Introduction: How to Hang Drywall Ceilings by Yourself

Picture of How to Hang Drywall Ceilings by Yourself

Have you struggled hanging drywall ceilings by yourself?

It can be a real chore and painful.

But there are some tricks and tips that make it a WHOLE LOT EASIER.

Today you’ll learn how hang drywall ceilings by yourself and without killing your back.

Furthermore you’ll see how to perfectly cut around a bathroom fan.

This tutorial was done in a small bathroom but you can copy a lot of the tips for other parts of your home.

Here are the supplies you need

  • Impact Driver
  • Magnet Driver Bit
  • Drywall Dimple Bit
  • Drywall Screws (Course Threaded for Wood Studs)
  • RotoSaw Plus Dust Vault
  • Respirator
  • Utility Knife
  • Drywall T-Square
  • Chalk Line
  • Three Inch Wood or Deck Screws
  • Pencil
  • Drywall
  • Scrap 2×4

In this tutorial I drywalled over the existing plaster ceiling. If you're in a similar predicament my tips will help.

What are the first steps to hanging drywall ceilings?

Step 1: Find the Joists

Picture of Find the Joists

If you want to hang new drywall over an old ceiling, you first need to find the joists.

Mark the joist position on the wall or framing.
One more thing, this mark should indicate the center of the joist because two drywall pieces get screwed into one joist to create a drywall seam.

Step 2: Measure the Ceiling Length & Width

Picture of Measure the Ceiling Length & Width

Measure the length and width of the ceiling.

The bathroom I’m working in is wonky as all heck.
No wall is square and the width was a few inches more than 48 inches. Meaning I couldn’t just add one piece of drywall across the span.

SOOOO…instead I had to cut drywall to accommodate this issue.

Here are some tips for cutting drywall for small spaces

  1. Position tapered edges against other tapered edges
  2. Subtract 1/4″ from a drywall piece if it spans the entire room width
  3. Take multiple measurements

Tip 1 helps with the finishing.

Tip 2 helps with fitting the drywall against the joists.

For example, the width of this bathroom was 52 3/4″ wide. Therefore, I subtracted 1/4″ to get 52 1/2″.

Tip 3 helps you cut drywall to the right size. For example, the length of drywall I needed was 45 5/8 inches. But at the length of 45 5/8″ the width was 52 5/8″ which was wider than the initial 52 3/4″ measurement.

Had I assumed the width was 52 3/4″ (minus the 1/4″) I would have struggled to make the drywall fit the ceiling.

This is easier to follow along with in the video but I digress. Measure multiple times!!

Step 3: Cut the Drywall

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Cut your drywall to size with a sharp utility knife and drywall T-Square.

Stand the drywall up on edge, hit the back with your knee and score it with the utility knife.

Step 4: Label Drywall

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Label the drywall edge as ‘Door’ for the door side.

And the drywall edge as ‘Window’ for the window side.

If you’re mechanically challenged, like me, this helps keep the correct drywall orientation when you hoist it above your head.

Step 5: Pre-Drill Screws

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Plus, I transposed the joist location onto the drywall and pre-drilled drywall screws.

In addition, use coarse threaded drywall screws if your framing is wood.

n my lovely bathroom we have 1/4″ lath, 1/4″ plaster and are using 1/2″ drywall.

As such, I opted to use 2″ coarse threaded drywall screws so that at least 1″ of screw went into the joist

Step 6: Use a Dimple Bit

Picture of Use a Dimple Bit

When embedding drywall screws into drywall use a dimple bit in your magnetic bit holder.

This embeds the drywall screws such that they are slightly depressed in the paper.

And ultimately makes your mudding process easier.

Once your drywall is cut it’s ready to be hung on the joists.

But how do you this with killing your back?

Step 7: Add Support to the Wall

Picture of Add Support to the Wall

Often times I hang drywall by myself. And I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Therefore, I try to use my brain to lessen the pain involved with drywall work.

If you have to hang drywall ceilings by yourself, attach a scrap piece of 2×4 to the wall.

It should be about 3/4″ from the bottom of the joist.

Step 8: Hoist Drywall to Joist

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That way you can hoist the drywall over your head, rest it on the 2×4 and secure the drywall to the joists.

Step 9: Secure Drywall to Joists

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You can snap a chalk-line across the drywall to give yourself a reference for where to drill the screws.

Remember those joist marks you made on the wall…yep, they come in handy at this point.

Screws should be placed every 10-12 inches along a joist and about 3/4 of an each from edge.

Step 10: Get Center Location for Fan or Lights

Picture of Get Center Location for Fan or Lights

Get the center location for bathroom fans or recessed lights.

I place this dimension on the framing or wall.

My video walks you through this a bit more.

You want the center dimension is because you can use a RotoZip to cut out a perfect square or circle.

Let me explain this a bit further.

Step 11: Cut Out Drywall for Fan & Lights

Picture of Cut Out Drywall for Fan & Lights

There’s a recurring theme here on Home Repair Tutor.

And that is this: sometimes the tools make all the difference.

For example, if you want to cut a perfect hole in drywall the RotoZip can be a huge help.

It’s easier to cut drywall with the RotoZip if you run it counterclockwise.

In this case I wanted to make sure I was in the fan housing and cut out a little piece.

Step 12: Watch the Step-by-Step Video

Hopefully you liked the tips in today's tutorial.

You can save a lot of time (and money) by following the steps in the video.

Thanks as always for reading and watching.

Our DIY community is awesome because of you.

Muchos gracias for adding your ideas to the comments.

Make it a great day,



nehmo (author)2016-07-05

Arnold Schwarzenegger may look pretty to the dumb girls (with a million with plastic surgery and makeup, he should get something), but he evades questions in every serious interview. Even though he's supposedly not a politician anymore, he still does it. It's very insulting to the public.

Please use someone else as a strong-man example next time.

ShirleyR32 (author)nehmo2016-10-27

rofl I didn't even see Arny mentioned?

nehmo (author)ShirleyR322017-08-13

Step 7 uses Arnold as strongman example. But he's a fraud. He promotes anti-drug-user laws, yet he munches steroids as a daily routine. If he were a decent actor, I would give him a pass, but he's not even that.

ghovagimyan (author)2016-07-14

to hang drywall on a concrete or brick ceiling, you can use joint compound as mastic. You mud the backside, create a 2x4 "T" to hold it tight against the ceiling and then nail it in with concrete nails. You can also rent a drywall hoist to push it tight to the ceiling. If the ceiling is tall you can build a frame (essentially a drop ceiling) then screw onto that. If it's a large area you can use a drop ceiling system with metal hanger rods, clips, black iron a firing strips (usually metal but I've seen wood use).

marvelmx (author)2016-07-04

Unfortunately this is mostly useless for me because houses in my country are made out of concrete and hard brick, not cardboard and thin wood :(

nehmo (author)marvelmx2016-07-05

The ceiling joists are made out of brick in your country?

giedrius.dyra (author)nehmo2016-07-06

Probably there are no joists. Lets say my house walls are concrete blocks from inside and bricks on outside and all ceiling are made from long concrete panels (approx 300cm X 100 cm X 20 or 25cm). Gaps were filled also with concrete. Some ceiling are poured out to achieve special form - also concrete. Such houses were very common like 20 years ago in eastern Europe, but later they also started build cheaper frame houses.

marvelmx (author)giedrius.dyra2016-07-08

Yes, no joists. my walls are bricks with reinforced concrete. That's the average in my country and the bricks are actually blocks or around 25*15*60 cm each, all with a steel soul frame. The ceilings/floors are poured concrete of around 20-30 cm thick (also with internal 3cm twisted steel meshes). But Im from latinamerica. However our buildings are meant to last generations and withstand earthquakes. So things for cardboard panels or wood are mostly none existent and useless around here :(

The image below is from when the kitchen was under ampliation. After that you are supposed to give a flattening layer of sand,cerofino and concrete, then you use a paste.

marvelmx (author)nehmo2016-07-08

We dont have joiists per se. We have 'trabes', which are normally a skeleton of industrial twisted steel and then poured concrete, for big buildings we use steel 'vigas' . ceilings and roofs are flat and also out of poured concrete called 'losas'.

johnwelty (author)2016-07-06

If your doing a full sheet in a room you can make a T jack out of 2 two by fours .make it 1/2" shorter than the height of the can make 2 jacks to hold up the whple sheet.

REFEREEE (author)2016-07-02

i would like to use the rotor zip to do all my detail cut outs for a dashboard for an mg 1952 restoration.the dashboerd is a thin sheet of hard wood with will have about 10 differentinstruments of different sizes assembled to it

ArcsnSparks (author)REFEREEE2016-07-06

Rotozips don't just cut drywall. They are also great for cutting plastics, fiberglass, aluminum sheet, laminates, wood, and even tile with the right bit. It's a dusty job with drywall though. For non drywall, use a wood, plastics, and siding bit, counterclockwise..

Lerena (author)2016-06-30

I'm a girl , so when hanging drywall on walls I trace the outlets with lipstick , press drywall up against the wall then remove to cut out drywall where the outlets are (then use a drywall saw to cut them out) a rotozip would sure make that faster! Still have 3/4 of my basement to do walls and all of ceilings!!! When money allows!!!

ArcsnSparks (author)Lerena2016-07-06

The lipstick idea is so simple, it's near genius. It's readily available and can be used for other projects that require pattern transfers. I'm gonna look funny buying lipstick at Walgreens, but I don't care.

overblast (author)Lerena2016-07-03

Great idea on the lipstick!!! My wife is gonna kill me tho....

throwedoff (author)Lerena2016-07-03

That's the best idea I've heard to locate light fixture boxes, vent registers, etc. I'll have to remember that.

DougM2 (author)Lerena2016-07-03

Very good idea using the lipstick - that's a variation of using a carpenter's pencil or wax layout crayon.

TeresaM7 (author)Lerena2016-06-30

A woman after my heart :). I'm the fix-it person in my home, too. My fiance just isn't so inclined and prefers doing house work. It's a WIN/WIN for us both! Especially since he will actually get me power tools as gifts like I ask.

giedrius.dyra (author)2016-07-06

Such small pieces I just cut to size, lift and hold with one hand, put 3-4 screws in corners and finish with rest of screws. The fun part is when you have to hang whole sheet all alone... :)

mikedor (author)2016-07-06

That rotozip would be perfect to help me replace the ceilings in our two bedrooms. We are removing the popcorn texture and adding ceiling fans. Thank you for the tutorial. You give me confidence that I can do this myself! I'm also heading over to to sign up for the newsletter. Cheers!

BarbaraW97 (author)2016-07-06

I enjoyed your tutorial. As one who learned to install ceiling fans by watching a TV demo while at the gym, I appreciate God guidance. Our home of 22 years is 68 years old and has been added to 3 or 4 times. All in a rather haphazard, slapdash manner, i.e. when we painted the master ceiling in an eggshell finish,it looked like polka dots when we were in bed. They h ad not even tried to mud the dimples. A coat of flat took care of that. I'm finally r ready to drywall LR ceiling. The protozoa would be a g great tool to cut around all of the recessed lighting I plan to install. At 68 yo I need all t h e help I can get.

CJM3 (author)2016-07-05

I will never again hang drywall without a drywall jack. $20 a day from my local big box. With or with out help it's still worth it.

Azze01 (author)2016-07-04

When I built our house I had to cover the 1st floor ceiling in drywall sheets (about 100 sqm). First evening a friend of mine helped me to lift the boards and hold them im place for me to put in the screws. When he announced he couldn't help me the next evening, I came up with the idea for a jig that turned out to be the most useful helper I could think of.

I cut a 1x2 to lenght about 1" longer than the distance floor to underside of the joists. At the end of that I added a 50" 1x2 crossbeam thus forming a "T" of sorts.

To install the boards I used an extendable stepladder that I set to the maximum hight within the room. I set it up shy of board lenth from the wall and rested the room end of the drywall board on it. After positioning the board properly at the wall end I secured it there with my T-jig, scramming the stem between the floor and the board. I then put in one screw there, then adjusted the room end of the board before putting in all the screws. Then I moved the stepladder at board lenght from there and repeated the step.

Eventually I didn't even need the T-support and used the stepladder only

Lee Wilkerson (author)2016-07-04

Great 'able. Great usage of available resources. I use an oscillating multi-tool to cut out for boxes. It makes a very precise line. For hanging full sheets, there is a dead-man tee you can build. It supports one third of the sheet almost the full width.

Since you are working overhead, I would strongly recommend goggles and respirator. Nothing quite like drywall dust in your eyes or mouth.

Rietha Crafford (author)2016-07-03

I'm also a girl and use paint telescopic extensions poles to prop up the ceiling boards halfway after sliding the one end into the 2 x 4. Now you have your hands free to do the other end of ceiling board. Our smallest size ceiling boards come in 3m x 1,2m so you need extra help using the paint telescopic extension poles

chipkona (author)2016-07-03

Great Instructable. Good tips.

SusanH75 (author)2016-07-03

We have to replace portions of our ceiling in our kitchen because of a roof leak. Loved the trick about the 2x4 helping to hold up the drywall. That will come in handy.

NetAlien (author)2016-07-03

To redo the ceiling in my dining room, purchased three 4'x12' sheets. They seemed odd -- turns out the store delivered 4.5'x12' which gave me extra weight & challenge... as in too long to prop by the ends only. Solved the installation by driving a single nail through the end of a 12' long 2"x4" into a short piece which in turn was nailed to the wall near the ceiling. Then I simply slid the 4.5'x12' sheet onto the long, sloping 2x4 (centered to the sheet). Lifted the far end and propped it up with an 8' 2x4. It stayed securely in place while I got the screws ready. Repeated two more times...

napi21 (author)2016-07-03

I'm a girl too, and hung most of the ceilings in the house we were building, by myself, when everyone else was working at their day job. You need a ladder and two 2x4's. Take one 2x4 and cut it in 1/2 so you have a 4ft. length. Attach the 4' piece to the end of a full 2x8 with the wide side facing up to form a T. That will be your extra hands! Lift one end of the drywall up and holding the T at an angle put it under that end of the drywall and push it up to the ceiling and wedge it there. Pick up the other end of the drywall sheet and climb the ladder. Put the drywall in place in the ceiling and holding it in place with your head, proceed to screw it into place. When one end is attached, move the ladder to the other end, climb the ladder, move the T away and attach as you did the first end. The T also will hold the top of a DW sheet to the sidewall while you attach it, obviously using a spacer at the bottom to adjust the to the proper height. It's a terrific set of extra hands that doesn't need any breaks and doesn't tell you your wrong either!

DougM2 (author)2016-07-03

On a tiny ceiling putting up edge boards works just fine - the professional one-man hangers make a "T" out of 2X4 that is 1/2" longer than the height of the ceiling. To use it, lean the T against a wall, set one edge of the sheetrock on the top and then pull the assembly to the position you want (awkward - but you do have two hands). Then, pull the "T" to force that end of the sheetrock tight (while still holding the other end up - remember, two hands). With the "T" end secure, you can start screwing on the other end - make sure you keep it from bowing too much as you work towards the "T."

They also make lifts that you can rent and do it really easily by just operating a few cranks and line the sheetrock up flat or for a vaulted ceiling with little trouble.

PhilS43 (author)2016-07-03


A tricky job on your own.

I've done a few, from scratch and to refurbish an existing ceilings.

For refurbishment, I use the smaller boards (might be 6' x 3') and in 9-mm rather than 12.5.

Some props are a godsend, but instead of looking for joists, I use dabs of plaster board adhesive and temporary modern woodscrews with decent threads and Pozi heads - I don't know what pocessed the drywall industry to adopt Philips heads. Ordinary woodscrews work just as well. Use a power screwdriver with a strong magnet to hold the screws. The adhesive will have enough grab to let you get a few screws in. Use the screws to get everything levelled off, especially at the joints - ideally, with a straightedge, you should not see daylight between board and edge.

Leave enough gap between boards to fill and feather, plus plasterboard glass fibre jointing tape - even though this is supposed to be self-adhesive, brush it over with neat PVA.

Allow a day for the dabs to go off, then either drive the screws home or take them out

JoseT56 (author)2016-07-03

This The Best One I've seen so far, Great Job Bro.


chefspenser (author)2016-07-02

Excellent job! The scrap 2x4 is a must, even if you have a helper. The other item I use that is a must is to make a 'Tee Stick" out of a 24" 2x4 with a long 2x4 attached to the middle of the first piece. Make this second piece long enough to reach the floor with vertical. Slip one end of sheetrock into the scrap piece on the upper wall, then prop up the other end of the sheet with your Tee Prop…now you are free to work at your own pace.

csBell (author)2016-06-29

Excelent tutorial. I do need one for my soon to fix ceilings, and dry wall repairs in my shed.

unclmike (author)2016-06-29

Later this summer or fall I will be insulating my shop building and handing drywall so this video was very timely. Thanks! Cutouts would be so much easier (and cleaner) with the RotoZip and vault. One tip: forgo sanding the installation as much as possible via careful mudding and then when it is partially dry use a damp sponge to smooth the ridges instead of sanding them.

mtbike2 (author)2016-06-29

SON OF A BEEEEEEP! You are two years late. I wrestled two full length sheets to my ceiling using a deadman that was a 2x too thin. Dinged up the edges pretty bad and then had to wrestle sheets of MDF breadboard. ARGH.

Stellar post and ideas. Thanks

FoxysMyGirl (author)2016-06-28

Really good instructable! Thank you!

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Bio: We love home improvement and enjoy sharing tips on YouTube and Home Repair Tutor. Everything we do is self taught. Over the last 12 years ... More »
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