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How to Tape and Apply Joint Compound to Drywall

Dan is a licensed electrician and has been a homeowner for 40 years. He has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks.

Correctly installed drywall, ready for the mud.

Correctly installed drywall, ready for the mud.

Taping and Applying Joint Compound to Drywall

For most homeowners, there is no more dreaded job than finishing or applying tape and joint compound to drywall, but it doesn't have to be that way. With a little time and effort, the average homeowner who is reasonably handy around the home can successfully do the finish work prior to painting. Finishing drywall is an art that takes years to master, so although you may never become that proficient, you can do a good job that you will be pleased with.

  1. Prep the wall.
  2. Apply at least three layers: tape with compound, a block coat, and a skim coat.
  3. Let the wall dry completely and sand before applying the next layer.
  4. Paint the wall.

Each of these steps is described in detail below, with photos and videos to guide you.

How long will it take?

Be prepared to spend time on this job. I have seen a professional apply drywall tape and joint compound to an entire three-bedroom apartment in less than 2 hours, but the average homeowner should expect to spend about 2 hours on a single room.

In addition, tape is normally applied the first day; then, on the second and third days, you will apply joint compound again over all the joints and nails.

An all purpose drywall mud, along with two common types of drywall tape

An all purpose drywall mud, along with two common types of drywall tape

Tools and Supplies You'll Need for Applying Joint Compound

You will, of course, need joint compound and drywall tape.

What kind of joint compound do you need?

Joint compound comes in two "flavors"; hot mud and pre-mixed.

  • Hot mud is primarily used for patching small areas, filling holes, and very quick work as it is plaster based and sets up quickly. Speed Set or Quick Set are trade names for this type of joint compound.
  • Most work is done using normal pre-mixed joint compound, and for the most part an all purpose formulation is more than adequate. Both "taping" and "topping" formulations are available, but I do not recommend them for the homeowner as they are different to work with and have a different feel—stick to one formulation so that you can become more familiar with it.

What kind of tape do you need?

Drywall tape also comes in two styles; a fiberglass mesh with glue on one side and a paper tape with no glue. Both will do the job quite well, but the fiberglass mesh is a little easier to use. It is also considerably more expensive, so larger jobs usually use the paper type.

Common tools for drywall work.

Common tools for drywall work.

Tools for Drywall Work

Several tools are necessary to apply joint compound or tape to drywall. You will need...

  • 4" or 5" drywall knife.
  • 8" - 12" knife.
  • Corner knife.
  • Hammer or screwgun (a cordless drill is perfect here).
  • Drywall pan is well worth the cost; for the average homeowner a plastic one is much cheaper than stainless steel and works as well.
  • Sandpaper will be used, in 100 or 150 grit, and a small sanding block is handy.
  • A razor knife or box cutter can be useful.
  • if your project is over finished flooring, some kind of floor covering is absolutely necessary; applying joint compound is messy and you will drop more than a little.
A special knife for corners.

A special knife for corners.

Prep the Wall First

It cannot emphasize enough that preparation is necessary before you begin to apply tape and joint compound. Your finished job will not only depend on this, but so will the amount of time and work needed as you proceed. Take a few minutes to check out the installation of the drywall, correcting minor problems as you discover them, and you will find that the job will be much faster and easier with better results.

How to Prep the Surface

  • Check for protruding nails and/or screws. Nails and screws should be driven just slightly under the surface of the drywall, but not so much that they break the paper surface. Any protrusions will make a smooth surface impossible to achieve. Loose nails may be driven the proper depth but a twisted or deformed stud can still allow the drywall to move in and out as it does not actually contact the twisted stud. If this happens the nail will eventually "pop" through the joint compound so make sure the drywall is firmly attached to the studding behind it. A second nail is often placed about 2" from the first to firmly fasten the drywall.
  • Check the seams. Drywall that has been crushed into an adjacent piece is not acceptable and must be either replaced (preferable) or at least the crushed protruding area trimmed off. Again, any protrusions will result in an unsatisfactory job.
  • Look for gaps. Gaps between pieces of drywall need to be filled if large. When applying joint compound, the compound will fill a small gap of perhaps 1/8" without trouble, but larger gaps will result in delayed shrinkage and a depression or cracking down the road. Apply a setting type of joint compound to fill gaps; large holes must be filled with additional drywall. Do not try to fill a two or three inch hole with joint compound of any type. Make sure the joint compound is not only set hard but dry before continuing.
  • Clean. Walls should be reasonably clean before proceeding. Large amounts of dust, sawdust, or other materials will result in a lumpy wall and difficult application of joint compound. It is not necessary to vacuum or brush the entire wall, but heavy accumulations should be removed.
  • Cover floors. As noted above, finished flooring needs to be covered; you absolutely will drip joint compound and while it is water soluble and not difficult to remove, you will probably drip a lot of it. Do not try to pick up and re-use such drippings as they will always contain foreign material that will show up on the finished wall. Just dispose of it.

Poor Drywall Installation

This gap must be filled with a setting type of joint compound

This gap must be filled with a setting type of joint compound

Correctly installed drywall.

Correctly installed drywall.

How to Apply the Tape and Joint Compound

After you've thoroughly prepped the wall, you're ready to start applying the tape and joint compound to your drywall.

First, open the joint compound and, if separated with liquid on top, mix it just enough to mix in any liquid. Do not discard the liquid; it is not simply water, but part of the joint compound. For taping the walls it should be used as received without any dilution as any water addition also dilutes the glue and bonding ability of the joint compound. It is preferable to mix lightly even if there is no separation; mixing changes the consistency somewhat and will make it easier to handle on a knife.

There are three types of joints to have tape and joint compound applied over them: flat, butt, and corner joints.

  • Flat joints are those that have the wrapped, tapered edge of the drywall meeting another tapered edge.
  • Butt joints are those that have cut edges of drywall meeting each other. (A tapered edge meeting a cut edge is unacceptable as it is not possible to finish it correctly).
  • Corner joints are those that are in a corner, such as two walls meeting or the wall and ceiling.
  • Flat joints are expected to be flat when finished as you will apply joint compound to fill in the taper in the drywall. Butt and corner joints will not be flat; a slight crown is inevitable as you apply joint compound over an already flat surface. Here, the goal is to cover the joint while maintaining the minimum crown effect.

Appearance will be greatly improved if the compound is spread over a wider area; the inevitable crown is not nearly as noticeable that way.

The Art of Applying the Joint Compound

There is an art to applying joint compound and now is the time to begin learning.

  1. When you begin to apply joint compound, load your knife with about 1/4 of what it could hold and, holding the knife nearly vertical to the wall move the knife across the wall.
  2. As you continue the stroke, slowly flatten the knife towards the wall, providing more joint compound to the wall.
  3. When smoothing joint compound already on the wall, keep the knife at around a 45 degree angle to the wall. The more vertical it is, the fewer air pockets will be produced and the smoother the surface, but also the more gouges you will produce with very small movements and changes in the knife. An intermediate approach at perhaps 45 degrees will work the best in the most circumstances.

If you have never tried to apply joint compound, a little practice with a piece of scrap drywall to learn how to handle the knife and how much pressure produces a layer of mud would be advantageous, but you can also learn while applying the drywall tape.

Use the Proper Size Knife

TaskKnife Size

Tape, cover nails or screws


Block Coat


Final, Skim Coat


The straight edge shows the taper on the finished edge of the drywall.

The straight edge shows the taper on the finished edge of the drywall.

Applying the Tape

The mud is ready for the paper tape here - note the depth on the penny.

The mud is ready for the paper tape here - note the depth on the penny.

Taping: The First Layer

If using a fiberglass mesh tape, stick the tape to the drywall down the center of the joint, and apply joint compound over it with a four or five inch knife. This layer of joint compound should be pressed firmly onto the tape, but not so hard as to leave the tape exposed. The objective is to fill the holes in the mesh tape as much as possible while still covering the tape completely. Do not, however, cover the tape with a thick layer of joint compound; just the minimum to cover the tape. Small patches of tape that are still exposed will cover with succeeding coats. It can be difficult to cover both sides of a corner joint at one time as the knife tends to scrape off the material on one wall while smoothing the joint compound on the other wall. If necessary, this step can be done on separate days, doing one side on one day and the other on the next day after the first side as dried.

If using paper tape, apply a thin layer of joint compound to the wall (see picture for how much) and gently press the tape into it using only enough pressure so that it stays on the wall without holding it. The tape is slightly rougher on one side than the other and you must make sure the correct side is to the wall. The side to be applied to the wall is the outside of the roll, but can also be found by grasping the tape on each side and gently bending it. It will easily bend only one way, making a V of the tape; that V is to fit into a corner joint and will tell you which side is to lay on the wall. Once the tape is on the wall, it is pressed into the tape with the knife, once again with just enough pressure to firmly embed it into the applied joint compound but not so hard as to squeeze all the joint compound out from under the tape. There should still be a definite taper on the flat joints after this process; you have another two coats to apply before the surface is to be flat. Applied joint compound that has squeezed out from under the tape is scraped off using the same knife and can be reused unless it has picked up trash from the wall. Corner joints to be taped with paper tape must have both sides done at once, and a corner knife is a very useful tool to have for that purpose. It is set with the angle at a little over the normal 90 degree wall angle so that when pressure is applied it is still just slightly over 90 degrees; this produces a layer of applied joint compound that thins as it gets further from the center of the joint.

Normally at this time the nails or screws are covered. Apply a small amount of compound over the screw and, wiping at right angles to the application stroke, remove the excess. You should be left with a screw sized shallow hole filled with joint compound. Often times an entire row of screws are cover with one stroke, then the excess removed from each one individually or in one additional stroke. Carry a hammer or screwdriver and set any nails or screws that you can feel the knife go over.

Be very careful to remove all the excess, whether it be a small ridge in the applied joint compound or a little nubbin of compound left where it shouldn't be. If you don't get it now you will have to sand it out before the next application of joint compound or it will leave an uneven surface.

Video Tutorial

How Long Should You Wait Between Coats?

  • Each coat must be allowed to dry completely before succeeding coats may be applied.
  • Room temperature is good for this and individual coats should dry in about a day, but colder temperatures or high humidity can increase the time to as much as a month in very unusual circumstances.
  • Incomplete drying can cause delayed shrinkage; pre-mixed joint compound will shrink as it dries and if a second coat is put over a layer of compound that is still damp under the surface that first coat will shrink later, causing the second coat to shrink or crack.

Apply the Second, Block Coat of Joint Compound

  • Before applying the second coat of joint compound, make a quick look-over of your tape coat and repair or sand away any protrusions from the surface.
  • It is common, though not recommended, to thin the joint compound slightly (one pint of water per 5 gallons of joint compound) for the second and third coats. It is easier to pull under the knife and makes fewer air pockets, but also falls off both the knife and wall easier. For a beginner doing only a room or so, the recommendation is that it not be thinned.
  • The object of the second, or block, coat is to remove any imperfections (there will be many) in the tape coat and to extend the width of the applied joint compound. The three types of joints are treated somewhat differently, although all with the eight or ten inch knife.
  • The flat joint will need one pass with the knife to apply the joint compound followed by one or two more to smooth the compound, remove air pockets, clean up the edges, etc. You will be left with a joint around 10 inches wide.
  • The butt joint will need two passes to apply the joint compound. As the center of the joint is already crowned slightly from the tape you must apply joint compound to each side of the crown, to about six or eight inches out on each side. Each side will then need one or two more passes to smooth it, followed by a pass or two down the center to remove the ridge that has been left there.
  • Corner joints are best done over two days for the beginner. It is very difficult to apply joint compound to one side of the corner and then the other side without disturbing the first side, although the corner knife may be used again for the block coat.
  • In all cases, the block coat is applied quite thin - 1/16" is too heavy and will probably need sanding, especially on butt joints. The block coat needs to be done as neatly as possible - you are approaching the finished product. Any imperfection at all will show up in the final, skim, coat; it is not uncommon to lightly sand the block coat after it is dried to make a superior job. This is also the time to apply joint compound a second time to the nails and screws, using the same method you did for the first coat.

As textured ceilings and walls have become more and more common the block coat has often become the final coat, needing only sanding, texturing and paint for a complete project. It results in cost savings for the professional and usually has a smaller crown on the butt joints. If you decide to take this route, however, be aware that it becomes even more imperative that a very good block coat be applied with an absolute minimum of imperfections, and this is difficult for most homeowners. A skim coat is recommended even when anything but the heaviest texture is to be used.

Block coat has been applied thin enough the tape can be discerned in places.

Block coat has been applied thin enough the tape can be discerned in places.

Apply the Third, Skim Coat of Joint Compound

After drying the block coat, you are ready to apply the final, skim, coat of joint compound. This is the last chance you will have to produce a perfect job, so make the best of it and check carefully for any imperfections in the block coat.

  • Remove all protrusions and any trash that has made its way into your work. A light sanding is recommended, but may not be necessary depending on the quality of what you have accomplished so far.
  • The skim coat should be at least eighteen inches wide over both flat and butt joints, and at least a foot each way on the corners. This time, each type of joint will get a full knife width on each side with a final pass again in the center to remove the inevitable ridge. Take a great deal of care to produce a flawless surface, without ridges, air pockets, or grooves from trash in the mud or on the knife. You will sand this coat when finished, but it will pay large dividends to take extra time during the application to produce as flawless a surface as possible.
  • The skim coat is quite thin, just enough to cover what is there and make a minimum depth coat further out. This does not mean that you will see drywall through a wafer thin coat of joint compound; there must be something there or you may as well not do it at all!
  • The skim coat process is again the time for a final coat on nails and screws. One last time use the same procedure as you have already used twice and cover nails and screws.
  • After the skim coat has dried it will need sanding, either with sandpaper or a damp sponge. Sandpaper makes a much bigger mess with dust everywhere, but wet sponging is more difficult to get a good job with. Most people prefer sandpaper, around 100-150 grit. Either way, try not to scuff the paper on the drywall - roughened paper will flash through paint and show up in splotches on the finished surface. A little paint and your home improvement project is complete. Not as hard as you thought!

A final thought about sanding: I once had a neighbor that begged some joint compound from me (I was the quality supervisor at a joint compound manufacturing plant for 22 years) to finish his basement, but did not ask for advice or help. He ended up sanding off nearly an inch of joint compound, using a belt sander to do it, and nearly destroying the drywall underneath. His whole house was a fog of dust for a week. Don't make that mistake. Yes you will sand it, but only minimally. Make each coat as near to a finished product as possible, given what you are trying to accomplish with that coat. You may get tired of working on it, but you will be happy you did in the long run.

Finished skim coat

Finished skim coat

Skimming a block coat

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2010 Dan Harmon


Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on October 16, 2019:


If there are large gaps between pieces of drywall (1/4" or larger) they should be filled. The preferred method is a quick set type of material as it has very little or no shrinkage. This is a powder that is mixed with water, and sets up rather than simply drying out - it is a plaster based compound. It must be not only set up but dry before going over it - don't cover it just because it is hard. Let it dry before covering with regular drywall mud. When up apply it, don't let it protrude beyond the surface of the drywall or it will need sanded off before taping.

Scott Martinez on October 16, 2019:

Hi, thank you for sharing this article on your blog. But, there is some question in my head that I need an answer. Like, How do you fill gaps before drywall taping? Thank you in advance if you answer my question.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 17, 2018:

My mothers home, a 7 bedroom monstrosity with a full basement, was built in the very early 1900's - around 1905 or some such. It had at least one outlet in every room and sometimes even 2 in the larger rooms! Her light switches were two pushbuttons in a single plate and the entire house had a 60 amp main breaker (200 is the norm now, for a much smaller home). When I added a range for a basement renter I disabled the oven so he couldn't blow the main fuse every time they were both cooking. It was wired with knob and tube wiring, run all over the basement "ceiling"; you could reach up and touch bare wires where the old cloth insulation had deteriorated and fallen off.

But I do remember those thingies to screw into a light socket and plug a cord into while still running the light - had to be careful that the cord didn't rest on the hot light bulb. And I remember as a young teen putting a penny behind a screw in fuse; it blew up the street transformer and the power company had to replace it!

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on February 17, 2018:

The house I live in was built in the thirties and was then only wired for lighting, probably because appliances were few and far between. (Electric kettles were probably one of the first, meaning that a stove didn't have to be lit to boil water!) So outlets got added over the years with unsightly surface wiring run in conduit or trunking. Because of the non-existence of socket outlets, it was commonplace in the past for an adaptor to be screwed into light fittings that added a secondary lighting outlet to the fitting. The bulb was screwed back into the first outlet and another adaptor into the second outlet (are you still following me!?). This adaptor had a BC fitting on one end and the other end was a socket. So suddenly the light fitting became a socket for running the "wireless" or ironing. Probably reasonably safe for the wireless unless you touched the earth at the back, but definitely not safe for ironing in the days before GFCIs. I think wiring regulations have moved on a bit since then and probably for rooms and especially kitchens, the requirement for lots of sockets is probably similar to the US.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 17, 2018:

LOL "Modern houses have a double wall of 4" thick concrete blocks...". Not in the US, they don't! The closest we come to that is a stud wall covered with a thin layer in plaster and even that's rare today.

We visited Scotland a couple years ago and it really was interesting seeing the differences. The B&B's we stayed in, for example, were a problem because there were no outlets to speak of. The US requires an outlet every 12' in a residence - you're never more than 6' from one, but those B&B's were lucky to have 2 in a room.

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on February 17, 2018:

The slabs I'm using have a foil moisture barrier at the back covered with corrugated paper for protection, plus a foil layer between the drywall and insulation (which I think is some form of expanded polyurethane). As regards solid concrete walls, yes they are a pain. Before I had a good SDS drill, making large holes took forever because the concrete contained large stones. Modern houses however are built using a double wall of 4 inch thick concrete blocks with a 3 inch cavity in-between which is filled with insulating slabs.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 17, 2018:

No, we don't put drywall on masonry much. Below ground there is always the dampness to consider (which will degrade drywall) and above ground we put in either steel or wood studs, likely to provide for utilities. In addition, few homes are built of masonry, just commercial buildings, and they don't tend to last long before being remodeled. It's tough to add outlets, water or data lines into a masonry wall!

It's always interesting to see different construction techniques and materials in differing countries and cultures.

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on February 17, 2018:

"Mushroom" fixings (not sure if there's a proper name for them) are metal wedge type fixings for attaching drywall/insulation slabs to masonry walls. You drill an 8mm hole through board and slab and hammer them home. Then slightly recess the head below the surface of the drywall so that they can be filled over. Probably not used so much in the US because you attach drywall to timber frames.

Anyway as regards filling over the heads, that's a good tip to keep the knife more vertical than flat to stop it flexing.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 17, 2018:

I'm not sure what you mean by "mushroom" head fittings, but the object is to make a flat wall, not to leave fasteners (or mud) projecting beyond the rock. That being said, excessive sanding of the paper on the wallboard will scuff it, and that WILL be visible.

Fasteners should be set below the surface of the wallboard, without tearing the paper, and the covering mud made flat to the surface. Ideally, only the "dimple" made in the board should be filled, although there will always be a tiny amount of mud outside that dimple - apply some mud to the dimple and then wipe it all back off with the knife held more vertical than flat. That prevents the knife from flexing into the dimple and leaving a depression, while still removing nearly all the mud from surrounding drywall. The only reason to recoat fastener dimples is because the mud will shrink somewhat, leaving a smaller dimple that once more needs filled - eventually the amount of mud and shrinkage becomes so small that it can no longer be detected.

When finished mudding fasteners, any sanding should be very minimal in order not to scuff the paper.

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on February 17, 2018:

Thanks! I've been looking at some YouTube videos and some plasterers us a float and hawk to apply second and third coats rather than a wide knife. So I may try that on an inconspicuous joint and if it doesn't work out to well, I'll invest in a wider knife.

As regards filling over the heads of fixings (I'm using "mushroom" head type wedge fixings because I'm fixing directly to cavity (cinder) blocks), when you fill holes, do you sand as much as possible of the filling compound when it dries, back down to the paper on the drywall and right up to the perimeter of the holes, or just feather the edges? Is it better to scrape as much as possible off the drywall when filling and just leave the hole filled with no spread beyond the perimeter?

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 17, 2018:

Hi Eugene:

I've seen professionals use just two coats on a smooth wall, but only once, and they did not find that it worked well. It's not a matter of the job requiring three coats for some mechanical reason; it is purely aesthetic. Can you get the joints flat is all that matters.

I just did a partial bathroom remodel with only two 6" long butt joints (no taper) and it worked fine with two coats...but I also textured the wall with a spray on texture. In such cases, it is common to use only two coats as the texture hides a lot of imperfections even on the butt joints.

If you used that 6" knife to produce a 12" wide joint, and have no butt joints - they're all tapered - it is quite possible to get a smooth finished product with two coats. I would suggest using a straight edge to make sure it is actually flat.

But do be aware that even though you did the "torch test" it is not the same as tangential lighting from a large window on a large wall. If the joints are horizontal you will have a much better chance of making it work but even the "flat" joints (tapered edges) are likely to be visible if they are vertical. The inexperienced homeowner can do this if they use great care but putting mud on a wall is an art, not a purely mechanical task, and getting a really flat wall is not easy. Using only two coats will make it much harder as a key is to extend that joint very wide.

Good luck!

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on February 17, 2018:

Hi Dan,

I'm doing this at the moment with insulated drywall sheets. Almost all the joints are between tapered, finished edges and I'm using the mesh, fibreglass adhesive tape.

Is there any reason why I can't just use two coats of mud, the first to cover the tape and then a finishing coat? I've done this with one joint and then did the "torch test". Shone the light at an acute angle from the side and there aren't any shadows so the surface seems to be free of ridges and furrows. I used a 6 inch knife for the second coat.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on November 08, 2015:

My only thoughts are that either it isn't actually smooth and level (try a straight edge over it) or that it isn't actually dry. It may feel dry, but that doesn't mean that anything but the surface IS, and that would result in delayed shrinkage later on. It would be unusual over screws, but it is possible, and it can take weeks for mud to dry completely in high humidity coupled with low temperatures.

It is also possible that the difference in surface texture between mud and wallboard is making it look like a depression when it really isn't. Again, check with a straight edge. Gloss paints may make this problem stand out more than usual.

AnnaJean100 on November 08, 2015:

We are having trouble with small depressions over the screws. We used three or 4 coats, the last one topping compound. The wall is perfectly smooth over the screws, by touch and by a flashlight at an steep angle. When primer sealer is applied it looks great until it drys, when the dimple appears. We have tried several brands of primer sealer. We refill and sand the holes and paint again - same thing, although a little less. Everything is allowed to dry thoroughly between coats and excess dust removed. any ideas?

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on May 27, 2014:

In my experience it is very difficult to get as smooth a surface with a damp sponge, plus the sponge needs constant cleaning. This is bound to add to the time and time is money. Most good applicators need very little cleanup behind them anyway, so clean up is minimal.

TheHumanSponge on May 24, 2014:


First, thank you for writing such a powerful post. Second, why do many drywall workers frown on the idea of using a sponge to wet sand the drywall; after all, does not this dramatically reduce cleanup?



Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on April 02, 2014:

Not only does a tight grip give poor control but it is also very tiring.

Thank you for the compliment. It is my hope that it will help people.

Brian on April 02, 2014:

@wilderness, Aye, there is certainly room for personal comfort and preference. I use two fingers myself sometimes, especially with wide knives when I have to skim whole walls. Key point is that a hammer-like grip, wrapping all four fingers around the handle, will never give precise control, especially over pressure.

Thank you for a great article, by the way. I forgot to specifically thank you for it in my first comment.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on April 02, 2014:

Good tips - thank you! All I can add is that many people (including myself) often use two fingers on the blade instead of just one. It doesn't really matter and seems more personal preference than anything.

Brian on April 02, 2014:

I would note a couple extremely basic things that may help someone. First, any decent quality straight knives are actually curved just slightly. The convex side of the curve should always be the side pressed against the wall. This will help immensely in achieving a smooth finish, especially when skimming. Second, the knife should be held with the index finger on the metal part of the blade, and the other fingers gripping the handle. This grip will provide maximum control over pressure and angle of the blade. And lastly, the most common mistake of a new finisher is to have a dirty knife. Of course, your knife will never be perfectly clean while using it, but one of the major uses of the pan is to regularly wipe the knife, both front and back. Look for it in the above video, and you'll be surprised to notice he cleans his knife on the pan after almost every single stroke. This will prevent build up of dry mud, which eventually cause lumps, and having a clean edge also results in a smoother finish. Hope this helps someone.

John-Rose from USA on October 28, 2012:

@Wilderness I keep telling myself that, but my hands wont listen and the coats always end up thick. I'll get it down eventually. Until then, there will always be a nice pile to sweep,mop, or vacuum up and fine film of dust throughout the house whenever it drywall time.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on October 28, 2012:

You're more than welcome, John. The key here is to put only what mud is needed; not to make extra thick coats that then need excessive sanding.

John-Rose from USA on October 28, 2012:

Wilderness, I got the chills reading this article. I don't mind taping and mudding drywall, but I hate sanding it. My wife would not hesitate to agree there. Thanks for the hub. I'll definitely be using it as a refrence down the road. ~ John

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on October 01, 2012:

Thank you Chris. I remember my first attempts and the problems I had. Common mistakes that most people make and that I addressed here. For the most part I try to write for the homeowner, not the professional (who already knows what (s)he is doing and doesn't need my help). I hope your project goes well this time.

chris wright on September 30, 2012:

I've looked at a lot of websites and video clips that show you how to tape and mud sheet-rock. This one is exceptionally written: the writer has the learner in mind at all times. I've been doing a lousy job of mudding for decades and never learned from anyone who was very good. I feel like I have a good guide and am looking forward to using this info next week. Thanks a lot.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on June 05, 2012:

@wildbillnj: It will actually take quite a bit of scuffing before the paper is really damaged to the point it will flash through the paint. If it is, though, you can simply add a very thing coat of mud over the area and sand it smooth. Some jobs require that the entire wall be skim coated to produce the best possible finish, so spreading the skim coat out some won't hurt a thing.

I would not sponge the dust off at all. A vacuum will do much better if you have large quantities of dust still on the wall, but a small handbroom will do the job as well. Small amounts of dust left are normal and nothing to be concerned about.

wildbillnj on June 05, 2012:

Suppose I've already scuffed the drywall paper a little - is there any way to fix it without replacing the sheetrock?

And I think the last answer didn't quite address the question. The question wasn't whether to sponge *instead* of sanding. It was whether to sponge the dust off the wall *after* sanding. I'd also like to know what the expert recommendation is on that topic.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on March 09, 2012:

A wet sponge is often recommended because it doesn't create dust to breathe in. No one I've ever seen likes it, though - it is very difficult to get a job that equals sanding.

If you're painting with a high gloss paint on a wall without texture you might consider vacuuming the wall or simply wiping it down with a rag or towel. Normally the dust does not create a problem, but if you've done a lot of sanding it CAN show up as a "pebbly" surface after painting. Normally there are at least two coats of paint applied (counting primer) and often three; it would be unusual to have a little dust show through that much paint.

sonfollowers from Alpharetta, GA on March 09, 2012:

Good stuff. After you've sanded, should anything be done to get the remaining dust off of the wall before you paint? I'm not sure if a wet sponge is a reasonable idea or not.

Great hub. Very well written.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 07, 2012:

Sorry, John, but I am not paid by anyone to push the hiring of professionals; rather I try to teach people how to do the work themselves.

While I was the quality super at a plant making mud for 22 years, I left that occupation a decade ago and have no contact with anyone in the field.

Yes, I pointed out that the homeowner will never have the years of experience to keep up with a professional that can tape an entire home in a couple of hours. I also very plainly stated that a homeowner willing to put some time into it can produce a completely satisfactory job.

John on January 07, 2012:

I like how these types of articles, which are obviously written by someone who gets paid to do this job, give you hints on how to do the job but try to scare you in the first paragraph or two into thinking that you can't do this job like an experienced professional. This is a subtle trick to get people to call a professional and pay big bucks for something that you can readily do yourself. The truth is that drywall mudding/taping is not that difficult. By educating yourself a bit with a good drywall book (check your local library) you CAN, contrary to what this article states, make your job look just as good as a professional's.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on September 29, 2011:

Thank you. Yes, applying joint compound is worth doing right the first time. The savings in time and effort are enormous if you don't have to correct and fix the previous days work!

preservemypics on September 26, 2011:

Very thorough and well written. Thanks for the info. I learned the hard way at my old house about taping the joint. Every crack or joint I filled with spackle cracked right back open. It is worth doing it right the first time.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on August 21, 2010:

While I've worked with people using Ames tools, I've never personally used them - none of my home jobs were worth the effort to try to learn how. I've seen newbie applicators using the taping tool, however, and it doesn't look easy to learn.

I've always just stuck with the hand tools for my home repair or inprovement jobs and think most homeowners should do the same. Even if an entire house was to be taped and finished I doubt it would be worth the effort to learn how to use the automatic tools - A skilled experienced taper can tape and apply joint compound to the drywall in a 3 bedroom house in just 2 or 3 hours by hand. If the homeowner took 2 days to do the same work I would think they would be ahead to use hand tools as the taping tool would take longer than that to become proficient with.

SEOshortcuts from San Francisco CA on August 21, 2010:

As a former jack of all trades (I just identified myself as a former electrician on another of your hubs - I've done it all!) I must say this is the most technical treatment of the subject I've read.

Very well done, all told.

I usually kept mudding until it was perfect, in my eyes anyway - and with the new automatic taping tools available for rent - it's messy - BUT well worth the very low cost to rent.

Makes a lot of this go by in a snap.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on July 13, 2010:

On a "pint"? Not sure what you mean, but all joints do need the tape for a little extra strength.

Thanks for the comment, and I'm glad the hub was of some value to you.

Stacie L on July 13, 2010:

this is well written.

i didn't use Spackle tape on a pint and now it's "moving".

I will do it over.