Spotting Signs of a Bad Drywall Job During Installation


There are few things more disappointing than a substandard drywall job that shows off badly in sunlight when you have guests. It’s best to be prepared and know what to look out for if you appoint a contractor to build one in your home.

The best way to spot the signs of a bad drywall job is to monitor the progress as the contractor completes each stage. You can then ask the contractor to fix the defects before the panels go on, and the plasterer covers over any mistakes.

A good contractor will appreciate this. That’s because they may be too close to the job to spot an obvious mistake they might otherwise overlook.

Drywall Basics You Need to Know

Typical drywall is made of a gypsum core sandwiched between two sheets of thick paper to help prevent the edges from chipping. The boards are then mounted on a wooden frame. 

Drywall is not too fussy to work with, but it must be handled with care if you don’t want the gypsum core to crack. 

If you bump an edge, it can chip easily, and a piece could break off. If you don’t strike a fastener correctly, the hammer head could bounce off and dent the material.

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After a carpenter fixes the drywall to a frame of wooden strips, a plasterer finishes the job off. 

This may include sanding taped and covered plasterboard joints. Some tidying up is unavoidable. However, you should be satisfied when everything is good to the eye.

Tricks of the Trade – Installing Drywall

You can’t check out a drywall job properly for signs of defects unless you understand what goes on inside it. 

If you were having drywall panels added in your home – to screen the dining area in your sitting room, for example – you’d notice the job happens in several stages.

As you watch the work proceed you’ll realize the process is irreversible, with everything cut to size on site. It’s therefore reasonable to expect resistance from the contractor if you notice signs of a bad drywall job later that needs dismantling to repair.

It follows you could be smarter to check the work out at each stage to make sure it is up to standard. 

When your contractor realizes you are serious about this, they will be keen to do the work properly. That way, both sides benefit from better quality!

Critical Steps to Avoid Signs of Bad Drywall Job Later

1. Marking Out Where the Wall and Door Will Go

Most drywall boards are ½-inch thick. Mark on the floor where you want the new drywall to go, remembering to indicate where you want any door. The width of the frame should be the same as the other interior doors in your home.

  • Use an indelible felt tip pen to mark the outline of the wall on the floor tiles, laminate boards, or carpet. Purchase a roll of ½-inch duct tape if you prefer, although the contactor could disturb it and put it back in a slightly different place.
  • Pause and review your work. Hold a family meeting. Are you all sure this is where the wall should go? Will there be space inside for everything you want to include? What will the job look like from the outside?
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2. Setting Out the Job with the Contractor

The drywall contractor will mark the corresponding points where the drywall attaches to the ceiling, using a plumb line or electronic tool. 

They may suggest moving the drywall paneling slightly to align with joists above the ceiling panels.

Listen carefully to their advice. Don’t try to force the issue. You don’t want them blaming a badly-fitting job on you for ignoring their recommendation. 

It may make sense to move the wall slightly to make it easier to attach to the rafters above the ceiling.

3. Building the Wooden Frame True and Level

The contractor will start building out the frame with strips of wood. They need to take extra care with this, because this sets the stage for the rest of the job. They don’t want you refusing to sign off their drywall job because of defects arising during this phase.

  • First, they attach wooden strips through the ceiling onto joists or frames above.
  • Next, they attach similar ones on the floor, checking the two align with a plum tool.
  • Then they install the timbers between them, and the door frame if you have one.
  • Finally, they fit horizontal timber to complete the wooden framework for the wall.

This is a very important moment to look carefully for any signs of a bad drywall job developing. 

Borrow their spirit level and check the verticals and horizontals carefully. Is everything firmly attached? You can’t make changes after the gypsum boards are fixed! 

4. Early Signs of Bad Drywall Job – Cutting the Panels

There are several ways to trim a standard-size gypsum drywall panel to fit a particular space. We can’t recommend you question your contractor’s choice, rather judge the finished job!

  • They may use a utility knife to cut the board through partly, and then break it.
  • However, they may prefer one of a variety of electric saws with dust collectors.
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Cutting a board to the right size is critical. You want to see a close joint with just a narrow gap. Remember, they are going to plaster over that crack later, and gaps do widen.

5. Getting Closer to Finishing – Fixing the Panels

We recommend you step aside at this point. That’s because the panels are heavy and cumbersome to fit, and you don’t want somebody to hurt themselves accidentally. You’ll likely hear banging and hammering, and maybe even a few choice words muttered.

When silence returns, it’s time to inspect carefully before the plasterer arrives!

  • The gaps between drywall panels should not be wider than 1/8 inch, and there should not be pieces gouged out.
  • The panels should align with each other neatly on both sides. Use the contractor’s spirit level to check.
  • There should be no holes in the panels from screws in the wrong place, and wild hammer blows.
  • However, a few dents and dings are not an issue, because the plaster skimmer will cover them over.
  • Finally, are the countersunk drywall nails and screws attaching the boards to the frames neatly driven in?

If you tick all those boxes, you can give the plasterer the go-ahead. You spotted any signs of a bad drywall job during construction, and you nipped them in the bud.