Basement Ceiling Drywall

Basement, Blog, Home / Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

In our ongoing quest to have a finished basement, Ellie and I just reached a major milestone. The drywall in the basement has all been hung. It has been a long journey, but maybe it shouldn’t have been.

We started this whole thing on a bit of a whim back in March. A pile of drywall showed up in our driveway (after we ordered it). At that point, there were just studs on the walls in the basement. We insulated the rooms, puttered with electrical, cleaned up some mess, threw the drywall up on the walls, and made some adjustments to the HVAC. I had checked off all the things I could think of on my todo list before the ceiling could go up. It finally was time.

Ceiling drywall lift

I know my dad hung ceiling drywall a few times while I was growing up, but I don’t ever remember seeing him do it. I had no frame of reference on how it should be done and that left me in the position where I was just guessing. Did I do it right? Where do I start? There were more questions at times than there were answers. I ended up learning it as I went.

To hang the ceiling drywall, Ellie and I knew we needed to block of a weekend to get it all done at once, because we needed to rent a drywall lift. In retrospect, I wish I would have bought the used one on Craigslist for $50 and then sold it when I was done. It would have been easier to hang the drywall at a leisurely pace than having to deal with the store sending threatening emails saying they’ll charge me $650 if I don’t return the equipment I paid $12 to rent for the afternoon. We could have worked weeknights and around other things. We wouldn’t have needed to block off so much time or physically and mentally wear ourselves out in the process. But we had to.

Ceiling drywall sheet with light

Our original plan was to rent a drywall lift from the hardware store a mile away. I got up early the morning we wanted to start working and showed up at the hardware store when they opened. I went to the rental desk and was informed they no longer rented the drywall lift. A shame, because we had checked with them a couple months before and they had the lift then. The backup store to rent from was 20 minutes away. Oh well.

We got the lift home and hauled it into the basement. We ended up starting a couple hours after we wanted to start because of the snafu. Ellie and I donned our drywalling clothes and set to it. The first thing to do was clear out the basement rooms of anything that didn’t need to be there because the drywall lift had quite the footprint. Apparently, we had a lot of stuff in the rooms and we just shoved it all into the other half of the basement, willy nilly, to get it out of the way.

We started hanging drywall with an easy, full sheet in the far corner of the basement. Well, easy because there were no special cutouts, but not easy because even though we moved all stuff out of the room that we could, we still had a pile of drywall on the floor and our old couch. The drywall wasn’t going anywhere and it pinned the couch in place, with a bit of room to slide it back and forth as needed. Once we had as much out of the way as we could, we lifted the drywall up and positioned it for screwing in. And then I screwed it in place and was done with it. Really, it was easy. I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough screws holding each piece in place as we pulled the lift away but so far nothing has fallen off the ceiling.

Once we got to the areas where cuts were needed, things started to get a bit trickier. The lights we were using screwed into the existing light sockets in the ceiling, and then sat flush with the ceiling like a can light. However, the light sockets were up against the joists and that made the lights hard to hang directly below them. Also, we didn’t want to install the lights right on the edges of the drywall, so we needed to cut holes in the middle of the sheet, but still close enough to the light socket. What ended up being easiest was to roughly mark out where the light would go, hang the sheet, and then use a hole saw to make the cut once the sheet was up. I had to do a bit of scraping after cutting with the hole saw to make sure the light would have a good fit. 

For the edges of the drywall at the walls and at the sides of the HVAC, it got a bit trickier still. We needed to scribe an edge on the drywall so there would be a snug fit. However, even though I did my best to hang the case around the HVAC consistently, I’m not perfect and it made things a bit messy and not as straight as I’d like. It is only noticeable if you’re looking for an uneven edge.

Ceiling drywall done small room

The HVAC was another project in itself. It seemed like it would be the easier of things to do because it was smaller, but no, we had to fit the sheets to size and they needed to overlap here and there because the edges meandered a bit. After hanging the drywall, I had to go back with a saw to trim the overlapping parts flush. It looks okay now, but I’m hoping once it has mud and paint on it, you won’t notice.

In two places, we needed to cut holes for HVAC vents. One small round hole was in the small room and one large hole was on the bottom of the HVAC cover. Let me tell you, these were the hardest part in my opinion. We couldn’t just guess or cut the holes after we put the sheets up because it still was hard to find the right spot for the hole when that was done. Especially on the HVAC trunk, where things weren’t perfectly square, it was hard to get an accurate measurement to transfer to the sheet of drywall. We cut this piece twice because it was hard. What we ended up doing for both was to roughly mark where the hold should be, put the sheet up, and then cut out to the edges of the HVAC line. It worked, but it was tedious and messy. On a side note, who designed the vent covers? The screw holes are right on the edges of the drywall and one wrong move and the drywall is going to crumble. If you know what I’m doing wrong, I’d be happy to know so I can fix it before it’s too late (not sure if it will ever be too late). A quick search suggests I should reinforce the hole with wood to give the screws something else to attach to. I guess that will need to be done somehow with the drywall up or we’ll have to take it down to reinforce. Suggestions are welcome!

The other special case we had to work around was the laundry chute. I had installed some 2x4s as bracing and something for the drywall to attach to, but it was still a matter of cutting the pieces to the right size. We wanted to make sure the laundry bag that hangs down will still be usable like it was when we moved in.

Ceiling drywall personal protective equipment

All in all, the project ended up taking us two days of work. We might have been able to get everything done in a day if we started early and only took minimal breaks, but that isn’t how we roll. By the end of that long, hypothetical day I would have been physically and more likely mentally exhausted. It’s a lot of lifting and straining to get the drywall affixed, but the precise cuts and measurements really wore me out each day. I just wanted to sit on the couch and do nothing after that was all said and done. I’m happy those two days are behind us now. When I go in the basement, I like to turn on all the overhead lights and admire the work we did. What started out as concrete walls with some studs is now finally starting to feel like a finished room.

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