Drywall (the least romantic part of building) and Paint

Ok, none of it is really romantic, but drywall has got to be the most unappealing stage in building. Despite what everyone says about it making a space “look bigger”, I didn’t get that impression at all. I just thought: this is gross.


I had been taking a tonne of pictures up until this stage, but truthfully, I didn’t want to remember this drywall stage (I think I took 3 photos total). I was glad when it was finally over, but it ended up that the contractor took 4 weeks longer than anticipated and ended up setting us back a full month in construction.

In the end, they did a “good job” from a boarding/mudding/taping point of view. Our house was actually pretty complex, as we realized, for the drywallers. A few things I will share.

First of all, we did not want any baseboards, crown mouldings, or trim around the windows. Why!? Why would you do this?? You may ask. And I will tell you: we like the look of the clean lines of the materials sharply bumping up against the next – drywall to concrete, drywall to pine ceiling, black window framess to walls. If you want to get philosophical (who doesn’t?), this transition for us of moving, building, giving up our city life, has been an experience of pulling back the layers of ourselves and exposing who we really are. And the non-philosphical reason: I just think it looks cool.

Now, this added a couple of significant dimensions of challenge to the drywallers, how do you finish the drywall where it meets the concrete floor (main floor and basement), where it meets the concrete walls of the basement, and where it meets the window/door frames (a whole challenge in itself)?

4c221eaa86bc8bab489c71ea825d0b14_f267After much debate, we elected to use a product called a “tear-away bead”. Basically they stick this bead on the bottom edge of the drywall, mud overtop of it, and then simply tear away this little tab on the bottom giving a nice clean line at the drywall edge. Most people use this for butting drywall up against exposed timber framing. We ended up using it extensively, about 2000 linear feet, on all bottom seams where the drywall met the concrete floors and the exposed concrete walls in the basement.

Now the windows were another challenge altogether. As you know, we built 16″ thick walls, which made for a significant 14″ return on the windows from the interior wall (2″ for the window thickness). On the window sills, we will be installing douglas fir sills, but to do that around the whole of windows would be too much wood (in my opinion, as we will be installing pine ceilings throughout the whole main floor). So instead we wanted to do a drywall return on the top and sides. Now, I’m not sure how other people do this, but there is a drywall return channel on the window frames that the drywaller will simply slide the drywall into and then you’re done and ready to proceed with adding your trim.

DSC_0036aFor our windows, it was not that simple at all. We had asked them to remove all of the drywall return channels prior to the shipping the windows so that we could add our fancy air sealing Tescon Profil tapes to the windows (if we hadn’t have done this there would have been no way to secure the vapour barrier to the window frame – how do people normally do this, I asked? Most people don’t secure the vapour barrier to the window at all, was the answer I received. No wonder people have drafty windows!).

Ok so that was one thing, but it had a cascade of effects, namely that you had to get a reasonable overlap onto the window frame to secure the tape, which was approximately 1/2″. Remember too that there is spray foam that is sprayed in between the rough opening of the window and the actual window frame – about 1/2″ as well on all sides. Drywall is only 1/2″ thick… see where I’m going with this? The numbers were not adding up. Our only option was to double-up (two sheets) of drywall at each window return. As there was now no way to use the drywall return channel for the windows (and we weren’t putting on trim anyway to hide it) we ended up using the tear-away bead here too to give a tight clean line between the window frame and the drywall.

Problem solved!

Not quite… the whole house had been designed for 1/2″ drywall throughout, which you may not think would be a problem, except for the two corner windows (between the main entry door and kitchen/dining room).



This was not going to work. After coming up with some preliminary dumb ideas, I removed the second piece of drywall, which made the corner flush again, but it exposed too much of the Tescon Profil tape on the windows, that cutting it away would expose the vapour barrier. I ended up shimming out the side closest to the window, at 14″ in depth, you can’t visually notice the 1/2″ transition that occurs, allowing the corner to be flush and the tape to be covered at the window frame. I’m so smart! (I humbly told myself). (Though my woodworker doing the sills will be cursing me).

Unfortunately the corner window with the main entry door, would not be so simple. The only option here was to build out the entire one wall and to make it two sheets thick. Oh well.


Once the mudding was finally done, we spent the next two weeks painting like madmen. We decided to use Benjamin Moore Cloud White for the entire house (except for the basement doors, which we will paint in Oxford White). I do like the colour white and there are seemingly an infinite number of whites to choose from. Cloud White though is a favourite of one of the design duos we follow: Mjolk. So that made the decision easy for us.

I do not like painting at all, but we are lucky enough to have an amazing neighbour who came and helped us paint for two long days on the weekend. Having the extra hands was such a blessing to us. Over the next week we were able to finish the painting and were ready for the next step: exposing the concrete floors and the nightmare that followed.