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How to Cut Drywall

Learning how to cut drywall is one of the first steps you need to know to hang drywall by yourself

Luckily, it’s incredibly easy and doesn’t require any expensive tools (for most cuts you can simply use a utility knife or jab saw).

Here’s exactly how to cut drywall to size for your DIY drywall project. 

How to Cut Drywall Panels

person scoring a drywall panel

The most common drywall cut is a cut down the entire length or width of a drywall panel.

The best way to accomplish such a cut is to use a utility knife to “score” the panel rather than to actually cut all the way through.

First up is getting the right measurements with your tape measure. Always measure twice so you’re sure that the cut will be the right size. 

After measuring, transfer the measurement to the drywall panel. Next, use your T-square (one of the most essential drywall tools) to draw a scoring line with a pencil.

Now, follow the scoring line you just made with the utility knife. Press firmly enough to score the paper backing. Remember, the aim isn’t to cut all the way through the drywall.

After scoring the drywall, flip the panel onto the other side. Pull back the panel over the scoring line so that it snaps off along the line you just scored.

Chances are that the panel will still be attached by the second layer of paper backing. Simply, run your utility knife through the paper backing to complete the job. 

What’s great about scoring drywall rather than cutting is that you can do it right there on the ground. You don’t need to lift the board off the ground like you would if you were performing a full cut.

How to Cut an Opening in Drywall

cutting an opening in drywall with a jab saw

Scoring drywall panels to size is only one step of the drywall cutting equation.

If your wall or ceiling has an electrical outlet, light switch, HVAC vent, recessed light, or other opening, then you also need to cut an opening in the drywall panel.

Luckily, this is almost as easy as scoring a drywall panel. But it does require an additional tool – a jab saw.

Although you can cut an opening in drywall once it’s already hung in place, it’s much easier to cut any necessary openings before hanging the drywall.

Start by measuring the opening location. This is by far the most important step of the process. And it pays to check and double check your measurements to ensure your cutting location is accurate.

Your tape measure, pencil, and drywall T-square will once again come in handy here.

After you’ve made and marked the correct measurements, it’s time to cut. You can skip straight to cutting out the marked location with your jab saw, but I recommend scoring the cut lines with your utility knife first.

Scoring the cut lines will help you more accurately cut with your jab saw. Now push the jab saw through the drywall and cut along your cut lines. 

Remember, if you are cutting an opening in drywall that’s already been installed, its essential to perform only shallow cuts with the jab saw, especially if there’s electrical wiring (turn off the circuit breaker before starting) or plumbing behind the panel.

Now that the opening cut is complete, you can hang and secure the panel with drywall screws with the opening in the proper place. 

Making accurate drywall cuts is relatively easy for walls. It’s a bit trickier for ceiling drywall openings, like recessed lighting, although still completely possible for the home DIYer if you make sure to take enough time.

I like to keep one or two small drywall cuttings for future use just in case my drywall is ever damaged with a hole and I need to perform a quick repair job.

What About Using a Drywall Router? 

cutting drywall with a drywall router

Most DIYers should stick with a utility knife and a jab saw for cutting drywall.

Drywall professionals, however, sometimes use a drywall router for cutting out electrical boxes and the like since it’s quicker and more efficient.

But, for the home DIYer, you’re much more likely to get an accurate cut with a jab saw. The extra time spent is worth it.

Other occasions where a drywall router might come in handy are for cutting in doors, windows, and the like, although a utility knife is usually the best bet for these situations as well.

When cutting door or window openings into drywall, it’s typically best to first hang the panels and then make the cuts with the panel already installed.

Final Thoughts on Cutting Drywall

As you can see, cutting drywall is actually incredibly simple with just a little know-how and a handful of basic tools.

But, it’s just one step of the process.

After hanging the drywall panels, you’ll also have to tape, mud, sand, and finish them for an aesthetically pleasing look.

Our drywall resources guide breaks down everything you need to know about each step of the drywalling process. We even offer tips on how to calculate the cost of drywall installation.