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How to Finish Drywall Flawlessly in Just a Few Steps!

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You have hung your drywall, and you are starting to envision how fabulous your new space will look. Now it is time to finish it! If you are like me, you do not want to make the effort and take the time to do something in a slapdash way. Why not take a little extra care and make it look flawless? In this post, I will teach you how to do just that: make it look flawless!


This post is all about how to finish drywall


Tools You Will Need to Finish Drywall


  • Pre-Mixed Joint Compound
  • 6″ Drywall Joint Knife
  • 12″ Taping Knife
  • 4″ Joint Knife
  • Paper Drywall Joint Tape
  • Self-Adhesive Mesh Drywall Tape
  • 12″ Drywall Mud Pan
  • Utility Knife
  • Corner Bead
  • Drywall Sanding Sponge
  • Face Masks
  • Safety Glasses


  • Pole sander
  • Sanding Sheets
  • Vinyl Corner Bead
  • Adhesive
  • Microfiber Mop


How to Prepare to Finish Drywall

The Mess

Before you jump into the mud, there is a little prep work you need to do. Drywall finishing is messy work and will create a ton of dust. If you are doing this work where you live, get ready. It will be worth it in the end, but you may or may not be dusting your clothes off for a few weeks.

I highly recommend investing in a box of Swiffers, and unless you are just dying for an excuse to get a new one, don’t use your vacuum cleaner to clean up the dust. Trust me on that one. Using the Dust Control joint compound helps because it is a little heavier than the alternative, so it falls to the ground rather than floating in the air.

I also highly recommend using a dust mask when sanding drywall. You don’t want to breathe in the sanding dust, and you don’t have to if you wear a mask!

The Details

Ensure you aren’t missing screws in any locations and that all the screw heads are positioned below the paper’s surface. Also, use your utility knife to gently remove any loose paper that may get mixed in with the mud.

Starting with a smooth surface will help immensely. I also like to go over the walls quickly with a dry microfiber mop to remove any dust. Dust can affect the bond between the paper and the drywall mud (joint compound).


How to Finish Drywall

First Step: Apply Tape and the First Coat of Mud

Tape Options

Regarding tape, I recommend using paper tape because it is stronger than mesh tape. Though there is a learning curve when using paper tape on the ceiling, you may want to start with mesh tape. You do whatever works best for you!

Applying the Tape

When using paper tape, you need to embed the tape in a thin layer of mud. You do not want to use too much. The photo below on the left shows the amount I use for the first layer. Once you have spread your thin layer of mud on the drywall joint, cut your tape to the appropriate length and press it into the mud. With horizontal drywall seams, make sure the center of the paper aligns with the seam. For inside corners, as in the photo, cut the paper to length and fold the paper before pressing it into the mud. You will then run your 4-inch knife across the tape, squeezing out any excess drywall mud. Butt joints (end of drywall panels) are slightly more tricky than tapered joints. You will likely need a little more drywall mud on the butt joints.

Applying the First Coat of Mud

Once the tape is firmly embedded in mud, you will apply another layer of mud on top of the tape. You can see how thin the top layer is in the photo below on the right. You want to try to feather it out as much as possible, applying more pressure to the outside edge of the knife as you move it along the tape. Trust me, the less you have to sand, the happier you will be during this process!


The same method of applying the mud applies to the mesh tape. The only difference is that as the fiberglass tape has an adhesive on it, you do not need to embed it. You will only apply the layer to the top once it is applied to the seam. When I apply the tape and the first coat of mud, I also cover the screw heads using my 4-inch knife.

Applying Corner Bead

I like to use the Straight-Flex Original Composite Corner Bead for outside corners. You treat it the same way as you do the paper tape. You cut the corner bead to the appropriate length, apply a thin layer of mud, fold the corner bead (print facing out), and press it into the mud. Just as you do with the paper tape, you then use your knife to squeeze out the excess mud and apply a thin layer over the top of the corner bead.

To give you an idea of what the first coat should look like, below is a photo showing the tape and the first coat of mud after it has dried.

Second Step: Sand and Apply a Second Coat of Mud


I use a large, new drywall sanding sponge to sand the first coat. I use the sponge for a couple of reasons. One – I am not coordinated enough to use the pole sander. There are some things in life that you have to accept and move on. That is one of them. Two – I feel like I have more control over how much I am taking off and the finish. Again, you do you! If pole sanding is your thing, go for it! Do make sure not to sand off too much! As shown in the photo below, putting more pressure on what would be the bottom end of the sanding sponge helps to create smooth edges.

Second Coat of Mud

Once you have finished sanding, it is time for the second coat of mud. I like to continue with the 4-inch joint knife along wall edges and use the 6-inch joint knife for all seams. You can also start using your 12-inch knife on the seams for the second coat. You will apply slightly more mud for the second coat than you did for the first coat. Below is a photo of what it should look like after the second coat.

Where you have used the paper tape, you might see some bubbles. You will want to cut them out. I usually go back with the fiberglass mesh tape in those situations. Use your utility knife to cut out the section of tape with the bubble, sand it, and then use a microfiber cloth to remove any dust. The mesh tape will not stick to the wall if you don’t remove the dust. After applying the mesh tape, apply a thin coat of mud. This will be an area you must touch up since you are behind a layer of mud.

Third Step: Sand and Apply a Third Coat of Mud


You will sand the second coat the same way you sanded the first coat. Remember, the goal is a smooth finish. I like to start at the edges and work my way toward the seam as shown in the photo below. I also run the hand I am not sanding with over the drywall to feel for smoothness and to catch any areas I may have missed.

Third Coat of Mud

Once you have sanded all the seams, corners, and along the walls, it is time for your third coat of mud. You will apply your third coat of mud the same way you applied the second coat. It is usually on the third coat that I use the 12″ knife on the seams. Ensure you also cover the screw heads while working on the taped sections.

Final Step: Sand and Touch-Up


Now, you should have applied three coats of mud and are ready to sand! This is when I start shining my shop lights on my work, which my husband thinks is irrational. It is the best way to ensure that it looks perfect! Don’t shine them directly on the wall. You want the light shining on the wall from the side, as demonstrated in the photo below on the left. You may have to tweak the position slightly to get it right, but it will be worth the effort! The photo below on the right shows the appearance we want after the final sand to give us that flawless finish we want.


Once you have finished sanding, I recommend shining the lights over the entire area to catch anything you may have missed. There may be some areas that require touching up. For example, the mesh tape does not cover as well as the paper tape, so you may need to go back over it in spots with a thin layer of mud. It is the extra time and effort to get that impressive finish!

Final Touch-Up

Okay, it may be overkill, but I do a true final touch-up after I have primed the walls and ceiling. Some of the imperfections only rear their ugly heads after priming. For example, occasionally, tiny holes that look like pinholes sometimes appear after priming. Just fill them with a tiny bit of mud. Okay, friends, go on and grab those lights! I promise you are about to cross that finish line!

Summary of How to Finish Drywall

After reading this post, you should know the tools you need and how to finish drywall flawlessly! Once you have completed the finishing, it will be time to prime the walls! Make sure to check out my post, Why and How to Prime Walls, and Which One to Use! If you are in the research phase and have not yet hung the drywall, make sure to check out my post, How to Hang Drywall by Yourself and Not Quit!


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