Taping and mudding drywall seams can make the most confident of contractors sweat, but don't lose your cool just yet. Getting the perfect finish takes just a little work and some strategic thinking.
Use the Correct Tools
Like any job, having the right tools and materials is key to getting those invisible drywall seams your clients expect. A premixed all-purpose joint compound holds the tape securely to form strong joints that last. Paper joint tape gives you the strongest joints, but mesh joint tape is another option. Additional supplies you need include a sanding block, flexible drywall taping knives and a joint compound pan. Have 6- and 10-inch knives on hand as well.
Taping the Joints
Installing drywall with as few butt joints as possible makes invisible seams more attainable. Butt joints occur on the ends of drywall sheets that aren't tapered, creating the potential for a bump along the seam.
When you have butt seams, apply the compound in a thin layer, and fan out the joint compound to help the area blend in with the wall.
Stir the joint compound to make it consistent and easier to work with, even if you use a premixed compound. Load a 6-inch drywall taping knife with the joint compound, and pull it along the seam while holding the knife at an angle.
Your goal is to fill the seam and leave behind a thin layer of compound to hold the tape in place. A thick layer often makes the tape uneven, whereas a thin layer with dry patches doesn't hold the tape well.
Align your paper tape over the center of the seam, pressing it into place without applying too much pressure. Then, embed the tape by running your drywall taping knife over it to smooth the tape. As you pull the knife along, a thin layer of compound covers the tape to hold it in place. You want the compound and tape as smooth as possible. Scrape away any excess compound that squeezes out of the tape, and let the compound dry.
Adding the Filler Coat
The filler coat comes next and helps build up the joint, particularly on joints where the tapered edges meet. Smooth on a layer of compound in a consistent thickness, holding your 10-inch knife at an angle as you go. Now, go back over the compound with a trowel to smooth out the layer.
Create a tapered edge, also called "feathering," by running the knife over the seam while only putting pressure at the top. Repeat along the bottom edge to feather it, focusing pressure on the bottom edge of the knife. This helps the compound blend in with the rest of the drywall. Now, run the trowel along the middle section at an angle to smooth out the compound.
This can take several passes to create a smooth look that disappears into the drywall. After the compound dries; sand any rough patches or imperfections to get a smooth finish.
Finishing the Joint
Once the filler coat dries, repeat the process for one final finish coat at 12 inches wide. Ensure the coat is thin and smooth and blends in with the wall to make the joints disappear. Sand any imperfections with your sanding block.
A smooth compound and bubble-free tape give you the invisible seams you strive for in your professional drywalling work. A little practice is all you need to prevent your clients from seeing where the pieces of drywall join up.