Tools for Drywall Installation and Repair

by Mike Sakowski of

These are the basic tools needed to tape and finish drywall.  Though there are quite a few "professional" tools, such as combination mud/tape dispensers, that can speed large jobs along,  they probably aren't worth the cost unless you are taping multiple rooms, an entire home... or going pro!  Buy quality tools and they may last a lifetime!

A stainless steel mud pan

Don't get the plastic-type mud pan with a metal lip (that likes to rust) or a metal non-stainless steel pan!

A 4" or 4 1/2 " steel knife

This should be a steel knife (not plastic), somewhat flexible, and of a good quality brand. It should be no wider than 4.5" so you can tightly fasten and imbed tape within the recessed area of a joint. A wider knife will not fit in this area. I believe the knife pictured in the link is an old Red Devil knife. I love this taping knife more than any other 4 inch knife I have tried!

A 10" steel knife

Get a good quality knife with proper stiffness since this is probably your most important knife for finishing the job properly.

Corner tool

Believe it or not, I found that the cheaper plastic tool shown works better than its pricier steel counterpart! I use the plastic tool, even though I also own a "better" steel tool.

Paper joint tape

I don't like the mesh tape - neither do the professionals I have spoken too. I have found the knife glides over the paper tape easily (if the mud is thin as it should be), but tends to hang up on the adhesive mesh.

Bucket of water

Have a bucket of water handy for sponging off tools and for wetting paper tape, one of my tips to make taping easier. The procedure for wetting things down is covered on

Mud (a.k.a. drywall compound or taping compound)

I like USG SHEETROCK® BRAND All Purpose Joint Compound in the "green bucket" as shown to the left. It applies easily and draws off easily. Also, it is probably the cheapest pre-made mud out there. I don't like the lighter dryer mud in the "blue bucket" since it tends to leave more air pockets, pinholes, and washboard ridges (if you are not careful). I see professionals using the "green bucket" mud as well for some of their coats, however they will also use lower shrinkage mud to minimize steps.

Drywall Specialty T-Square

This is nice to use and doesn't cost that much. One leg is a full 4 feet, designed to reach across the width of a sheet of drywall.  It is very helpful in accurate marking and cutting. (It's also a great tool for marking any large square object such as plywood or paneling.)

Tape measure and utility knife

Not much to say here... just about any type of each will do.

Cordless Driver

An inexpensive driver like the one shown works fine for installing short drywall screws for smaller home installation and repair jobs. I got this one at a Menard's home store and it cost me less than $30. You could also use a power drill with a screwdriver bit as I did for many years. If you are doing a very large job, you may wish to invest in a pricier driver.  The work goes more quickly and you can set the screw depth, keeping you from accidentally driving the screw through the face paper.

Sandpaper - 100 grit & 220 grit

Also an 8 inch by 3.5 inch piece of wood for a sanding block. For hard to reach places, a sanding pole as shown in the tool picture is helpful. If you do this all right, you won't need much sandpaper!

Buying your tools

To purchase drywall tools, stop at your local home store, hardware store or order online.  In checking around, I found the best prices on drywall tools at the All-Wall site. As a bonus, you can view some of the more expensive but totally cool professional tools available.

Mike Sakowski of offers the novice drywaller guidance for that first drywall project.
There are additional articles on repairing holes, types of drywall and common drywall "myths".