Mudding drywall can be a pain. Some people take to it like a fish in water, but for others, it’s more like a fish trying to ride a bicycle. If you fall a bit closer to the latter, there’s no shame in it; so long as your mud work gets the job done, that’s all that matters. Or, perhaps a bit more realistically… so long as the sub you brought in does a good job then it doesn’t matter what your mudding looks like.
If you’re not happy with your mudding skills and you don’t want to sub out this one part of the job, there are ways you can improve. Here are just a few suggestions on how you can improve your mudding and develop the skills you currently lack.
Just Add Water
One common cause of mudding problems is not having enough water in the mud. Even so-called ready-to-use mud may be a bit too dry for easy application, so you should try adding some water even if the bucket claims you don’t need it. Add water directly to the bucket and mix the whole bucket at once, since trying to do it tray by tray can result in inconsistent mud consistency which will then be reflected in your work.
Use the Right Mud
There are a few different types of joint compounds out there. It’s important to know the difference, as using the wrong one will have a significant effect on how easy or difficult your mud job is. Use a setting compound for the initial layer of mud as well as additional layers that go on top of it; you can also use all-purpose compounds for this.
When you’re ready to finish the job, switch to a topping compound for your final layer. You should also watch out for hot mud (also known as fast-setting compound) because it’s designed to dry faster; if you’re still trying to develop solid mudding skills, it will likely dry faster than you can work it.
Watch for Dry Mud
As you apply each layer of mud, small bits of the compound can squeeze out past the edges of your knife and leave you with small ridges of drying mud. This can cause problems for subsequent layers as the drying material will keep you from properly smoothing the new mud. Use a knife or scraper to carefully remove any dried mud ridges before adding a new layer to your joint.
Don’t Skimp on Coverage
One reason that some people have problems with mud work is that they assume that the only really important places for mud are the drywall joints. If you don’t put equal layers over your joints and any other areas that need coverage (such as screw heads), then the end result is going to be hard to work with. Similar problems occur if you assume that gaps will be covered fine by the tape and mud you apply; take the time to fill each gap, hole and dent before you start taping and hit each filled area with every layer of mud you apply.
Get in the Corners
Applying mud to corners can be tricky if you try to tackle the entire corner at once. Only apply mud to one side of the corner, smoothing it and letting it dry completely before you start work on the other side of the corner. This prevents you from accidentally messing up the mud you’ve already applied when you start adding compound to the adjacent wall.
What’s the biggest problem you’ve ever run into when trying to finish newly-installed drywall?