings lightly with your pencil so you have one solid line to cut along.
I’m a firm believer in “measure twice and cut once”, so now’s a good time to double check your work before you make that cut.
Once your satisfied with the measurements, it’s time to make the cut.
On the front side of the drywall sheet, make a deep incision into the drywall, but don’t cut through the paper backing. We want to make the cut just deep enough that we can fold the sheet along the line like you see below.
The cut doesn’t have to be perfectly clean, but the straighter it is, the better it will fit with the pieces next to it.
With the sheet folded along the line, you can cut through the paper backing pretty easily with your knife.
Once you’ve got the piece cut, test the fit and make any minor adjustments before you screw it into place. Repeat the process until you’ve mounted all of the drywall sheets.
Finishing the drywall
In this section we’ll be making that new drywall look pretty and ready for paint. I’ll be including a couple of YouTube videos from an amazing series from Vancouver Carpenter. I watched a lot of different drywall tutorial videos, but I learned the most from this guy. I highly recommend binge watching his channel before getting started!
Tools you’ll need
Most homeowners should have some basic drywall tools like a 4” drywall knife and a drywall pan. But just because you have them lying around doesn’t mean you should necessarily use them. Check the edges on your drywall knives to make sure that there aren’t any nicks or gouges in them. Any imperfections on the blade’s edge will be transferred on to the wall when you’re trying to smooth out the mud.
- 6″ stainless steel drywall knife
- 10″ or 12″ taping knife. You can usually get by with only one of these, so it’s a personal preference here. I went with a 12″ knife.
- Corner trowel. This is a lifesaver and makes corners super-easy. I went with the Marshalltown 4″ x 5″ corner trowel which you can find on Amazon.
- Drywall mud pan. Either get an all metal pan or something with a good metal edge on it.
- Pole sander. I like Gator Finishing products, but you can use whatever you like here.
- Sandpaper in various grits. I ended up using the 80 grit and 120 grit the most.
- Paper drywall tape
- Joint compound (drywall mud). This is normally around $15 for a 60 lb tub at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot.
- (Optional) Mesh drywall tape if you have larger gaps that you need to fill
Check your edges! I mentioned this above, but it’s worth repeating. Check the edges on your blades. Keep them clean and if they get damaged, get a new tool. I found myself going over and over the same section of wall, trying to fix imperfections only to find out that it was my drywall knife that was causing them.
Get a comfortable tool that fits your hands. I bought a couple of new knives because the cheap ones were hurting my wrists. The 6″ blade with the black handle you see above was great…for about 30 minutes. The handle was heavy and was hard to hold for long periods of time. My advice is to find something that you’re comfortable with…even if it ends up costing a bit more money.
Buy a big tub of joint compound from the start. For some reason I thought that I could get by with a one gallon tub of joint compound. I burned through it quickly and had to run back out to the store for more. The worst part was that the bigger containers only cost a few dollars more for a lot more compound.
Mesh tape vs. Paper tape
I’m really glad I learned this secret before I started, because there’s so much misinformation online about whether to use paper drywall tape or mesh tape. Most online articles will say to use mesh tape, but the professional drywallers I’ve talked to only use mesh tape for very specific things.
- is more rigid so there’s less likely to be cracks in the joints
- has a built in seam in the middle which makes it ideal for corner joints
- is thinner and smoother so it’s easier to hide
- is cheaper (usually about $3 a roll)
- is self-adhesive so it can be used to cover larger gaps
- is more flexible
- is stronger overall than paper
- is faster to set since you don’t have to embed the mesh tape into joint compound
For me, I found that mesh tape was harder to cover up with mud. Because the fibers of the mesh are thicker than the paper tape, I used more coats of joint compound and had to spread the mud out farther to hide the joint.
Step 1: Fill any large gaps
You’re going to have gaps in between your drywall sheets. Some of those are going to be too big to just fill with drywall joint compound by itself.
In fact, anything larger than ¼” is going to need something to help keep the joint compound in place. As you can see in the image below, that’s where I used mesh tape. To be honest, this gap was probably small enough to use paper tape, but there were some areas of the wall that definitely needed the mesh. If you’re lucky enough (or good enough) with your drywall installation, you may not need mesh at all.
Once the mesh is over the gap, you can stuff joint compound in the gap through the mesh. The mesh will hold it in place and allow the joint compound to set correctly. Let it dry overnight and then you can fill and sand as you would any other joint.
Step 2: Cover the drywall screws
While you’re waiting for the joint compound to dry in any large gaps, you can fill in the drywall screws. Before you start, take another look at your screws and make sure that they’re flush in the drywall. If they’re sticking out, you’ll notice the edge of the screw through the mud.
I like to use two costs of mud to cover up the screws, just to be sure that they’re smooth. You could get away with only one coat, but the amount of extra mud it takes to cover them again is minimal. It’s definitely worth it in my opinion.
Take your 4″ drywall knife and cover the screw with some joint compound. Use a fairly heavy pressure to scrape off any excess, then let it dry. You should be able to cover the all of the screws on the wall in around thirty minutes or so.
Step 3: Tape the seams
Alright…let’s finish up those last big gaps between the drywall sheets so we can get this wall sealed up and looking pretty.
The joints are where you’ll make or break the finish of your wall. Nail this step and your wall will be as flat as a racetrack. Mess it up and your wall will have more speed bumps than an elementary school zone.
There are two types of joins, flat joints and butt joints. The main difference between the two is how the two drywall sheets fit together. No matter how you fit your drywall sheets together, you’ll have a mixture of both on your wall.
If you hold a drywall knife against the wall so that it bridges the joint and you can still see daylight between the knife and the fall, it’s a flat joint. Skip to 2:30 in the video below to see what a flat joint looks like.
Flat joints are the easiest because there’s a natural valley in between the two recessed edges of the drywall sheet. You can build up the valley to a nice smooth finish and you won’t have to spread the drywall mud out from the joint very far.
By contrast, butt joints don’t have a valley in between the sheets. They fit right up against each other. If you aren’t careful with butt joints, this is where you end up with “speedbumps” on your walls.
No matter what joints you’re filling, take as much time as you need to smooth out the edges of your drywall mud.
The smoother the edges are now, the less you’ll have to sand later.
When you’ve got all of your joints taped and mudded, let them sit overnight. You’ll usually find some small (or not so small) mistakes that you need to fix.
It’s much better to catch them early.
When you mess up…
If this is the first time you’ve working with large amounts of drywall you are going to mess up. Drywalling takes practice. After this project, I have a lot of respect for the tradesman who do this for a living.
I’ve learned that everything can be fixed if you catch it before you paint the wall.
In a couple of places, the tape started to bubble up from the surface because I didn’t have enough joint compound underneath the tape.
This picture shows one of the first joints I did. You’ll see a few problem spots like messy edges that needed a lot of sanding, but the big one I want to talk about is the bubble in the drywall tape.
This is one of the reasons why they recommend to let the joints dry overnight to allow these bubbles and imperfections to show up.
When I saw the first bubble in my wall, I freaked out. I thought I’d need to re-tape the entire joint, but that’s not necessary.
Thankfully all you need to do is to cut out the bubbled section with your utility knife and replace that section. In the picture above, you’ll see shallow knife marks on either side of the bubble. This is where I will be making the incision to cut out the bubbled drywall tape.
Be sure to let the drywall tape adequately dry before you do this!
Once you’ve got the offending piece of drywall tape cut out of the wall, you can fill it like any other joint. Just be sure to put enough drywall mud underneath the tape this time.
The drywall tape will need to overlap the edges slightly so you don’t have cracks in the wall show up down the road.
Once all of the major imperfections taken care of, it’s time to move on to the finishing stage.
Step 4: Sand and smooth. Sand and smooth
The concept of this step is simple: Every time you add drywall mud to one of the joints, you’re going to lightly sand the wall after it dries to get it as smooth as possible.
I’m not going to lie. Sanding and smoothing drywall sucks – especially if you were sloppy with feathering out the initial edges of your seams like I was in some places. Sanding is really dusty, even if you get low-dust drywall compound, so I recommend moving or covering up anything that’s still in the garage. Definitely move your car to the driveway for a few days while you finish up.
Yes, I said “a few days.”
You can hide a lot with a good texture on your wall, but that doesn’t mean you can skimp out here.
This part is all about small fixes. You’ll be checking each joint and seam individually to make it as level as possible. Start with a clean, dry 6″ or 8″ drywall knife if you have them. Pace the knife directly over the seam at various points and look for any gaps that need to be built up or any places where the knife rocks from side to side. Skip to 0:50 of this video to see exactly what I mean.
If you find a spot where the knife is flat against the wall, but you can see light in between the wall and the knife, you just need to keep adding mud until the gap disappears. If you find an area where the knife rocks back and forth (skip to 2:12 in the video above), then you’ll need to spread out the mud from the center of the joint until the wall is smooth. Once it’s dry, lightly sand it smooth and check the fit again.
Eventually you’ll repeat the process with longer drywall knives, rulers or levels until you’re satisfied that the wall is smooth. Another useful test is to close your eyes and run your fingertips along the wall to feel for any imperfections.
Once I couldn’t find any gaps in the wall using a 4′ level, I moved on to the next seam.
Step 5: Skim coat (optional)
Depending on if you’re going to be using a texture on your wall, you may want to apply a skim coat as a final step before priming and painting.
A skim coat is a light coat of drywall that adds a very thin, final layer of drywall to give a consistent surface to paint on. At this point, you’ve probably got sections of your wall which have several coats of drywall compound and other sections where you can see the drywall underneath.
Bare drywall is more porous than joint compound, so paint will adhere to the surface a little differently. If you apply paint directly to the wall right now, even paint that has a primer in one, you’ll still be able to see differences in the sections that have mud and the ones that don’t. That’s why some people choose to use a skim coat, just to even out the surface and make it consistent.
If you’ve done a good job sanding and smoothing out your wall, I’d skip the skim coat and opt for a dedicated primer coat instead. More on that in the next section.
Priming and Painting
We’re almost done!
Finishing the drywall was the hardest part of this project and I was really glad to have it over and done with. All that’s left is adding texture, priming and painting the wall. That should take a few hours, including drying time.
Tools you’ll need
- Homax water based drywall spray texture (optional)
- Latex primer
- Latex paint
- 3/4 inch paint rollers
- Painter’s tarp, plastic or old towels to protect against over-spray
Here in Florida, homes have an ‘orange peel’ texture on every wall in the home, including the garage. Originally, I didn’t want to use any kind of texture on the garage walls. I think a smooth wall has a sleek, cleaner appearance.
However, the wall between my garage and my kitchen was already drywalled and textured. I’d either need to smooth out the existing wall or just add a texture to the new walls. To make things easier, I opted to add the texture to the new walls to match the old one.
The only decision you’ll need to make at this time is whether to use an oil based texture or an acrylic (water-based) texture. If you’re going to be using a latex paint (which is more common), then you’ll want to use a latex texture.
No big revelations in this section. If you’ve ever painted walls in your home, this will feel pretty easy.
Step 1: Add the texture
I like Homax spray texture (link to Amazon) because you can configure it with a bunch of different settings to get a heavy or light texture. It’s designed for spot fixes like drywall patching, but you can use it for a full wall as well.
Before you start, take a few minutes to lay down some plastic tarps or old towels to protect the floor against over-spray. Also, if you’ve got cabinets or trim that are close to the area you’re spraying. use painter’s tape and plastic to keep it protected.
For my 10′ x 20′ wall, I ended up needing two full cans. Each can is a little over $10, so in total it was right around $30 to add the orange peel texture.
Grab a can of the texture and some crap cardboard so you can test the settings and get used to how the spray comes out. Make your mistakes here without risking the finish on your brand new wall.
Once you’ve got the settings to your liking, start applying the texture to the wall. Like any spray paint, the secret is to blend the texture with the existing wall, so don’t worry about overspray on the other walls.
It’s pretty common for the spray-texture to be a bit higher than the orange-peel on your existing walls. That’s easy to fix after the primer coat, so I’ll touch on it in the next section.
After about 30 minutes, the texture will be dry enough to primer coat over it.
Step 2: Apply primer
Once the texture is dry, it’s time to add the primer coat. Even if you’re going to be painting with a paint that includes primer, it’s a good idea to use a dedicated primer on brand new drywall.
I chose to go with Valspar Interior Multi-purpose water-based wall and ceiling primer that I picked up at Lowe’s. There’s nothing special about it so if you’re partial to a particular brand, then by all means use that. It only cost $15 for the gallon and I had plenty left over after the wall was done.
It’s important to keep the primer consistent with your paint. If you’re using an oil-based paint, then use an oil-based primer. If you’re using water-based (acrylic) paint, then use a water-based primer.
Primer takes approximately 30 minutes to one hour to dry to the touch, but leave about three hours before you paint over it. If you need to make adjustments to your orange-peel texture, do it after your first coat of primer.
If you need to make adjustments, you can go over the texture lightly with either a 4″ drywall knife or some smooth 200-grit sandpaper. Use a very light amount of pressure. You only want to take off the peaks in the texture, not huge chunks of it. This process should only take a couple of minutes at most.
Step 3: Paint your brand new garage wall
All you need to do now is paint the wall and you’re all done!
Homeowners and Do-It-Yourselfers argue whether to use interior or exterior paint for your garage. I’ve written a longer article all about choosing the best paint for garage walls, so I won’t get into that here. The short version is that you want to use interior paint (never exterior paint!) and a satin finish.
I recommend using two coats of paint on the wall just to make sure that you have a nice, even finish. Just be sure to let each cost fully dry before starting on the next coat.
Wrapping it up…
I’m not a handyman by any means, but I’m really proud of this wall. This is by far the biggest project I’ve ever taken on in the home. It had some rough spots and there were some mistakes along the way. All-in-all, I’m really looking forward to starting on the other wall next summer.
From here, my next steps are to mount the cabinets and then to add some custom flooring. Once the flooring is in place, I’ll add some molding along the bottom of the drywall.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and got something valuable out of it. If you’re considering putting drywall in your garage, I hope this made it a little less scary.
If you missed a step in my garage drywall project, you can check them out here:
- How to waterproof your garage walls with Drylok
- How to frame garage walls over concrete step by step
- How to insulate a garage step by step
- How much does it cost to drywall a garage?
If I can do it, so can you. Thanks for following along!