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For reasons including time, money, ease of installation, and structural strength, should drywall be installed horizontally or vertically.

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Yes. Drywall should be hung horizontally or vertically. –  DA01 Jun 6 '13 at 18:21
Manufacturers instructions (note chapter 3, cladding) –  BMitch Jun 6 '13 at 18:30
I like BMitch's comments and Herrbag's insight on this. I think there are two topics that I haven't seen covered that I have always wondered about. Which way allows for more structural movement (seasonal changes to framing or even warping) and then for the average joe (lets assume that it is not feasible to have a 100% perfectly flat join) is it easier to see ridges for horizontal or vertical? –  DMoore Jun 7 '13 at 17:20
Without using Herrbag's technique, no one has a flat join on the butt joints, only the beveled ones are easy to fill with mud and tape to make them perfectly flat. For the butt joints, it's all about how good you are at mudding and using a wide taping knife to make the ridge nearly invisible. –  BMitch Jun 19 '13 at 19:58

8 Answers 8

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Horizontal: Pros will fit top piece to ceiling first and cutoff bottom piece for a 1/4 to 1/2 gap at floor. The tapered joint is easy to fill.

You can also get a tapered butt joint by hanging the butt ends between studs and using a floating backer with a depressed center area that forms the "butt taper". They are available commercially or can be homemade. This is the easiest way to get a "dead-flat" ceiling (or wall) when only the best will do.

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+1 for pointing out the butt joint depresser board concept. I've seen them used and do truly offer the opportinity for the flattest surface. –  Michael Karas Jun 6 '13 at 19:46

According to Chapter 3 of the Gypsum Construction Handbook, published by USG, manufacturer of SHEETROCK® Brand Gypsum Panels...

Perpendicular vs. Parallel Application

Gypsum board may be applied perpendicular (long edges of board at right angles to the framing members) or parallel (long edges parallel to framing). Fire-rated partitions may require parallel application. (See Chapter 10 for specific information on fire-rated systems.)

Perpendicular application is generally preferred because it offers the following advantages:

  1. Reduces the lineal footage of joints to be treated by up to 25%.
  2. Strongest dimension of board runs across framing members.
  3. Bridges irregularities in alignment and spacing of frame members.
  4. Better bracing strength—each board ties more frame members together than does parallel application.
  5. Horizontal joints on wall are at a convenient height for finishing.

For wall application, if ceiling height is 8'-1" or less, perpendicular application of standard 4' wide panels results in fewer joints, easier handling and less cutting. If ceiling height is greater than 8'-1", or wall is 4' or less wide, parallel application is more practical.

Walls ranging in height from 8'-1" to 9'-1" can be clad with perpendicular 54" wide panels to eliminate the addition of more joints. (See Sheetrock brand gypsum panels—54" in Chapter 1.)

For ceiling application, use whichever method—parallel or perpendicular—results in fewer joints, or is required by frame spacing limitations

For double-layer ceiling application, apply base-layer boards perpendicular to frame members; apply the face layer parallel to framing with joints offset. On walls, apply the base layer parallel with long edges centered on framing; apply face layer perpendicular.

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A: Horizontal

Aesthetically, a vertical install can look very nice since you don't have any butt joints between two non-beveled edges. Those non-beveled edges create 4' long humps that can be seen with careful observation (and more so with a bad mudding job).

However, for structural strength, drywall is typically installed horizontally. This bridges the most studs together on a single sheet of drywall to resist the pancaking forces on the wall. You also maximize this strength by offsetting the joints. The result of two offset sheets of drywall are similar to placing a long diagonal brace from the top corner of the upper sheet to the opposite corner of the lower sheet.

As an added benefit, horizontal installs result in an easy taping joint at waist height, reduces the effect of any cupping of the studs, and is much easier to correct for a slightly mis-located stud.

That said, for non-load bearing walls, particularly in an office environment where metal studs are being used, a vertical install may be done for speed. It's also more practical for tall ceilings where you would need 3 or more sheets of drywall to hang it horizontally. I will also do a vertical install on any wall that's 4' or less since it results in single sheet without any joint to mud.

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and the tape line can be concealed handily with a chair rail (physical or visual) –  warren Jun 11 '13 at 20:26

I'm not a pro, and tend to cringe at having to deal with sheetrock, but from what I've read and seen, using 12' boards horizontally will have the benefits of:

  • fewer seems on any wall shorter than 12'
  • most mudding/taping at chest height (easier to do)

Of course, it has one major con:

  • 12' boards are unwieldy

Personally, when I've had to do it myself alone vertical made more sense as it was just easier for me to hang solo.

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as a rule of thumb, horizontal.

you do NOT need any overkill "backer between the studs where the horizontal seam location will be" as long as you have 14.5" or less between the studs (or thereabouts).

of course, there will be exceptional cases where vertical is more suitable and makes more sense. like for example a side wall of a closet that is maybe 26x90", you can cut it out of a single sheet and post it vertically as opposed to doing it horizontally.

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Generally vertically; that way there isn't a horizontal join that may show a crack over time. Board lengths are usually sufficient that one board will cover floor to ceiling without a join.

The only time I'd expect to see it horizontal would be if it was the first layer, prior to it being covered by a second layer - where you want the joints to be staggered, for example when it is used for fire protection or sound attenuation.

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You pick which way.....but before selecting horizontal installation make sure to install backer between the studs where the horizontal seam location will be.

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that backer is absolutely unnecessary. hardly anyone does it –  amphibient Jun 6 '13 at 5:38
A backer can be useful for creating a bevel joint, however. Take a flat piece, and then attach thing pieces to each side to form a wide 'U' shape. This will flex the butt joint into a bevel. (Edit: see the post @HerrBag for example) –  DA01 Jun 6 '13 at 18:29
@amphibient - Once again you can take your pick regarding the backer. I agree that is mostly not done but it can certainly result in a more robust install. There are many good reasons to make the decision on the horizontal versus vertical directions. Minimization of taping joints can be a really strong incentive to use in driving the choice. –  Michael Karas Jun 6 '13 at 19:43
I agree with Michael on the crosses. You should put up crosses anyway to prevent severe warping, so why wouldn't you put them at backer height? –  DMoore Jun 7 '13 at 4:34

The answer is. It depends.

On what? stud height, convenience and whatever the manufacturer recommends as they keep changing their minds.

At one point I was told horizontal was the right way to go. But we had a house extension done recently and they told me vertical in general. But they have mixed it depending on the wall so they used either. What was more interesting was how many fixing screws they now add and how they have these bizarre recommendations that the builders have to follow but question.

i.e. in the corners something like 50mm then 50 then 50 then 100 then 100 and back to 50/50/50 in the corners.

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