Installing drywall, like any construction project, is going to be covered by local building codes. Not only that, such a vital part of your remodel or build needs to be done correctly, so what size screw should you use when attaching drywall?
The proper screw size is important to keeping your drywall secure, adhering to local building code, avoiding screw pops, and saving time and money on your construction project. Screws come in many different head styles, diameters, and materials.
These are important things to consider when buying drywall screws. Not every screw is the right attachment for your drywall project. This article will discuss the best size screws to use for every drywall project, what to look for when choosing drywall screws, and some tips on sinking your screws perfectly every time.
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The Right Screws For Drywall
What is the best, most ubiquitous screw when you’re hanging drywall? A 1 1/4-inch drywall screw.
This is the most common attachment used in professional and DIY jobs for almost all types of drywall. Generally, a drywall attachment needs to be 5/8-inch longer than the drywall thickness. For the vast majority of drywall construction projects, you’ll be using 1/2-inch drywall panels or 5/8-Inch drywall panels.
Depending on the building codes in your area, you may be required to use thicker drywall on ceilings, in garages, or anywhere that fire safety is an issue. If you do the math, you can see a 1 1/4-inch drywall screw is adequate for both 1/2-inch drywall and 5/8-inch drywall.
On the rare occasion where you are doubling up on your drywall, you’ll need longer screws. If you’re either you’re putting another layer of 1/4-inch drywall on top of existing drywall, you’re doubling 1/2-inch drywall for soundproofing, or building code allows double layers instead of 5/8th inch for fire safety – you will need longer screws. The screws have to penetrate both pieces of drywall. You’re securing the outer layer of drywall to studs, not the first layer of drywall. You can find 3/4-inch drywall, though it’s not common. For 3/4-inch drywall, use 1 1/2 inch or 1 5/8 inch drywall screws.
Longer screws will work for all sizes of drywall. However, they will not secure the sheets of drywall better, they cost more, and they take longer to screw into wall studs. It might not be a big deal if you have a small project, but when you’re using thousands of screws on a bigger job, that time and money add up. Whenever possible, buy the shortest length screw that gets the job done.
Screws come in all sorts of diameters, shapes, styles, materials, threads, and lengths. Each with a specific purpose, and not all are suitable for the very specific purpose of attaching drywall sheets to wood or metal studs. Screws labeled ‘drywall screws’ typically share these features:
The first number indicates drywall screw gauges. Screws start at #0 and go to #14. The most commonly used screw diameter for installing drywall is #6. You can use #8 screws to install drywall onto wood studs, but the larger the diameter, the harder it will be to sink and the more expensive the screws. If you already have #8 screws, you can certainly use them, but if you’re buying screws to do drywall, get #6 screws.
Screws come in different shapes depending on the application. Bugle head screws are made to create their own countersink holes and indent the surface of the drywall so you can mud and tape over it. You can use flat head screws, commonly used for woodworking, but you may find them much harder to sink to the right depth and get many ‘clickers’ – screws that are too high about the surface of the drywall. Drywall screw heads are almost always Philip’s heads.
Any raised head screw – like rounded head screws – will not work for drywall. You cannot countersink these kinds of screws into drywall. You won’t be able to mud over the drywall or finish it. Round head and flat head screws are commonly used for woodworking and generally around-the-house DIY projects.
Drywall screws are dark grey or black carbon steel screws with phosphorous coating. This helps the joint compound adhere to the screw heads. While you could use shiny metal screws, you might end up with chipping and peeling.
Depending on the kind of framing, you need different thread types. Coarse-thread drywall screws are used to attach drywall to wood framing for a good grip on wood studs, while fine-thread drywall screws are used for steel studs so they can sink into metal studs quickly. Coarse-thread screws tend to be easier to find and less expensive than fine-thread screws.
It’s not only important to get the right drywall fasteners for drywall installation but to sink them just right. If you put screws in too deep, you will rip the drywall paper. This means the screw is no longer holding its weight, and you have to add another screw. If the screws are too high, you get ‘clickers,’ so named because when you run a drywall knife, putty knife, or flat blade over the surface of your drywall, you’ll hear the blade catch and click on the screws.
Drywall Screw Gun
This is a fairly expensive, specialty tool used by drywall contractors to attach drywall very quickly and precisely. These power tools don’t work for other applications – they are for quickly sinking drywall screws to a specific length – so many casual drywall installers opt for a more economical solution. However, if you are serious about drywall and you’ve got a lot to install, you could consider investing in something like the DEWALT 20V MAX XR Drywall Screw Gun or renting a similar electric drywall screw gun at your local hardware store.
Drywall Screw Setter
A more economical way to sink screws is to buy a small attachment called a drywall screw setter or dimpler. These fit on a power drill or impact driver and stop the drill from driving the screw too deep. They come in adjustable depth like the Bosch D60498 Drywall Dimpler Screw Setter and fixed depth like this DEWALT DW2014C4 Drywall Screw Setter. Some have auto clutch release features that prevent the bit from spinning, and some of the adjustable depth screw setters allow you to change the bits out.
Fixed depth screw setters tend to last longer, but they only work for countersinking drywall screws. Not every dimpler or screw setter will work for both impact drivers AND power drills, so make sure to check the product specifics. An easy way to tell at first glance is that dimplers made to fit impact drivers are longer and have a divet on the shaft like these VEGA Phillips #2 Drywall Screw Setter 2″ Bit for small projects, and occasional drywall installation, a screw setter, and power drill or impact driver is sufficient. You won’t work as fast as someone with a drywall screw gun, and it might take some practice, but it’s the most foolproof way of properly countersinking drywall screws of all sizes.
Drywall Nails Vs. Drywall Screws
Most professionals use strictly drywall screws to attach drywall. You can use drywall nails. They will pass inspection, and nails are cheaper than drywall screws; however, it’s going to be much harder and more time-consuming to attach your drywall to walls and extremely tricky to do the ceiling. Drywall nails also do not hold as well as drywall screws. Sometimes you’ll come across a crew who uses nails to attach the drywall then fills in with screws.
It is recommended for time and quality that you use drywall screws exclusively, but if you want to use nails, it’s important to use at least 1 1/4 inch long ring shank nails. These nails have little grooves around the shank to hold onto wood tight. Something like The Hillman Group 42034 Ring Shank Drywall Nails can be used to initially secure sheetrock to the frame or for your whole project if it’s small. Only use nails when attaching sheetrock to wood studs.
Since most home DIY projects will be attaching drywall to wood studs, look for #6, 1 1/4-inch drywall screws with coarse threads. All types of drywall between 1/2 inch and 5/8 inch drywall can be secured with these screws.
If you happen to be doing metal framing, look for fine-thread screws of the same length. To attach your drywall screws, you’ll need either an electric drywall screw gun or a power drill or impact driver with a screw setter attachment to countersink the screws just right.
Take your time, always double-check building codes, and you will have a beautiful, professional-looking drywall job ready for mudding, taping, sanding, and finishing. When you’re done installing drywall, always double-check screws and look for screws that have broken through the drywall paper or that are sitting too high and fix these before you begin finishing the drywall.