Taping the joints, or seams, between drywall panels is part art and part know-how. With the right preparation and tips, you can cover seams with joint tape seamlessly—so your painted walls look like one piece instead of pieces of patchwork.
As you apply joint tape, you embed it into the drywall seams using joint compound (mud), a few tools and a little finesse. While the tape smoothes over the seams, it also strengthens the drywall panel construction.
Paper tape is the preference of most professionals. It is cheaper, stronger, smoother and more versatile than mesh tape. While self-adhesive mesh tape is easier to apply by hand, with less mess, it still requires covering with a special joint compound. Mesh tape can also be more difficult to hide, due to its waffle like texture.
When applying joint tape, less mud is more. By applying thinner layers of mud between drying, you reduce sanding and gain control over the finish. Mix the consistency of your mud/joint compound on the thinner side, as well, for easier application—but not too thin. It works best with a texture like pancake batter or frosting.
You can apply drywall tape two ways—by hand, or the faster way by using a taping banjo tool or drywall tape applicator with paper tape.
Materials and Tools for Taping Drywall
Joint compound (mud)—a regular all purpose premix formula available in gallon pails
Mud pan—for holding joint compound
Paper joint tape—2” standard with creased centers; or self-adhesive fiberglass mesh tape—(which requires a different type of setting joint compound for drying chemically)
Drywall knives or trowels—3”, 6” and 12”—wider trowel is for feathering final coats of mud farther out.
Taping banjo/drywall tape applicator (tool for faster tape application method)
Sand paper or sanding block
Before Taping Drywall Joints
Before taping seams, ensure there are no screws or fasteners protruding from drywall. Run a drywall knife across the wall surface and push in any sections where your knife hits a bump or screw.
Fill in any drywall seams larger than 1/8” and wipe away any excess compound filling to ensure evenness. Allow the compound mud to dry before covering with tape.
Taping Drywall Joints by Hand
Cut joint tape to length ahead of time, for the section you are working to cover.
Apply the first layer of mud over drywall seam with a knife—wider than the tape width so there will be no dry spots or bubbles when you apply the tape, which leads to unevenness and tape failure.
Place tape over the mudded seam. Pull a 5 or 6” knife along the tape, pressing horizontally and vertically to force the compound mud to ooze out from under the tape. As you work, you can add mud to the top of the tape for lubrication, further embedding paper into the seam. If tape moves, you can adjust it as you work.
Add a second coat of mud compound—wider than the first— over the tape once it is dried. Before applying a new layer of mud to the dried tape, run your knife and a rag along the seam to remove any bumps or residue. Lightly sand the edges if necessary. Apply mud farther out and feather outward to create a smooth surface with the drywall.
Add a finish coat of mud compound wider than the second coat. Before adding the final coat of mud, follow the same process, removing any bumps and sanding lightly. Then apply a thin layer of mud feathering outward another couple of inches.
Taping Drywall Joints the Faster Way
Save yourself time and trouble. Apply paper tape, along with the first layer of mud—in one step with a drywall tape applicator or taping banjo. Automatic tools dispense loaded mud and tape directly onto the wall. The process moves quickly and reduces chances of any problematic bubbling or loose tape. Once you have applied the tape, use a knife or trowel to blend and feather out subsequent layers of mud compound the same way you would by hand.
If you invest in houses, it is worth investing in a tape applicator or banjo at just $75 to $100 to increase your work efficiency. You can also rent one for a day or two.
Some Extra Drywall Taping Tips
Tape inside corner drywall seams last. Use the creased center of the paper tape as your guide as you press tape into the wall corner.
It’s fine to overlap tape where horizontal and vertical drywall seams intersect. Wait until one seam has mostly dried before applying over the top.
Keep control of your project by taping in smaller increments of 10 feet or so. You can cut paper tape at any point to connect with the next piece of tape.
Keep a pail of warm water and sponge for cleaning tools so chunks of mud don’t end up in the joint compound or behind the tape.
The more you do drywall taping, the easier it gets. Work with mud to get the right consistency and consider using a drywall tape applicator for a smoother first application.
If you start with an even drywall surface and work with care, your walls will look seamless when you are done.
With the right preparation and tips, you can cover drywall seams with joint tape seamlessly.
When you cover drywall seams with joint tape, you embed it into the seams using joint compound (mud) and joint knives or trowels.
Paper tape is the preference of most professionals for covering drywall joints—it is cheaper, stronger and more versatile than mesh tape.
By applying thinner layers of mud between drying time, you reduce sanding and gain control over the finish.
Mix your mud/joint compound on the thinner side for easier application—but not too thin.
Joint compound (mud) comes in an all-purpose premixed formula, which you mix with water.
Before taping seams, ensure there are no screws or fasteners protruding from drywall.
When applying the first layer of mud over drywall seam—spread the mud wider than the tape width so there will be no dry spots or bubbles when you apply the tape.
As you work, you can add mud to the top of the tape for lubrication, further embedding paper into the seam.
Apply each additional coat of mud farther out and feather to a smooth finish into the wall.
Save yourself time and trouble by applying paper tape at the same time you apply the first layer of mud—in one step with a drywall tape applicator.
If you invest in houses or home improvement, then a tape applicator or banjo is a smart investment for increasing work efficiency, at just $75 to $100.
Tape inside corner drywall seams last.