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Ultimate Guide to Drywall Screws

Drywall screws are the go-to fastener for hanging drywall, beating out drywall nails in almost every scenario. 

But what type of drywall screws are right for your project?

Today, we break down everything you need to know about drywall screws, including how to select the right length, gauge, and thread as well as proper spacing.

Why Use Drywall Screws?

Black drywall screws on white background.

Drywall screws are the best option for securing full panels of drywall to walls or ceilings. 

Not only can they be used to attach drywall to wood studs and joists, but they also work just as well with metal studs and joists. 

Drywall screws are the go-to fastener for the vast majority of professionals thanks to their holding power and reliability. 

In addition to hanging new drywall, screws are excellent for repairing nail pops (when drywall nails loosen over time).

There is also a wide variety of drywall screws available, ensuring that you’ll find the exact best type for the specifics of your project (although most home DIYers will use roughly the same type of screws).

Drywall Screws Basics

Close up of installing a black spiral threaded sheetrock or drywall screw with a crosspoint head

Length, gauge, and thread are the most basic, yet most important, factors to consider when choosing drywall screws for your project.

Drywall Screws Length

Length is the most important factor to consider when it comes to drywall screws.

Use 1-inch to 1 1/4-inch long drywall screws for 1/4-inch thick drywall panels.

Use 1 1/4-inch to 1 5/8-inch long drywall screws for 1/2-inch thick drywall panels (most home DIYers will use this length of screw).

Use 1 5/8-inch or 2-inch long drywall screws for 5/8-inch thick drywall panels.

You’ll notice that drywall screws are usually quite a bit shorter than the screws used in other common construction projects.

Drywall Screws Gauge

Gauge is used to describe the diameter of a screw.

For drywall screws, the most common gauges are #6 and #8.

The larger the gauge number, the wider the diameter of the drywall screw.

Drywall Screws Thread

Most drywall projects require coarse-thread drywall screws.

The coarser threads provide superior grip to the wood which thereby increases holding strength.

Coarse-thread screws are best for use in wood studs or joists. 

Fine-thread drywall screws are the other option.

As their name implies, the threads are much finer than those of coarse-thread screws.

Fine-thread screws are also self-threading. This makes them ideal for use with metal studs or joists. 

In fact, we recommend that you avoid fine-thread screws unless you’re specifically working with metal as they don’t provide as much holding power in the much more common wood studs and joists.

Which Drywall Screws Are Right for You?

person fastens drywall nails with a screwdriver

Although there’s a wide variety of drywall screws available, the vast majority of home DIYers will use roughly the same type.

Chances are you’re working with standard 1/2-inch thick drywall panels when hanging drywall on walls in a residential home.

For standard 1/2-inch thick panels, a 1 1/4-inch or 1 5/8-inch drywall screw is your best bet. Look for a screw with a coarse head and a bugle head (cone-like screw head). 

These Grip- Rite 1 5/8-inch Coarse Thread Drywall Screws with a Bugle Head are an excellent choice. 

Not only are they incredibly strong and reliable, but they’re reasonably priced as well. 

Do note that these particular screws are best suited for wood wall studs rather than metal. For hanging drywall on ceilings, you should go with a slightly longer screw.

Do note that different types of drywall as well as different drywall thicknesses might require slightly different drywall screws.

If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments below.

How Many Drywall Screws Are In A Pound?

Cordless Drill Construction worker holding the hand drill electric screwdriver

Perhaps the most confusing part about buying drywall screws is estimating how many are in a pound.

Although they’re sometimes sold by quantity, it’s more common that drywall screws are sold by weight. 

For 1 5/8-inch coarse thread screws, expect about 200 screws per pound. For 1 1/4-inch coarse thread screws, expect about 240 screws per pound. For 2 1/2-inch coarse thread screws, expect about 90 screws per pound.

Of course, these figures are only estimates – quantity isn’t guaranteed.

How to Use Drywall Screws

cordless drill with drywall screws

Now that you’ve selected the best drywall screws for your project, here’s some basic info on how to use them to most effectively and securely hang drywall

Drywall Screws Spacing

Everyone has their own opinion on proper drywall screws spacing.

You talk to a selection of professionals and you’ll likely hear different recommendations from one to the next – and that’s not to mention screw manufacturer recommendations or local building codes.

With that said, the general consensus is to use 32 screws per drywall panel. 

On the edges of a wall, place screws 8 inches apart. For the rest of the wall, place screws 16 inches apart. 

Of course, this is all considering you’re using standard 1/2-inch thick drywall in the standard 4×8-foot panel size on wooden studs that are the standard 16 inches apart. 

Additional factors can further influence spacing – the addition of drywall adhesive, for example, reduces the number of screws required. 

For hanging standard (4×8-foot, 1/2-inch thick) panels on the ceiling, plan to use the same number of screws (32), but space these every 8 inches apart on the edges and every 12 inches apart for the rest of the panel.

Drywall Screws Pattern

Drywall spacing largely determines drywall pattern.

For example, spacing screws 8 inches apart along the wall edges and 16 inches apart along the wall field creates a pattern in and of itself. 

You can switch this up, however, is you decide to stagger drywall screws.

Professionals are divided on the benefits of this – some prefer to stagger screws in a belief that it better help distributes weight loads while others believe that lining screws up is actually the strongest pattern.

As long as you use the correct number of screws and the correct screw spacing, the exact pattern you use likely won’t have much of an effect.

How Many Drywall Screws Do You Need?

Most professionals recommend using about 32 screws for every 4×8-foot drywall panel.

You can calculate the rough number of screws needed for your project by first calculating how many drywall panels will be needed and then multiplying this by 32.

However, this method doesn’t neatly take the use of half panels into account.

Another way to calculate how many drywall screws you’ll need is to calculate how many square feet of drywall you’ll be installing.

About one drywall screw is required for every square foot of drywall installed.

Do You Need Drywall Adhesive?

Drywall adhesive is increasingly popular for professional installation.

The reason? 

It exponentially increases holding strength and can even reduce the number of screws required.

The catch?

It’s best for home DIYers to avoid drywall adhesive. 

Chances are that as a DIYer you’ll need to adjust or even reinstall some of your drywall panels, especially if this is your very first time hanging drywall.

Once you add the drywall glue, it’s all but impossible to remove the drywall panel without damaging it completely. 

How to Drive Drywall Screws 

A cordless drill is the best way for home DIYers to install drywall screws.

Although professionals opt for a dedicated drywall screw gun, there’s no reason or real benefit for home DIYers to go this route.

Before hanging your drywall, make sure to adjust the torque on your cordless drill.

It’s important to lower the torque so that you don’t strip the screw head during the installation process.

Now, it’s time to drive in your first screw.

For the first part of the process, allow the drill and screw to do all the work. Let the screw gently pierce the paper and then work its way in without using force.

At about 3/4 of the way in, you’ll likely notice that the screw stops driving in on its own.

Now, you’ll need to gently apply force to drive the screw in the rest of the way. If you fail to do this, you’ll likely strip the screw head.

Stop driving when the screw head is flush with the paper. Then apply another quarter turn so that the screw head sinks just below the paper. 

What About Drywall Nails?

Close up on a hand hammering a nail on a wall with mural Wallpaper. to frame the picture on the wall

Drywall screws, although the most common drywall fastener, aren’t your only option.

Historically, drywall nails have been the go-to fastener and are still used in certain applications.

In fact, drywall nails have their own benefits – namely their lower price and ease of use.

Most professionals no longer use nails for drywall (opting for screws instead), although they are still sometimes a decent choice for small home DIY projects, like replacing a single panel of drywall.

Why do the pros like screws better than nails for drywall?

It all boils down to strength and reliability. Drywall screws have much better holding strength and power than drywall nails and won’t back out over time.

Furthermore, many building codes require twice as many drywall nails to be used versus screws for the same project – nullifying any cost savings associated with using nails. 

And, lastly, drywall nails can’t be used on metal studs or joists (drywall screws can).

For more info, check out our comprehensive head-to-head guide to drywall screws versus drywall nails

Final Thoughts on Drywall Screws

Choosing the right drywall screws can feel overwhelming at first.

There are a ton of different options to choose from – many with only slight differences between length, thread, and gauge. 

But with just a little info – outlined above – selecting the right screws for your next DIY drywall project is a cinch. 

Still have questions?

Let us know in the comments below. We make sure to answer every question left here on DIY Painting Tips!