Putting up drywall with no stud behind it can be tricky, but it is not that difficult to use proper technique. With a little effort and patience, you can have it up in an instant.
To secure drywall without studs, you will need some drywall clips, screws, a screwdriver, and drywall. Make sure your drywall is appropriately sized to fit the area to be covered. Attach the clips to the drywall that is already in place. Attach the new drywall to the clips and secure it with screws.
Drywall that is secured with wall studs will always be more stable and is the way to go if possible, but alas, sometimes you have to do a work-around. This sounds easy enough, but if you want a more in-depth discussion on the process of securing drywall without studs and a breakdown of the individual steps, keep reading.
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Drywall clips are handy little devices that you can use to connect sheets of drywall or, if needed, make false corners. They come in several different shapes and sizes. They even make melt-away clips that melt at a certain temperature in fires and acoustical clips with a rubber backing for soundproofing. You can find them at your local hardware store or online, and decide which ones are right for the job you are doing.
What if You Do Not Have Drywall Clips?
If you want to tackle the old-school job style, you can forgo the clips, attach a piece of wood with screws to the back of the existing drywall, and attach the new drywall to this same wood backing. It serves the same function and will accomplish the same result, if inelegantly.
Attach Drywall to Drywall Steps
If you cannot get all your drywall seams lined up with the studs, follow these steps and try to get the drywall sheets to fit as snugly together as possible. Otherwise, you will need to use drywall mud (joint compound) to fill in the gaps.
- First, you want to make sure you have some drywall attached to studs (if there is none yet in place) so that you have a structurally sound starting point.
- Next, you push a drywall clip onto the end of the hung drywall. The clip has a channel that fits the edge of the drywall snugly. Make sure it is seated properly by lightly tapping it down with a hammer. This is your anchor for the floating (without stud backing) drywall. You will use several clips, depending on the size of your job. Space them roughly 16 inches (41 cm) apart.
- Screw-in the seated drywall clips. An electric screwdriver makes this step faster and easier. Seat the screws slightly below the surface of the drywall. When you apply the finishing compound, there will be no trace of them.
- Slide the sheet of floating drywall into the clip channel, making sure the two sheets of drywall are abutting each other firmly.
- Screw in the new sheet of drywall to the clips.
Patch a Hole
One of the most common reasons — perhaps THE most common reason — people need to put drywall in an area with no backing stud is when they are patching a hole in the wall. This is usually a relatively small area, and it involves a few extra steps, as you will need to cut out the area around the hole to get it nice and square. You will also need a drywall saw, which you can get at your local hardware store or online.
- Use a tape measure to measure the hole you are repairing. You will want to measure a few extra inches around the hole on all four sides to give yourself plenty of extra room to work with. Too small of a hole makes the whole process unnecessarily difficult.
- Get a drywall sheet and use a ruler or straight edge to measure the necessary dimensions of the patch you are cutting.
- Cut the piece of drywall to the desired size. Always cut with a sharp blade on the front of the drywall. This avoids tearing the paper on the back. Cut just deep enough to break the surface, then gently snap the board over your knee to break it. Then carefully use your blade to cut the paper on the back. If you have imperfect edges, you can use a drywall rasp to smooth it out. This will be the patch.
- Hold the square piece of drywall against the hole in the wall you are repairing. Use it as a template and draw a line around it with a pencil.
- Use a drywall saw to cut out the measured square around the hole. Gently punch in the tip of the saw on one of the lines and do your best to cut along the lines. Be careful to avoid any pipes or wiring inside the wall. Drywall is fairly easy to cut.
- After removing the drywall, you just cut from around the hole, get your patch, and put it into the space to make sure it fits properly. Use the rasp to smooth edges if necessary.
- Insert your drywall clips by wedging them into place, then screwing them in about ¾” below the edge. If your hole is small (6” to 8” or 15 cm to 20 cm), you can get by with just two clips, either one on each side or above and below. If the hole is larger (up to 12” or 30 cm), you will probably want clips on all four sides. If the hole is larger than 12” (30 cm) you may want multiple clips, evenly spaced, on each side.
- Press your patch into the recess, making sure it sits flush with the surrounding drywall.
- Screw-in the patch to the clips about ¾” (1.9 cm) from the edge.
Finish the Drywall
Now that you have your hole securely patched, it is time to make it disappear into the wall around it. The finishing work is all about subtlety, and if done well, nobody will ever know there was once a hole in the wall. Follow these steps:
- Use a taping knife to spread ⅛” of drywall joint compound on the patch and surrounding drywall. Be careful not to use too much, or it will not be smooth.
- Tear off a piece of drywall tape and put it on top of the spread compound over one patch seams. Repeat this for the opposite seam.
- Use your taping knife to gently scrape the tape to push out excess joint compound from under the tape. The idea is to get the tape flush with the drywall. It will take several passes over it to get it just right. Be careful not to pull the tape out of position. Here’s an article on how to fix issues with drywall tape.
- Repeat steps #2 and #3 for the other two seams opposite each other. If you get a bubble under the tape, use the corner of the taping knife to gently lift the tape and push a bit more joint compound underneath it, then continue scraping until flush with the wall.
- Allow it to dry overnight and, if necessary, you can scrape it to smooth it out and go back over it with another ultra-thin layer of compound to get it as seamless as possible.
- Repeat step #5 if necessary, covering a wider area than the original patch.
- Sand with a sanding sponge, paying particular attention to the edges where the compound meets the unworked drywall to get it completely smooth for painting.
Make a Drywall False Corner
When making false corners, you are going to need to get corner clips. You will also need at least one exposed stud. Then follow these steps:
- After measuring on the stud where you want your 90° corner, align the corner clip at the edge of the stud. Screw-in the corner clips 16 inches (41 cm) apart, making sure the side of the clip with the tab spans the stud. The side of the clip with the channel in it is your 90° corner.
- Place the drywall on the tabs and screw it down, making sure the screw heads are slightly below the surface.
- Put the next sheet of drywall in the clip channel, making sure it is at exactly 90°.
- Screw-in the rest of the screws through the clip channel to firmly connect the drywall.
There is always more than one way to skin a cat, and there are other ways to approach this drywall problem. For example, if it is a large area to cover, it might make the most sense to put in an extra stud or two to hang the drywall on. But if you are patching a hole or covering a relatively small area, you will do just fine with the plan laid out here.
As long as you follow all of the steps mentioned above, you’ll be able to keep your new drywall looking and feeling pristine. There’s no doubt that studs are an essential part of construction, but you can patch and secure a lot of drywall without any studs.