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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

10 Answers 10

up vote 15 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 shear strength, drywall is typically installed horizontally. This bridges the most studs together on a single sheet of drywall to resist the shearing 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 (you're only trimming a short non-beveled edge as opposed to the full length of a finished beveled edge).

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' wide 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

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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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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VERTICAL, here’s the proof & truth!

Why HORIZONTAL’S WRONG (& why Vertical’s right)...don’t ruin new from the start:

1 – DEFECTIVE SEAM - Horizontal rows longer than the panel CREATES (instead of AVOIDS) a butt joint, they’re NOT flat, they’re a DEFECT. Outlet & switch cover-plates, window & door trim, baseboards, pictures & mirrors, cabinets, etc. don’t sit flat.

2 – UNSUPPORTED SEAM – Horizontal’s tapered edge is MOSTLY unsupported, only 10% (instead of 100%) contacts framing, the seam WILL & DOES crack. Light switch & countertop electrical boxes in the seam equals more weakness & butt joint efforts.

3 – STRUCTURAL DEFECT - Horizontal only reinforces a wall height of 4’ or LESS & taller walls don’t get the top plate connected to the bottom plate, See #2. Frictional contact is MINIMIZED (instead of maximized).

4 – SEAM DECEPTION – Example 1: 48” tall by 102” long wall, Horizontal = 48” & it’s a butt joint (Vertical = 96” of easy joints). Example 2: 96” tall by 102” long wall, Horizontal = 198” (Vertical = 192” of easy joints)...Horizontal = 50% butts & in a kitchen = 100% (Vertical = 0%).

5 – ANGLE ERROR – Horizontal only uses ONE of the tapered edges & PUTS the other taper at the ceiling corner & baseboard CREATING (instead of AVOIDING) a twisted angle that MUST be shimmed or ADDITIONALLY mudded.

6 – UNFRIENDLY SEAMS – Horizontal celebrates the torso seam & PRETENDS there’s no floor to ceiling butt-joint that needs to be done & DRY before doing the ceiling corner (Vertical has easy joints & the top is done later with the ceiling corner).

7 - FIRE VIOLATION - Horizontal only fills the seam front & has no backing, inviting fire’s spread & air for the fire (Vertical is full depth & airtight).

8 - UNSAFE INSTALLATION - Horizontal needs 2 people for a safe installation & the panel is airborne, GIVEN the chance to CAUSE injury (Vertical easily tilts-up with 1 person).

9 - ADDITIONAL WASTE - Fully span a knee or half wall, tub front, column or soffit with both tapered edges removed...Horizontal CAN’T use the tapers (Vertical can & does).

10 - SELFISH IGNORANCE - Foundation & Framing crews go to great pains to make everything flat, level, plumb & square. Horizontal ruins it, See #1 (Vertical keeps it).

Only promote Horizontal as WRONG based on the above incontestable FACTS.

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Some of your points are good, some of your math is wrong (wouldn't want you as an accountant - maybe I would actually), the CAPS are about as annoying as it gets, and some of your points are wrong or explained very poorly. – DMoore Jan 17 at 16:51
Sorry, I tried to keep it short. But, let me have it baby. Maybe, there's something I didn't consider or could clarify. Just don't try to tout the laughable horizontal "list", too much. – Iggy Jan 17 at 18:32
First your math is off on the amount of joints. I actually agree with some of your points but you don't really explain much. Also I hardly ever install horizontal unsupported - crosses. – DMoore Jan 17 at 18:38
No, I know about the math. Technically & actually, the horizontals do completely fill the taper first to make it flat & then come back on top of that a 2nd time to do their butt stuffing hump. Yeah, you should've seen my original version...3-pages long. It's still 3-pages but I replaced the other 2 with Ceiling stuff & 11 & way plus pieces of advice, tricks & tips. – Iggy Jan 17 at 19:10

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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Good evening. I believe you can hang it horizontally vertically or diagonal. It doesn't matter which way it's installed. A competent finisher can make any install proper. The most convenient method of install should be applied accounting for waste and practicality.

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