Watching a drywall finisher has taught me a lot. The art of finishing drywall definitely takes some experience to do it quickly and efficiently, but just about anyone can sculpt a masterpiece with a little time and patience. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re playing with mud:

1. A 48 lb box of mud will last about as long as a quart of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. So if you think five is enough…buy 10.

2. Avoid the all-purpose kind of mud. It sets up harder than concrete and is very difficult to sand and finish. The Topping is my first choice for everything. Lightweight is okay but it seems to have more air mixed in. This lightens it up but makes it go really fast.

3. Building up the mud in multiple thin layers helps to eliminate some sanding but doing this takes more time because you have to allow for some drying in between layers. This is a perfect strategy for beginners to work on their skills though.

4. Quick set or “Hot Mud”, the fast drying powder that comes in the sacks is mainly for professionals. Beware of its magic properties and never add it to anything you don’t plan on using right away, it will set up even when still wet. Quick set comes in 5, 20, 45 and 90 minute drying times and works great for patching holes.

5. Fill your corners with plenty of mud, especially at the elevations that can easily be bumped while moving furniture. This will reinforce the area and prevent them from being damaged easily. This technique is especially important with bullnose corners due to the way drywall needs to be installed leaving a gaps and open areas.

6. Vinyl corners seem to be easier and more forgiving to work with than metal corners. It’s possible to install them without nails. The nails tend to distort the shape and make them more difficult to finish.

7. Buy a good stainless steel pan, not the plastic one. The steel pan has no little cracks and crevices that mud will stick to while you’re putting it on the wall or ceiling. Cheaper knifes will work but having a good metal pan is very important

8. Using paper dust bags in your wet/dry vac will help contain the drywall dust that will inevitably get everywhere.

9. Buy the largest sanding sponges and cut them in half.

10. Drywall mud can be utilized as cheap and simple wood filler. Try filling in holes and large gaps with mud first, then finish it off with more expensive caulking, etc. later on.

11. Drywall mud has great bonding powers. I once covered a brick plastered wall that was beyond my skills to repair with 1/2 drywall. Simply place several globs of mud on the wall and securely place the sheet against it. When the mud dries the new sheet will be stuck for good, giving you a new fresh surface to texture without losing too much floor space.

12. The boxes of mud are the cheapest way to go. This is how you get it into the bucket without wasting any of the mud: Open the box and fold the plastic over the sides. Place on the edge of the bucket and slowly bounce it causing the material to slide out.

Add one or two cups of water and then mix it up.

13. Consider this technique when making a surface flat again to re-texture.

  1. Do long smooth rows, leaving a small gap in between them.
  2. After the rows dry, fill in the center with a smaller taping knife.
  3. Quickly sand any high spots and then smooth out any areas you missed.

14. Choose a texture that works best with a “not so” perfect subsurface. A light orange peel will require a near perfect surface before application. A hand finished “skip trowel” texture is much more forgiving with a less than perfect surface. It’s my personal favorite and easily provides a Tuscan hand finished look for the walls.


Anyone can take drywall, a few 2x4s, some screws, corners and some imagination to easily create something like this:





















Cozy,  Kevin B Harrington