I have a confession to make: I really hate hanging drywall.

That’s probably because, like many things, I thought I could do it without much instruction (Hey—it looks so simple!), and made a mess out of my first drywall job. And my second one. And… well, you get the drift.

So I’m determined to help you DIYers out there do a better job than I did in my initial attempts. Follow along with these goof-proof, klutz-tested tips, and you’ll be hangin’ like a pro in no time.

What is Drywall, Anyway?

Drywall, sometimes known as sheetrock, is basically gypsum wallboard with a paper cover. It makes smooth interior walls relatively simple—or at least much simpler than doing it the old way, which involved wood lath and an expert plasterer. If you want smooth, flat interior walls, drywall is definitely the accepted standard in modern construction.

1. Have a Helper

Round up an assistant, or rent a drywall cradle lift from your local home improvement store. Drywall sheets, typically in 4’x8’ sizes, are heavy, and hard to lift and position without a helper. Don’t try to drywall alone—it will only frustrate you, and wind up looking bad. Ask me how I know.

2. Shut Down the HVAC

Drywall work is dusty, with those irritating little gypsum particles going everywhere. Wear a good dust mask and eye protection, tape plastic sheeting over doorways and shut off the HVAC system in the house.

3. Planning Drywall Seams

Think about your seams! In the areas where one drywall panel meets another, you’ll have a seam that will need to be taped and smoothed with drywall “mud” or seam-sealing compound. If you minimize the seams you create, you’ll make your job much easier. Usually, that means hanging your drywall panels horizontally, not vertically. I know, that seems strange, but trust me—that’s how the pros do it, and it will reduce your finishing time dramatically.

4. Drywall Installation

You’re ready to install your drywall. Measure the width of your wall. If it’s less than 8 feet wide, cut the sheet of drywall a quarter-inch shorter. You and your buddy should start at the top, by positioning the drywall sheet against the ceiling, then driving 1 ¼” drywall screws into the wall studs in the middle of the drywall panel. Once you’ve driven enough screws to firmly attach the panel, work your way from the middle to the outside, driving screws every 16 inches in each of the studs.

5. Cut and Fit

If your wall is longer than 8”, cut panels to fit and attach them.

6. Doors and Windows

If your wall has a door or window, cover them with the drywall panel by using just a few screws to hold it up, then mark the cutlines on the panel. Start at the center of the opening, and cut out the hole with a drywall router or a jigsaw or hand saw. Cut toward the edges, find the studs that frame the opening, and trim the drywall panel flush.

7. Solve the Puzzle

Start putting together your drywall puzzle. Work your way down toward the floor by fitting more drywall panels—and stagger their length so the vertical seams aren’t all lined up.

8. Leave a Gap

Leave a slight gap, maybe half an inch, between the lower edge of the drywall and the floor—it’ll be covered by the baseboard molding.

9. Outlets and Switches

You’ll need to trim away drywall around electrical outlets and switches, and here’s a neat trick: just rub a little lipstick around the edges of the switch/outlet box, position your drywall piece over it and attach it with two screws. Remove those screws, take the drywall off, and voila! A perfect outline of where to cut. Use a spiral saw if you have one, but a drill to make the initial holes and a stab saw work fine, too.

10. Protect Your Corners!

One more thing—protect any outside corners with a metal corner bead. Once you’ve got it all in place, you’re ready to tape and mud, as the drywallers say.