Professionals can install drywall in homes, multiunit buildings, commercial properties or offices as a way to finish a room or space after new construction or remodeling. Contractors and drywall specialists tackle drywall installation for basement finishing, garage finishing bonus room finishing and entire interiors on new construction jobs. In addition, these pros can help with popcorn ceiling removal, water damage repair, hole repair, drop-ceiling installation. Most are skilled at taping and sanding joints, spraying texture, and removing old drywall and replacing it with new drywall. Experienced drywall contractors can give more accurate bids for drywall projects than general contractors. In addition, working through a general contractor will always cost more because they typically include a markup for themselves on top of the drywall subcontractor’s fee (that's not a bad thing—it’s their cost of doing business). Several factors affect the overall cost of drywall installation.
Labor, material and prep
Drywall professionals often quote a set price after doing a site visit and determining the approximate labor costs, material costs and prep work required. Chris Roy of Roy Brothers Drywall in Norwich, Connecticut, says that after a site visit, he prepares a quote based on how long it will take him to work in increments of 0.1 workday or 0.8 hours and multiplies that by $350 to cover labor costs for himself and his worker. From this base price, he adds travel, materials and an "uncertainty factor." The uncertainty stems from working in a setting with multiple subcontractors where the scope of work can sometimes shift. Some professionals generate drywall estimates based on a set cost per square foot, and some base quotes on a combination of time required and the size of the job. Here are a few project cost examples from Roy Brothers Drywall:
Drywall installation for one or two standard-size rooms: ~ $900–$1,500
Hang and tape an outbuilding with ~ 40 drywall sheets at 75 cents per square foot: $1,450, including three and three-quarters days of work
Scrape a popcorn ceiling in a kitchen, repair cracks in walls and prime: $475, including three short days of work
- Install a drop ceiling in one room at 93 cents per square foot: $375, including one and a quarter days of work
Popcorn ceiling removal
Many popcorn ceilings installed from the 1930s through the 1980s pose a potential health hazard because they often contain asbestos. The cost to remove a popcorn ceiling can vary, depending on the complexity and size of the job. Roy Brothers Drywall charges approximately $1.25 per square foot to scrape, tape, sand, prime and paint a ceiling. The cost drops 25 cents per square foot if customers do the painting themselves after drywall installation.
Drywall often develops cracks and holes over time. Roy Brothers Drywall charges $250–$350 to repair drywall without repainting. With painting, the total cost can be as much as $550. Roy of Roy Brothers Drywall says his prices may be higher than competitors because his company strives for a flat, longer-lasting and an overall high-quality finish on repairs.
New construction versus remodel
According to Roy of Roy Brothers Drywall, installing drywall in a newly constructed building is a lot cheaper per square foot or per board than installing during a home remodel. Work during a home remodel is often chopped up into many different workspaces throughout the house. It's much easier when the walls are new and the drywall contractor can put up eight to 12 boards per hour unimpeded in a new construction.
Drywall materials come in a variety of thicknesses and grades. Standard residential sheetrock is ½-inch thick, for example. Garage walls adjacent to a living space are typically ⅝-inch to serve as a firewall. Most contractors will use firewall-grade materials almost always on the ceiling of a garage as well. Green and purple sheetrock boards are mold-resistant (MR) for use in areas where moisture can accumulate, such as bathrooms and basements. Regular sheetrock is gray or white. Sheetrock is now made about 30 percent lighter than it used to be, so hanging isn't as physically demanding. Currently, the fire-rated ⅝-inch sheetrock is not available in the 30 percent lighter material, however. Mud also comes in several options: lightweight, general-purpose and ready-mix (powder). Professional contractors should know to use screws to hang drywall—¼-inch coarse-thread drywall screws are the most common.
According to Roy Brothers Drywall, the cost for materials can be anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent of the total project cost, depending on the size of the job. For example, a patch job requires much more labor (tooling up, travel, unloading, work, packing up, repeat) than materials (handful of screws, small scrap piece of sheetrock, leftover mud, tape, etc).
Drywall pros also have to pay for labor, insurance, tools, vehicles and vehicle repairs, marketing, and registration reports. Depending on the size of the company, overhead costs can be significant, which in turn affects the overall cost of drywall projects. The regional cost of living and labor rates also affect project costs.