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Should Drywall Be Installed Vertically or Horizontally?

Should Drywall Be Installed Vertically or Horizontally?

Drywall is a building material used to cover walls or ceilings. It consists of sheets or panels of gypsum board used for insulation and decoration. However, most people do not know the correct way to install it – should it be hung vertically or horizontally? 

As a general rule, for commercial buildings, drywall should be installed vertically. On the other hand, for residential buildings, it’s best to install drywall horizontally to increase structural shear strength. 

Keep reading to find out more about why different types of buildings require different drywall installation methods. I’ll also give you a few other helpful tips about drywall at the end. 

Drywall Installation in Commercial vs Residential Premises

As mentioned, whether to install drywall vertically or horizontally depends on the type of building. Let’s look at some of the reasons commercial and residential buildings require different orientations during drywall installation: 

Commercial

Here’s a rundown of why most commercial buildings require vertical installation:

Easy Access to Areas That Need Inspections

Vertical drywall installations on commercial buildings ensure easy access to areas that need inspections. 

This is because the panels can be lifted, exposing them for inspection purposes. Vertical installation also makes it easier to replace a panel without moving another one out of its way. 

Vertical Installation Improves Safety in Commercial Buildings

In case of an emergency—such as a fire or earthquake—vertical installations allow every piece of drywall to fall safely down vertically away from the hazard zone. 

On the other hand, horizontal installations cause all sheets to pile up in front of a problem area. 

Commercial buildings are usually taller than residential ones. If every sheet of drywall in a tall commercial building were to fall horizontally, it could potentially pile up and cause the ceiling to collapse when another sheet falls on top of it. 

Vertical Installation on Commercial Buildings Is Faster

Because drywall is lighter than plywood, the installation process is faster and easier with vertical drywall installation on commercial buildings. 

It’s more difficult to cut pieces at angles when they’re hung horizontally; not only does this increase the risk of injury, but it also makes the job tougher for workers. 

Pro Tip: When installing horizontally, you must take care to prevent sagging under weight loads. Beams spaced at 24 inches (61 cm) on the center provide strong support along the entire length of the wall. The same rule applies to installing 4’x8′ (1.2 x 2.4 m) sheets of drywall on a standard 2 x 4 stud wall.

Residential Housing

On residential buildings such as houses or apartment buildings, it’s customary to install drywall horizontally. The reason is that vertical installation increases the lateral loads on the walls. 

Here’s a rundown of five reasons residential buildings require horizontal drywall installation. 

Horizontal Installation Increases Wall Strength

Drywall panels installed horizontally increase the shear strength of walls. Shear strength is the ability of a wall to resist lateral loads, such as wind. 

The horizontal installation also reduces the likelihood of sagging in walls, which could lead to cracks and even collapse if it persists. 

Easier To Hide Hanging Wires

With horizontal installation, drywall can easily conceal hanging wires for lights or plugs drilled into the walls. 

Vertical installations make it difficult to cover up dangling wires because they’re hung above other sheets. 

Also, because horizontal installations don’t require drilling at angles, there’s no risk of nicking electrical wires when finishing screws are inserted horizontally. 

Drywall Panels Don’t Need To Be Cut at Angles

Vertical installations require drywall panels that are cut into smaller pieces to fit standard stud walls at angles. 

This not only reduces the value of drywall because it’s not covering as much wall space, but cutting drywall requires more skill and effort than simply dragging a utility knife against the paper surface horizontally. 

Less Potential for Cracks

The potential for cracks in a wall is greater when installed vertically compared with horizontal installation. 

Drywall sheets crack when drilled into or removed from walls too quickly. With vertical installations, sheets will fall if the bottom buckled instead of mounting to wood structures on studs joists uniformly. 

On the other hand, with horizontal installation, sheets are attached to a structure evenly and can be removed or replaced without placing too much stress on the surface. 

Prevents Sagging Over Time

The weight of drywall sheets causes them to sag over time when installed vertically. The problem is that panels aren’t consistently supported when hung this way; they simply rest atop one another in an uneven matter. 

Horizontal vs Vertical Drywall Installation: Pros and Cons

Pros of Vertical Installation

  • Fast and easy process 
  • Less weighted load on walls 

Cons of Vertical Installation

  • More difficult to conceal hanging wires 
  • Longer installation process 

Pros of Horizontal Installation

  • Prevents sagging drywall over time due to uneven weight distribution among panels in vertical installations. 
  • Easier to conceal wires. 

Cons of Horizontal Installation

  • Takes more time and effort to cut drywall panels into smaller pieces for vertical installation. 
  • Requires a larger number of materials, such as fasteners and screws, to install. 

Here’s a 1-minute video that describes horizontal and vertical drywall installations: 

Remember that the drywall should not touch the floor. Water damage could from moisture seeping into walls causing structural problems, such as mold growth. 

How Far Should Drywall Be off the Ceiling?

A 0.37-inch (9.5-mm) space must be left between drywall and the ceiling to allow room for fasteners and screws. If this gap is not added, over time, structural problems such as buckling could occur. 

Besides, the gap gives room for expansion and contraction when walls are exposed to extreme temperature changes. This prevents cracking or warping in drywall, which are difficult repair jobs. 

Final Thoughts

In short, drywall should be hung horizontally on residential buildings and vertically on commercial buildings. In the case of either, support beams should always run perpendicular to the wall studs at a distance of 24 inches (61 cm) apart. 

To install 4’x8′ (1.2 x 2.4 m) sheets of drywall, consider putting in beams every 24 inches (61 cm) because you don’t want your walls collapsing under heavy loads, such as a speaker or television. Also, when installing drywall panels, take care that you don’t damage any hanging wires from plugs, lights, and other fixtures. 

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