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I'm in a 1970 house where the drywall was both nailed and glued to the studs. Whenever I have to replace a panel that runs up against an existing one I have the problem that the extra glue depth, plus the age and years of paint on the old panels, means that the new panel is maybe 2 or 3mm less deep than the old one. Attempting to feather this out seems crazy. Putting something like liquid nails down the back seems wacky as it would require a ton of glue to eventually dry out to 3mm thick and I'm sure all I'd end up with is a lot of popped screw heads over time. Shims maybe... Or do I just resign myself to having to skim 3mm of compound on every board? That feels like too much to be the right solution.

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  • Don't let that drive you crazy, new is tied into old all the time with differences worse than that and are floated out over a short run with no visual problems at all.
    – Jack
    Jul 5, 2017 at 4:08
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    If you need thin shims, there are wooden sticks that look like tongue depressors used for mixing small batches of stuff. You can find packages of them at places like craft supply stores. The ones I use are 1.5 mm thick. One or two of those will get you to within about a mm, which won't be bad to skim.
    – fixer1234
    Jul 5, 2017 at 4:26

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Do not coat the entire face of the drywall with compound to make it thicker. That is really hard to get right and will only serve to frustrate you. The way I see it, there are three options here that I would consider in your situation.

  • If I have to replace drywall in a room, replace all of the drywall. This is a bit of extra work, but the end result will be really good. Plus, it provides an opportunity to inspect wiring, plumbing, insulation, etc. that is covered by the drywall and repair anything else that needs it in the process. You can also make improvements such as adding outlets or switches.

  • Shims behind the drywall, which you already mentioned. This is probably the easiest way to get a consistent wall. I would attach the shims to the studs first. Maybe use a table saw to make some thin furring strips which you can glue horizontally across the studs before lifting the drywall into position.

  • Feather out the edges. The new drywall panels will be slightly inset from the originals, but at least there will not be any hard edges. As long as you are not painting with semigloss and the lighting is kind it should not be noticeable unless you already know to look for it.

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