Perfectly painted and finished walls require good sanding, but what grit sandpaper should you use for drywall? Whether you’re dry sanding, wet sanding, using an electric power sander, or just fixing small patches, this article will tell you how to pick the appropriate sandpaper to get your drywall project done right, and your walls prepped for painting.
Take your time, and choose the right tools and sandpaper for the job, and even beginners can achieve smooth, professional results even with inexpensive tools.
The Best Grit For Drywall
When sanding your drywall – whole room or minor drywall repairs – you should be using between 120 and 150 grit sandpaper. If you’re doing a big area, or you have a rough mud job to fix, you might be tempted to go straight to a coarser grit, like 100 or 80, but this is a bad idea and will cause you more problems in the long run. Coarse paper will easily scuff the surface of your drywall paper and over-sand joints.
If you’re wet sanding, you want to choose a medium grit or 150 grit sanding sponge. Many sanding sponges have different grits on each surface. A sanding sponge can also be used to dry sand and is good for corners if you don’t have a manual sanding block.
When using an electric power drywall sander, find sanding discs appropriate for your power tool – many kits come with the brand’s discs – and start with 150 grit sand screen and up. Electric Sanders sand much more quickly and use sanding screens instead of regular sandpaper, creating a porous barrier the drywall dust can escape through.
If you’re a beginner or want an exceptionally smooth finish to your wall surface, you can optionally go over the edges of the mudded seams with 150-grit drywall sanding paper.
How To Sand Drywall
You have your 120-grit sandpaper, but what other sanding tools will you need, and what’s the best way to begin sanding your drywall?
Related: How to clean drywall after sanding.
This method can be used on any sized project and is generally the only way you do a large project like an entire room or house. Besides sandpaper, you’ll need a sanding block and optionally a dustless sanding block or drywall pole sander. The most basic version of a sanding block has a handle and you attach pieces of sandpaper to the surface. A pole sander is a special sanding tool with a swivel head that lets you get high on walls and ceilings, and a dustless sanding block has a vacuum attachment so you can suck up dust as you’re working.
To dry sand drywall, start in the center, and using circular motions, work out towards the edge of seams. You don’t want any hard edges that will show through when painted.
Wet sanding is easier for beginners and is a suitable option for small projects. You need a sponge sander and a bucket of water. Wet sanding does not make a perfectly smooth finish – there will be small imperfections in the joint compound. It’s also more time-consuming – you’ll have to wait for your drywall joint compound to dry before applying your first drywall primer coat or paint.
To wet sand, use your damp sponge and apply light pressure as you work in a circular motion down the center of seams, making sure to rinse and wring out your wet sponge as you go.
Using A Power Sander
These power tools are within reach of most DIYers. You can find a decent sander for a little over $100. If it’s your first time using a power sander, you may want to find a discreet area, or a leftover piece of drywall and apply some drywall mud to practice. There is a learning curve to electric drywall sanding, but once you get the hang of it, you can blow through whole rooms with ease.
Start in the center and slowly feathering your joint compound towards the center of the sheets of drywall. Power Drywall Sanders can still mar your drywall surface. Even if you get a power sander, you’ll still need a block sander or sponge for corners and minor drywall repair.
Related: Best power sander for drywall.
Drywall Sanding Tips
Professionals can make sanding look really easy, but there is some learning involved. Here are some tips to help you get that contractor-level look, minimize cleanup and stay safe while you’re working.
Wear a dust mask. Especially if you’re dry sanding, you will kick up a lot of dust. Drywall compound contains silica, which is dangerous, and drywall dust can irritate the eyes and lungs. Be safe – always gear up.
Don’t sand gouges and deep scratches. It may be tempting to try to buff out big scratching in drywall compound, but you risk over-sanding and damaging the paper. It’s easier all around to put on another layer of compound.
Don’t use a drywall sanding screen. Drywall sanding screens are not ideal for manual sanders. They will easily scratch your unfinished drywall. Opt for garnet or aluminum-oxide sandpaper.
Get your mudding right. The biggest key to a perfect sanding job is to do a good job mudding and taping your seams, to begin with. Check seams with a putty knife or straight edge held perpendicular to the joint. If you can see light coming through, you need to fill the depression with more mud. You’ll avoid taking off too much compound and fuzzing your drywall during sanding. Always feather the compound, and don’t leave hard edges.
Use the right joint compound. All-purpose joint compound is harder to sand than a light compound. All-purpose is good for the first couple coats of mud, but finishing with a light compound or easy-sand compound will make it much simpler to get a smooth, even finish.
Whatever method you choose for sanding your next drywall project, there is an appropriate grit drywall sandpaper. Don’t get in a hurry and go too coarse – start with a 120-grit sandpaper when you’re dry sanding manually or medium grit sanding sponge if you’re wet sanding. Power sanders take a finer grit sanding screen, because of their power, so choose accordingly.
Before you start sanding, check your seam. Are they feathered around the edges? Do you have any high or low seams that require more compound? Go slow and choose the right tools, and you’ll have a beautiful, smooth wall ready for your next step.
Related: Can you drywall without sanding?