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Drywall, sheetrock, whatever you want to call it

I've known our neighbor Russ since we moved up here. Good guy. Biker who rebuilds Harleys for fun---we all call his garage the Museum because the bikes he's fixed up are beautiful. I had know idea he was a drywall guy until our neighbor, Rick, who engineered our house, suggested we ask him to drywall our house.

Russ is actually a taper and hadn't hung sheetrock for awhile. But he had had no work for two months and had bills to pay, so we agreed on a price, and he started working. It took longer than expected to get all the drywall on, but he did an amazing job. The guy is an artist. Persnickity as hell, didn't want help, brought his little dog, and fought his way through the zig-zags we have throughout our house.

He started taping on Friday. I've done quite a bit of drywall, but I've never used the bazooka and boxes---the specialized tools for taping---he uses. The tools are really pretty. Lots of machined parts. The bazooka squirts mud into the seams between sheets and then embeds the paper tape. The blade has a spring, so the bazooka will fill the seam with the right amount of mud as it moves along.

Here Russ bazookas the cupola walls. The ceiling will be clad in maple tongue and groove I've started planing, but it will take me another three weeks to mill all the material. You can see the sprayed foam insulation in the ceiling. I have to cover it with FSK (foil/scrim/kraft) paper as a moisture barrier before covering. I had to cover every cavity that had the foam insulation in it before we covered it.


I don't have a picture of him using the boxes, but he has several. The straight ones look like an old-style mailbox on the end of a stick. You pump mud into the box and then draw it across the seams you've already paper taped. The box will smoothly lay down more mud and feather it out. I've done this with taping knives, but never with the boxes.

Most of the drywall had a lot of cuts and Russ really took his time placing each 12-foot piece. Russ offered to bullnose the corners---because our windowsills are rounded, the bullnosing makes sense. In this image of the master bath, you can kinda see how that edge is rounded into a bullnose. As you can see, the opening on the left is for a built-in linen closet that will have doors inside and outside the water closet.


We had two areas that had curves that Russ had to wrap with drywall. The first was in the wall in the kitchen. In this photo, you can see the vertical half wall curving down to the rest of the halfwall.


That halfwall travels the length of the prep area of the kitchen and then curves to what will be a bar where we'll have three barstools. So you can sit and have some wine and watch me cook.


The kitchen is designed to be a workspace with the feel of an old-style diner. I'm pretty happy with how it's coming along. I won't really know if I got the distances between fridge/range/sink right, but when the fab GF and I pretend that we're cooking in there, it feels right.

The second major tricky area is the entryway. In a fit of insanity, I deviously designed a barrel vault, but the vault follows the pitch of the ceiling.

This is a view looking from cupola toward the front door.


And the view from the entryway.


There are two layers of 1/4" drywall. We started with the center piece. Russ soaked it and we lifted it. We then had to, very scientifically (by which I mean, without the benefit of science at all) shape the two corners on either side, which was a lot harder than you might think. After we did it once, Russ told me to go away. He didn't say it in so many words, but I helped him start the last layer and then he waited until I went away. Dude's just like that.

It was cool watching him mud it because the guy could do that if he was in a coma.



I think he'll be done next Wednesday. I'd like to find him some more work after our job. He's a good guy and he's good at his trade. Wish I had a better picture of his ponytail, which hangs down almost to his butt.

That has nothing to do with his work ability.

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tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

...look awesome! I'm envious. I love arches and open designs and from what I can see you've got a lot of both.

I can't see the pony tail but Russ does have great hair...looks native american.

Submitted by ohio on

I love those arches and curves, too. Once we got the plaster on the bale walls and were able to show how the windows curved, Ryan understood what we were going for. And while it was difficult to do the drywall in those two areas, Russ is kinda getting into it because he gets to show off. He would never say that. But he is showing off. His work is a lot like editing in that your'e trying to make these changes, especially at transitions, but don't want to leave any trace of it.

And Russ is HANDSOME. My mom even elbowed me after she met him and said we had to hire him because he had such a great smile. And he used to have the best beard ever but he shaved it off this summer. I asked him why and he said, "I don't know," like it was a puzzle to him, too.

Thanks for reading.

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

I love stuff like this even though I'm painfully ignorant of much of it. I've always wanted to build and design things. I grew up in a neighborhood that perpetually had houses under construction so as a kid I'd go and hang out in the houses as they were being built just exploring and imagining what they'd look like when they were done. As for Russ, I'd encourage him to show off as much as he wanted. lol. Btw, plaster and bales? Is the house straw bale?!

Submitted by ohio on

Three-string, three coats of stucco, walls two feet thick.

Look back on my blog. I have more pictures and crap.

On this project I have the honor of doing what all the trades describe as "the shitwork." Except the plumbers, because that means something different. I do the cleaning up, fetching, shoveling, going to the dump, shopping, and so on. However, I did a lot of the foundation work (tying rebar and cleaning off concrete forms---still shitwork, but a new kind of shitwork) and framing, I built the windows, foamed in the insulation, and I'll be doing the finish and furniture, mostly because I like it and I have the patience to transmogrify the hundreds of board feet of salvaged wood we have.

I like planing. Very satisfying.

I have a bit more framing and drywall in my studio/office, I have to hang the DensGuard in the master shower and guest shower, and then I do the cupola ceiling and living room ceiling (that's in salvaged 1x4 old growth T&G cedar). Ryan, our carpenter, is going to help me with some of this stuff, but I rather like working alone. I can sing as loud as I want.

I went out to the house to brign Russ a carafe of hot water. He drinks green tea, but not coffee, which is justw rong. Anyway, I asked him if he ever got mud in his hair and said, "All the time." Can't tell by looking, though.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Concrete, plumbing, wiring, framing, drywall - when done correctly the hard work does not show, not even a little; every bit of craft is hidden from view and unnoticed forever. There is no dependence on affirmation from others, as with a painting or furniture or sculpture; in the subsurface building trades the satisfaction resides all within one's self, in knowing the work was done right.

Thanks for the photos, fabulous looking spaces, and as always nicely written.

Submitted by ohio on

I agree on craftsmanship---I watch the subs work because it's interesting. I was kicking myself about the plumbing because Scott and Teddy 's welds are superb. Just superb. I didn't even think about leaving that exposed, though I should have because it's beautiful. The electrical is funny because we didn't use the outside walls, but my electrician is going to be showing off when we install the lighting in the cupola and kitchen. He suggested a lighting system while we were wiring and it's a great idea. Really goes with the house, we can run a lot more low voltage, blah blah blah. And the monorails we'll be hanging are all bendable, so we pick a shape and he'll match it.

(, as I recall.)

I admit the lighting system is an indulgence on my part. Too expensive for us, but it is so cool. So we decided we'd buy one lighting head every year for winter holidays to go with the one PV panel we'll buy every year for spring holidays. That way we can spread out the pain for the next thirty years or so.

There is something else, though, tradespeople get for their work.


You know I have a wild hare about this, but paying people in the trades decent money is a big deal for me. Yet all the nuilding "professionals" expected us to grind on the tradespeople or hire undocumented workers so we could pay their fees. One exception: Rick, the engineer, who is also a contractor. But other folks, especially people who marketed themselves as "green" builders---I am saving my ire for a massive blogotomy about these folks.

Paying people decently and giving them decent work conditions---words fail me. Mostly because I haven't had my coffee yet. But how can you call yourself a liberal/progressive/leftie whatever if you don't accept that people should be paid fairly.

I need to save my energy for this. I've heard way too many stories of people building their "green" structures and paying the crews shit money because those guys didn't have documentation. That's just wrong.

Wow, I sure write alot when I haven't had any coffee.

Submitted by hipparchia on

like the first one! ;)

me, i love scaffolding and ladders and lofts and rooftops and tree houses and the edges of cliffs... and wing-walking and skydiving.

i hate hate hate hanging drywall, although i would happily sit at the bar, glass of wine in hand, and watch. and i have to admit, the toys you describe sound like fun.

Submitted by ohio on

You like heights?


So, ever panel a ceiling before? I can explain every step from the safety of the floor. And I'll run the saw for you. Hell, I'll even get you some Kentucky Fried Chicken or other fast food for lunch, as long as you promise not to set down a piece up high and forget about it.

Ryan did that with a burrito. I didn't find it until after it exploded.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i love heights, especially with edges. cliffs, mountains, skyscrapers, the rim of the grand canyon...

i'm dangerous with sharp things. much better that you should run the saw. i can say that i never lose track of food though, no matter where you buy it from, so we're safe there.

oh yeah, almost forgot... it's drywall when you're talking about it in the abstract, and sheetrock once you pick it up and start toting it around.

i'm really enjoying watching your house take shape. thanks.

gmoke's picture
Submitted by gmoke on

I used to be a carpenter and have done my share of hanging 'rock and mudding it. Still have my sheetrock knives. Banjoes and boxes aren't used in the Northeast. We do it all by hand. I've actually skimmed a whole ceiling on my own just with my knives. Mudding is very relaxing work for me as is blowing cellulose insulation, another past occupation.

Enjoy your new home. Looks like you've put your heart into it.