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How to Finish Drywall Without Mudding [5 Methods to Finish Your Walls]

You can avoid using drywall joint compound, commonly referred to as “mud” by covering drywall seams in another manner. For instance, drywall seams in the upper corners of a room can be covered with crown molding. Additionally, if you install your sheets of drywall lengthwise (with the long side parallel to the floor) you can create a single horizontal seam at the 4-foot mark around the room. This can then be covered with a decorative board to act as a chair rail.

How to finish drywall without mudding

5 Methods for Finishing Drywall Without Taping and Sealing Joints

An unsealed joint in your drywall must be covered one way or another. Otherwise, you have an open hole in the interior of your wall. This can expose insulation, wiring, and plumbing. The best option for covering drywall seams without using coats of drywall mud is to use wooden boards. Some good methods for doing this are:

Crown Molding

Crown molding can be installed where walls and ceilings meet. Not only is this an attractive feature to add to your home, but it also covers any gaps or seams where pieces of drywall meet. Once the crown molding is in place, any joints in the drywall will no longer be visible.

Quarter Round

“Quarter round” is a style of molding that has two flat sides to fit into a corner and a rounded face. It is usually 3/4 of an inch in size, making it small and unobtrusive. You can use quarter round vertically in corners where walls meet, as baseboard, or as crown molding instead of applying a coat of mud.

  • Install quarter round in corners where walls meet to cover drywall seams.
  • Use quarter round as crown molding or baseboard to cover ceiling and floor seams.
  • Paint quarter round the same color as walls so that it blends in.

Quarter round is large enough to hide joints between pieces of drywall without being obtrusive. When painted the same color as the walls, the quarter round is hardly noticeable.

Install a Chair Rail and Wainscoting

To employ this method, install your drywall horizontally (with the long side of the sheet of drywall parallel to the floor). By doing this all the way around the room, you will have a single horizontal drywall seam 4 feet from the floor. This can be covered by a wooden board installed at the 4-foot mark.

  • Install your drywall horizontally, so that the longer side of the drywall sheet is against the floor.
  • Once you have finished the drywall installation in the room you should have 1 horizontal seam at the 4-foot mark and several vertical seams.
  • Install a board over the horizontal seam, to act as a chair rail.
  • Add vertical boards that extend from the chair rail down to the floor. Space them every 2 inches. This will provide a finished look as well as cover vertical drywall seams.

Adding vertical boards below the chair rail as wainscoting will produce a rustic board-and-batten wainscoting look. By spacing the vertical boards at regular intervals, you will cover vertical seams in the process of creating your custom wainscoting look.

Caulk Seams of Installed Boards

Caulk around the edges of all boards and molding you install to make an airtight seal. This will help to make up for the fact that air and sound will infiltrate drywall that has not been sealed with paper drywall tape and mud. It’s important to properly seal cracks and seams in your home, in order to maintain interior temperatures and ensure your home is up to code.

Install Paneling

If you truly don’t want to spend the time to tape drywall and use mud to seal it, you can install wood paneling over the unfinished drywall. This process can be time-consuming and expensive, depending on the paneling you choose, but it’s a surefire way to achieve a finished surface without using a layer of mud to seal drywall joints.

What are the Drawbacks of Not Sealing Drywall?

Drywall that is not properly sealed is prone to moisture damage, retains hot or cold air poorly, leaks sound, and exposes insulation, wiring, and plumbing to moisture. An unfinished drywall surface is also more easily infiltrated by rodents and other pests.

  • Unfinished drywall is prone to moisture damage.
  • Insulation, wiring, and lumber in the wall are exposed to moisture and potential damage.
  • Pest insects and animals can more easily invade drywall cracks.
  • Unfinished drywall may be against the local building code.
  • Visible drywall seams appear unprofessional and unsightly, negatively impacting your property value.

In addition to these issues, unfinished drywall resists fire damage poorly, making it a hazard. In some areas, it may be against the building code to have unfinished drywall in a building. Not only that, but unfinished drywall is unsightly. If you plan on re-selling the property, the lack of a smooth finish may turn potential buyers away.

What Happens If You Don’t Use Tape on Drywall?

If you don’t use drywall paper tape when sealing drywall joints with “mud” then your coat of mud will crack and fall out of the joint. Not only that, but it is much more difficult to get a clean, finished look by loading joint compound into a drywall joint without a proper application of tape.

  • Joint compound used to seal joints without paper tape may crack and deteriorate.
  • Joint compound without paper tape is prone to warping as it dries, making a professional finish difficult.
  • More joint compound and additional coats are required when sealing joints without paper tape.

When using an application of mud to seal joints, it’s essential to use drywall tape along with joint compound. Otherwise, you will spend more time and effort only to result in an inferior finished product.

Will Paint Hide Drywall Seams?

Paint will not hide drywall seams. In fact, a coat of paint highlights imperfections in your drywall job. A small rough patch or crack may not seem like much when your walls are bare, but it will be twice as noticeable once you paint. This is why it’s essential to carefully seal drywall joints and use the correct sandpaper to finish your drywall, before applying any coats of paint. If you don’t take care of those seams now, they’ll look worse under a coat of paint.

Do You Have to Mud Drywall?

There are workarounds to avoid taping and mudding your drywall, such as using molding, chair rails, or quarter round to cover seams in your drywall. However, these methods are typically more time-consuming and expensive than using tape and mud to finish your walls. Using drywall mud and tape may seem daunting, especially if you’ve had messy results in the past, but with a little practice and patience, it truly is the best and cheapest way to seal joints in drywall.

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