Drywall is Awful

Jeff Powell
4 min readMay 3, 2024
Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

Instead of the photo above, imagine a big pile of sheetrock as you might see it at a home center. I was unable to find such a photo (for free, anyway) and thus I turned to what I had available.

And the reason for asking you to imagine such a thing is that all the photos of my drywall work are boring: a white background with tiny variations. Ugh. So imagine that stack of sheetrock as I continue…

There must be a better way to cover interior walls than using drywall.

Really. Think about it:

  • It’s pretty fragile stuff. You can break it easily before it’s up on the wall, and plenty of people have put an elbow or fist through it even after it’s up.
  • When you hang a picture you create a hole that needs patching. Or hiding.
  • When you install it, you need special skills and equipment to get it even close to flat.
  • If you screw up and it’s not flat, it’s really obvious.
  • Installation requires cutting and sanding, both of which create voluminous amounts of dust. Acres of dust.
  • Old drywall (and mud) can contain asbestos, which means you don’t want to be breathing any dust from that stuff. And in some places getting rid of old drywall isn't exactly simple or cheap.
  • It can grow mold.
  • It gets soft when it gets wet.

I suppose it is better than plaster and lathe, but it is still an awful material to work with. There must be something better for interior walls, but so far I haven’t found it.

I say all that to justify why it is taking me so frigging long to get the entryway done.

No, that’s not right. It’s not a justification. It’s an excuse, and a bad one at that. But it’s all I’ve got.

Since the last time I mentioned it, I have attempted progress and not gotten very far. And I am learning to hate drywall with a passion born of too much time spent staring at an ugly wall.

So, what happened? Well, as you might recall I had applied a bunch of mud to smooth out a couple of walls in our entryway. Whoever put the drywall up did a very poor job, and it was made worse by 30 years of slow settling of the house. There are very obvious seams between drywall sheets, and they bug me.

The mud I applied to mask the problem looked reasonable from eight feet away, but up close there were issues. First, of course, was that it needed sanding. I am not a professional drywall installer, and I can only do so well. I got it reasonably close, but it was not perfect and that leads to sanding. And second, bubbles showed up in the mud after it went up on the wall. Lots of them.

I have seen YouTube videos about what causes them and how to avoid them. It seems they happen when you put mud over a painted surface. The suggested remedy is to apply the mud, skim it off leaving a very thin layer behind (a “tight skim”), and then apply another coat right away over top of the first application.

That may work for the pros, but it didn’t seem to work for me. I fiddled and fiddled while applying my initial mud and kept getting bubbles. Eventually I just gave up and left them there, knowing I would have to apply another coat (or two) after it had dried and been sanded.

So, a couple of days later I went back and sanded. As previously reported, it made an awful, dusty mess.

Then I came back and attempted to fill in the bubbles and a few other nicks with the second coat. But that coat didn’t want to fill the bubbles easily at all. And it seems like some new bubbles — mostly very small ones — showed up with that second coat.

What is an idiot like me supposed to do?

I decided to try wet sanding to keep the dust down. That was a new kind of disaster.

When sanding, I used a 9" round piece of sandpaper in a special sanding holder. It stays reasonably flat and as a result it is hard to sand too much in any small area. Not so with a wet sanding sponge. It works, but it takes off too much mud in places you wanted it left on.

After a while I gave up in disgust and abandoned the wet sanding to let things dry. Then I came back a day or two later and applied more mud in an attempt to smooth things back out and refill any exposed bubbles. And I found additional places where the previous drywall work was bad and added more mud in an attempt to fix those as well. Yay!

That is now all dry and waiting for sanding, but that will make another awful, dusty mess, and I really don’t want to do it. So far I have avoided doing the work, but I really need to get it done. For the moment it’s just there, taunting me.

Did I mention I hate drywall? There really has to be something better.

There is not much other news this week. I spent a lot of time working on the monthly community email, and am already starting to assemble the next one. I also finished the chair repair and put it back in the dining room, but Anne hasn’t noticed yet.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hang drop cloths so I can sand again.




Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.