Q: I built a new room in my basement and am planning to hang the dry wall myself. Which type of dry wall mud should I use?
Greg Jefferson, Johnston, Rhode Island
A: Hanging and finishing dry wall is a skill that takes years to master. If you ask three experienced dry wall contractors what the best method is, you’ll likely get three different answers. A lot of the reasoning behind their methods and material choices is based on efficiency. Fortunately, you don’t have to concern yourself with getting to the next job as quickly as possible; you can keep it simple and limit your choices to premixed compounds labeled “all-purpose.” These varieties eliminate any chance of incorrect mixing, are designed to work well for all coats, won’t shrink much and can be sanded easily.
You can choose standard or light weight all purpose compounds. The light weight version is a little stiffer, is less likely to sag and sands easily, but it is not as hard as standard compound after it dries. For that reason, I prefer to use standard compound for the first coat and for taping and then switch to a light weight compound with a dust control additive for the final coats. This type contains ingredients that bind the fine dust together when you sand so particles are more likely to fall to the ground rather than floating in the air, making for easier cleanup.
Plan to apply one coat of compound a day. All purpose compounds typically take at least 24 hours to dry. If you’re impatient, you might be tempted by the “fast-drying” claims on some of the dry mix packages. Don’t confuse these products with all purpose compounds; they are quick dry setting compounds, often called “hot mud.” Setting compounds contain different ingredients that make them harder after they dry than all purpose compounds. They also can contain chemicals that make them dry fast enough for same day finishing.
Pros like setting compounds because multiple coats can be applied in one day. Setting compounds are a good DIY choice for patching plaster and filling larger holes, but they’re not the best choice for a whole room DIY dry wall job because they dry so quickly that you have little working time and they are difficult to sand.