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Is there any value in installing drywall (plasterboard) on the ceiling before the walls or does it not matter?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 39 down vote accepted

If you do the walls first, you can end up with drywall that is unsupported along an entire edge.

Taking these walls for example.

Example Wall

Walls First

If you add drywall to the walls.

Drywall on Wall

Then add drywall to the ceiling.

Drywall on Wall and Ceiling

The ceiling drywall will be unsupported along the entire length of the one wall.

Unsupported Drywall

Ceiling First

Given the same walls. If you add drywall to the ceiling.

Drywall on Ceiling

Then add drywall to the walls

Drywall on Ceiling and Walls

The ceiling drywall will be supported by the wall drywall.

Supported Drywall

Blocking, or Extra Framing

If you add blocking; or some other framing, it shouldn't matter which you drywall first.

Blocking
Extra Joist
Backer

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Awesome answer Tester101. I do have blocking so I would be fine with support. But I do like the idea of butting the wall sheets up to the ceilings. –  TravisPUK Jul 1 at 17:09
    
Marked as answer due to the level of detail showing both sides with potential issues outlined. The diagrams also help to show the potential issues. –  TravisPUK Jul 1 at 17:15
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Blocking should be done no matter the order that the walls and ceiling go up. –  Mike Partridge Jul 1 at 22:45
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I saw this link from SO, I have no idea what drywalling means, but I am totally upvoting this because of the effort given. Kudos to you. –  dayuloli Jul 2 at 15:03
    
Fantastic effort. What software did you do the drawings with? –  ardochhigh Jul 2 at 15:07
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I was always told to drywall the ceiling before the walls so you can butt the wall sheets flush up against the ceiling so there is no need to fill gaps before taping the corner where they meet. If there is a gap at the bottom, that's no big deal as there is normally trim that would cover it.

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Even if you didn't drywall the ceiling yet, you should always cover the walls from the top down. You shouldn't have any gaps between sheets that taping can't cover. If you're "filling" before taping, you're doing it wrong. –  Tester101 Jul 1 at 15:12
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Ceiling first is less work, otherwise I don't think it makes a difference.

Doing the ceiling first means you can lift the wall sheets to make a tight joint. By contrast if you do the walls first you would have to sculpt every edge to make it seat tightly, and/or end up with lots of voids to fill before you tape.

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Why would you have to sculpt the edges for a tight fit? Why would there be voids? Shouldn't you butt the sheet up to the sheet that's already in place? –  Tester101 Jul 1 at 15:15
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Quite often the framing members are not perfectly in line with each other, so trying to butt one sheet into another results in gaps. Depending on the severity of the gaps, they may or may not need to be filled before taping. So yes, you can end up with such gaps whichever way you do it, but it is easier to deal with them when they are on the wall side of the joint. –  Rozwel Jul 1 at 17:08
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Even more often, the room dimensions do not allow for full sheets to be used without cutting. Unless you have lots of experience, drywall cuts rarely come out straight, or exactly where you want them. Most people I know cut things slightly oversize, and then shave them down to fit when trying to make a visible joint. Ceiling first means such cuts are hidden above the wall panel and require less precision/effort. –  Rozwel Jul 1 at 17:08
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My crews going back 20 years have always done ceilings before walls. Tester has a really good answer that discusses the blocking issue but misses what I feel is the biggest piece of advice.

And that is leaving the perimeter of your ceiling drywall floating over the last 8-12 inches. You would not be able to do this without the walls holding up the drywall. By allowing ceiling to float you are gaining extra flexibility in the ceiling. Long-term this means less cracks in your ceiling and less cracks in the top corner. This is especially true for ceilings that are unfinished above (has attic above). The humidity and temperature changes will affect your gypsum board similar to the wood in your house. If you don't allow a slight buffer, it will crack.

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Doing the ceiling first is for fire safety. Fires go up, if you do the walls first then the vertical gaps left when you do the ceiling allow fires to directly heat the beams. If you do the ceiling first the gaps are horizontal and help control the spread of fire.

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Can you support this with an external source? –  Robert Jul 2 at 21:55
    
Fire resistant drywall would help too, though it's rather heavy –  staticx Jul 3 at 13:13
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There are many reasons to put the ceilings up first. I can't think of one not to. Most construction is time tested over years. It is unwise to go against the flow else your jobs become problematic. I have found that out the hard way many times. So stick with the program.

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At the time I asked the questions I didn't have the man-power... or tools to attempt the ceiling, but wanted to get started on boarding the room. I asked the question to see if I would have any issues if I started on the walls first, something I could do. The responses though convinced me to get on to something else and wait. :) –  TravisPUK Jul 4 at 9:28
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The biggest issue is gravity and taping. When installing the first coat of taping compound, you are putting the corner compound directly up, then covering with paper. As it dries, it creates a bump as it settles down. If you put up the ceiling first, your taping compound is filling in the joint above the wall piece, with the wall holding up the compound as it dries, not creating a bump.

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