How to Drywall Your Garage (DIY How-To Guide with Photos)

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.

How to drywall your garage

Should You Drywall a 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. Once the house is built, it can be messy and complicated 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, as 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 other homes in your area.


Other Frequently Asked Questions:

Can You Drywall an Unheated Garage?

Yes. The biggest thing to worry about is moisture, not heat. If there are large swings in temperature, condensation could form inside your walls and develop mold or rot.

A climate-controlled garage helps to minimize the risk of mold and rot. However, you can still add drywall and 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 airflow.

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. You’d need a ¾ inch thick drywall as a fire barrier on that wall.

Exterior-facing walls can use ½ inch drywall, but ¾ inch drywall is still recommended. As always, check with your local building codes to see if you need a permit to drywall your garage before starting.

What Type of Drywall Do You Use in a Garage?

According to the ICC Building Codes (2018), you need at least 1/2-inch drywall on walls between the garage from any living spaces. On the ceiling, you need at least 5/8 inch drywall if there is living space above the garage.

SeparationMaterial
From the residence and atticsNot less then 1/2 inch gypsum board, or equivalent applied to the garage side
From habitable rooms above the garageNot less than 5/8 inch Type-X gypsum board or equivalent
Structure(s) supporting floor/ceiling assemblies used for separationNot less than 1/2 inch gypsum board or equivalent
Garages located less than 3 feet from a dwelling on the same lotNot less than 1/2 inch gypsum board, or equivalent, applied to the interior side of exterior walls that are within this area. 
Table R302.6 ICC Codes (2018)

There’s no explicit requirement that the drywall sheets need to be mold-resistant. However, it is recommended unless your garage is climate-controlled.


How to Drywall a Garage Step-by-Step

You should already have your garage wall framed with pressure-treated lumber and insulated at this point in the process.

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:

  1. Installing drywall
  2. Finishing drywall
  3. Priming and Painting

I’m doing that because 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

Lessons Learned

This is the first time I drywalled anything larger than a patch in the wall, so I made some mistakes that I want to correct when I drywall the other wall in my garage.

Next time, the primary thing I’ll do differently will be to start at the top of the wall instead of the bottom

The standard garage size height is around 10’ high, so you’ll need to cut some 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, highlighting any imperfections in the wall. The area near the floor will 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 ensure 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. While I was finishing the drywall, I noticed 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 yourself, and I’ll show you how. 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 left on your garage floor can seep into the concrete and up through the drywall.

If it can’t dry quickly, mold can grow behind your walls and create big, expensive problems down the road.

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.

It took 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 Out How to Arrange Drywall Sheets

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’ll 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

You must get the fit on the first sheet as clean 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 right next to the walls and ceiling. Don’t worry about leaving a gap on this sheet.

Hang the first sheet of drywall

If you elect to start from the bottom as 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 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 minor 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.

Use a drywall screw every 8”-12” along every stud – not just the studs along the edges of the drywall sheet.

drywall screw

By securing the drywall sheet along every stud, you’ll ensure 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 right, use your cordless screwdriver to tighten the screw 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 hang 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 hung.

You’ll probably have pieces that don’t fit exactly flush to every edge. Garages slope slightly so that any liquids that spill on the floor will run out towards the garage door.

It’ll feel like you’re trying to put a rectangular peg into a trapezoid-shaped hole somewhere along the line.

That’s OK.

full sized drywall sheets

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 at the top.

We can cover both, but the farther the gap is from eye level, the easier it will be to hide.

Here’s where having a second pair of hands would be helpful. If you don’t have someone around, you can invest in a drywall lift which holds the panel until you secure it.

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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, you can start making some cuts.

Step 4: Cut Drywall Sheets To Fit

Unless you’ve got a perfectly sized garage, you’ll be cutting several pieces to fit.

You want to leave no more than a ¼” gap along each edge when you make cuts. 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.

Carpenter's T-Square

I believe in “measure twice and cut once,” so now’s a good time to double-check your work before you make that cut.

Once you are 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.

As you see below, we want to make the cut just deep enough to fold the sheet along the line.

Cutting drywall sheets

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 easily cut through the paper backing with your knife.

Cutting drywall sheets

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.

Hung drywall sheets

How to Mud & Tape Garage 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 a fantastic series from Vancouver Carpenter.

I watched many different drywall tutorial videos, but I learned the most from this guy. I highly recommend binge-watching his channel before getting started!

Drywall Tools You’ll Need

Most homeowners should have essential 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 ensure that there aren’t any nicks or gouges. Any imperfections on the blade’s edge will be transferred onto 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″ blade.
  • 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.
  • Pole sander. I like Gator Finishing products, but you can use whatever you want 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 usually is 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
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Mudding Tips & Tricks

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 went over and over the same section of the wall, trying to fix imperfections, only to find out that my drywall knife 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. My advice is to find something that you’re comfortable with…even if it costs a bit more money.

Buy a big tub of joint compound from the start. I thought I could get by with a one-gallon tub of joint compound, but 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.

Drywall Mesh Tape vs. Paper Tape

I’m 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 I’ve talked to professional drywallers who only use mesh tape for very specific things.

Paper tape:

  • is more rigid, so there’s less likely to be cracks in the joints
  • has a built-in seam in the middle, making it ideal for corner joints
  • is thinner and smoother, so it’s easier to hide
  • is cheaper (usually about $3 a roll)

Mesh tape is:

  • self-adhesive so it can be used to cover larger gaps
  • more flexible
  • stronger overall than paper
  • faster to set since you don’t have to embed the mesh tape into joint compound

I found that mesh tape was harder to cover up with mud. Because the mesh fibers 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 between your drywall sheets, and some of those will be too big to just fill with joint compound by itself.

In fact, anything larger than ¼” needs 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 some areas of the wall definitely needed the mesh. If you’re lucky enough (or good enough) with your drywall installation, you may not need mesh.

Drywall mesh tape

Once the mesh is in place, you can stuff drywall mud 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: Mud Over 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 ensure 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 coats of mud to cover up the screws to ensure it’s smooth. You could get away with only one coat, but the 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 all of the screws on the wall in around thirty minutes or so.

Covering up drywall screws with mud

Step 3: Tape the Seams

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 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 to bridge the joint and you can still see daylight between the blade 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 between the drywall sheets, fitting 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. 

Let them sit overnight when you’ve got all of your joints taped and mudded. 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’re working with large amounts of drywall, you will mess up.

Drywalling takes practice.

After this project, I have a lot of respect for the tradesman who does this for a living.

I’ve learned that everything can be fixed if you catch it before painting the wall. 

The tape started to bubble up from the surface in a couple of places 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.

Bubbles in drywall tape can be fixed pretty easily

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 unnecessary.

Thankfully all you need to do is to cut out the bubbled section with your utility knife and replace that section.

You’ll see shallow knife marks on either side of the bubble in the picture above. 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!

cut out the bubble in the drywall tape

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.

Taped drywall joints

Once all major imperfections are taken care of, it’s time to move on to the finishing stage.

Step 4: Sand and Smooth. Sand and Smooth

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 a 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 minor 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 an example of the process.

If you find a spot where the knife is flat against the wall, but you can see light 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), you’ll need to spread the mud from the center of the joint until the wall is smooth.

Once it’s dry, lightly sand it smooth and recheck the fit.

Eventually, you’ll repeat the process with longer drywall knives, rulers or levels until you’re satisfied that the wall is smooth. Another helpful 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.

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05/20/2022 01:36 pm GMT

Step 5: Skim Coat (Optional)

Depending on if you’re 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.

You’ve probably got sections of your wall that have several coats of drywall compound and other areas where you can see the drywall underneath.

Bare drywall is more porous than joint compound, so the 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 between the sections that have mud and those that don’t.

Some people choose to use a skim coat to even out the surface and make it consistent.

If you’ve done a good job sanding and smoothing your wall, I’d skip the skim coat and opt for a dedicated primer coat instead. More on that in the next section.


Finishing Garage Drywall: Priming & Painting

We’re almost done!

Finishing the drywall was the most challenging 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

Here in Florida, homes have an ‘orange peel’ texture on every wall, including the garage. Initially, 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 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 is whether to use an oil-based texture or an acrylic (water-based) texture. If you’re going to be using latex paint (which is more common), you’ll want to use a latex texture.

Orange peel texture
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Step 1: Add the Texture

I like Homax spray texture (link to Amazon) because you can configure it with many different settings to get a heavy or light texture. It’s designed for spot fixes like drywall patching, but you can use it for an entire wall.

Before starting, 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 close to the area you’re spraying, use painter’s tape and plastic to keep it protected.

For my 10′ x 20′ wall, I needed two full cans. Each can is a little over $10, so it was right around $30 to add the orange peel texture.

Grab a can of the texture and some scrap 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 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 good 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 essential 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, 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: Painting Garage Drywall

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 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 ensure you have a nice, even finish. Just let each cost fully dry before starting on the next coat.

Painted garage wall

Wrapping it Up

I’m not a handyman, but I’m really proud of this wall. This is the biggest project I’ve ever taken on at home, and it had some rough spots, and 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:

If I can do it, so can you. Thanks for following along!