How to insulate and drywall garage walls

September 19, 2013

For years now I’ve wanted to finish insulating and drywalling our garage. Most of it already is, but the exterior walls (those not touching the house) aren’t. We could have paid for the builder to do it but it was one of those, “OH we can SO do that ourselves”…and nine years later here we are.
We have a bedroom above the garage and although it’s not too bad, it does get warm in there in the summer. The cold in the winter really isn't too bad, but in the warmer months it is definitely the hottest room in the house.
Yes, the warmer months are about done, but the thing is – this job isn’t the most fun to do when it’s hot out. More on that later. :) But either way, it’s something I’ve wanted to start for a while.
Have I mentioned I’ve never insulated or drywalled before? Yeah. Well, I’ve taken bits of insulation and filled in spots in our basement so there’s that. But the big roll and massive pieces of drywall? Nope.
But I’m a DIYer and I’ve watched a lot of DIY shows so those two things together made me feel like I could totally do this. (Insert tool man grunt.) I figured it couldn’t be that hard…and for once that thought went through my head and I was actually right! Usually when I dare to think that it turns into a horrible day when doors fall and I have a hole in my house.
Let’s start at the beginning. First things first – our garage is a DISASTER right now. I’m almost done decluttering the house and a lot of stuff has gone to live out there till I can figure out where to put it…out there. So really, it’s a mess. We can still park our cars in there so yay for us, that’s something!

I decided to try out my insulating and drywalling skills on this wall:

What wall you ask? Oh let me just move all the STUFF and I’ll show you:

There we go. For real, half the time I spend on projects is just moving stuff out of the way.
Next, I geared UP. Insulation can make you itchy if you touch it, although I hear it depends on the person. If you have more sensitive skin it’s more likely to bother you. I don’t but the thought of getting itchy freaks me out so I wore long sleeves and gloves.
And the mask and safety glasses are a must:
DIY safety gear
THIS is why I waited till the hot weather broke. It was a beautiful, cool day and I still ended up sweating. And every time I breathed into the mask it fogged up my glasses and couldn’t see so those were fun times.

I found out you need to decide on a few things when picking drywall – faced or nonfaced (I went with faced which means it has a paper barrier), you need to know if your studs are 2x4’s or 2x6’s (the 6’s are usually only for a wall with plumbing) and what R-value you want.
I’m not trying to heat and cool the garage or anything, I just want to keep it a little more protected from temps, so I went with the R-13, which is pretty standard:
picking out insulation Of course the section I wanted to do only had two areas that were the standard 15 inch width for the insulation to fit right into. Those were SUPER easy and fast to do. You just cut it down and then stuff it in. More on that in a bit.
For the areas between studs that were a bit (or a lot less) than the standard opening, I had to cut them down. I measured:
And this is how I cut the insulation – I just laid down a straight edge (anything would work) and used a razor to slice next it:
how to cut insulation
I did that right on the cement so I went through a couple razors, but it worked great. When I had to cut the whole piece long ways I did the same thing – but didn’t worry about it being perfect. The beauty of this is that you’re able to kind of push it where it needs to be.
I used the scraps from cutting them down in little spots like this:
how to insulate a wall
And this area along the bottom:
how to insulate a wall
Two things to note -- you don’t want to smoosh insulation too much. I read that it reduces it’s insulating qualities if you flatten it. 

Also, I didn’t have to worry about light switches or electrical lines on this wall (but I will on others):
installing insulation
I did look up what to do with those and for light switches you’ll want to cut out around the switch so the insulation fits snug in there. And if you have a cord running through the middle of the wall I read you can “split” the insulation right up the middle. So take the front and back and pull them apart – put the back part behind the wiring and front in front of it (near the area that will be drywalled).
I did read it doesn’t matter too much when it comes to wiring but this seemed like a good idea to me.
So you need to secure the stuff to the studs – I always thought you just stick it in there (and it does stay on it’s own) but over time I can see that it would droop. I just used the stapler I use for upholstery projects for this:
how to install insulation
I didn’t do a ton of staples – maybe five or six on each side?
I was pretty darn pleased with myself when this was done:
insulated wall
I have to say this project was strangely satisfying – I really quite enjoyed it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me either.
NOW it was time for the drywall. I’ve patched holes in the wall with drywall but never hung it. And man, it is HEAVY. My husband helped me and we started by installing one up high first. We set it on a ladder and then he held it up so I could get a few screws in. 

I knew where the studs where from the little bit of drywall that was installed up higher on that wall (not sure why the builder did that but not the lower parts?).

The lower piece was too big by less than a half an inch, argh! It was all going SO well. :) So I did what they do on the DIY shows – held up my level, scored it with a razor and then knocked off the edge:
cutting drywall
On the shows they do this and it comes off clean, but this was such a small part. I had to use a wrench and just grab it and pop it off, piece by piece. I think that took longer than hanging the two sheets of drywall.
I turned that drywall over so that rough edge was on the bottom and you wouldn’t see it. :)
I did it! One wall done!:
how to insulate and drywall
SO much better right? I mean, obviously all the junk is gone. The only items I put back were our folding chairs – I like having them right there so I can throw them in the back of my car when we need them. I put everything else away and I’ll decide after the rest of the garage is done if anything will go back.
All along I wasn’t planning on even taping or mudding the new drywall in the garage, but now that I see it I think it will look even a million times better if I did. I already have both from a patching job, so I’ll get to that part soon. I’d love to paint our garage someday too – but for now it’s staying bare. I call it “drywall gray.” 
Here’s a another shot with a before and after to truly appreciate the GREATNESS:
drywalled garage 

It makes me want to wallpaper it or something. It’s hard for me to look at a large empty wall and not do something to it. I’m holding back though -- there is beauty in empty, at least in the garage.
And the bonus is it forced me to clean out that spot so I now can successfully get in and out of my car!
Have you ever tried insulating or drywalling? Overall it was way easier than I thought it would be, but we didn’t have to lift up much drywall either. Now to declutter, organize and drywall the rest of the garage. 

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  1. My hubby and I added a closet in our daughter's room several years back. That was the last time I said I would tackle insulation and drywall. Putting it up, no big deal. Mudding and taping, a bit harder (especially if you want it to look good), the sanding...UGH! That stuff goes everywhere!!! We were quite proud when finished however.

  2. It does look tons nicer with drywall up! You might want to consider finishing the drywall though. Our house is 8 years old and we had our garage insulated, drywalled and then stuccoed and painted white. If you just leave the drywall like some of our neighbors did, it absorbs moisture after awhile and gets darker looking and kind of dingy.

    1. I think it does this if it's just not painted -- our drywall in the garage is mudded but not painted and I noticed that it's a completely different color than the new stuff. I want to paint it all eventually but it will be a HUGE job. Not looking forward to that! :)

  3. What a great project! This is something we'll have to do at our house/garage soon, I think. And to our basement even sooner. Thanks for the info and tips!

  4. Um, we're in the middle of a DIY kitchen gut/remodel and the last phase was insulation and drywall. There were A LOT of cuts for plugins/switches/plumbing etc., that made it suck. BUT, the only thing that tops mudding and sanding in the suckiness department is painting ceilings. MUDDING SUCKS. SANDING SUCKS. We still have some left to sand and that crap goes every.where. I say, if you can get away with not doing it, you'll thank me later. :)

  5. Great job! Drywalling is hard work! BTW, next time try pinching the mask tight to the bridge of your nose. That should help with the fogging of your glasses. :-)

    1. Learn something new every day -- I will do that, thank you!

  6. Bravo on tackling something you haven't done. Tiling is pretty easy too! :) (I've done both) My fear of the "unknown" is the furniture. I can paint it a solid colour, but then to "mess" it up with sanding and waxing to get the perfect chippy look - that scares me! So I come here and get my fix of beautifully painted furniture.

  7. I haven't done this, but we have two rooms (and probably the garage) that we will need to insulate and drywall at some future point. I'm glad to hear it's not quite as bad as I envisioned. We'll see what random things happen when we get enough guts (and money) to finish those rooms. Thanks for putting my mind at ease a bit!


  8. My husband does this for a living, so I showed this to him and he said you did a great job! (He should know) Thanks for always inspiring me to diy.

  9. Yeah, I've become very familiar with dry-walling lately... We're re-doing some rooms in the basement. It's kind of fun to score and break the drywall, and not too bad screwing it to the wall either. I'm also one of those weirdos who thinks mudding is kind of soothing (it's at least a good excuse for alone time) but sanding is obnoxious. For the rough edges, you can use a drywall rasp to make it nice and straight again. It actually makes the drywall fit together better as well, so it's super-helpful to have one once you start putting little pieces together in strange configurations. Especially if none of your walls are square so your measurements are complicated. The joys of working on century old houses... Rasps are also useful if you need to shorten a piece of drywall less than a 1/2 inch. It doesn't break very well if it's that small, so rasping makes it come off they way you want it too. Anyways, too much talking about rasping. Good job with the wall! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Call me crazy but I LOVE dry-walling. It goes so fast and the before and after are so dramatic.

    I love mudding too.. I even wrote up a post back in the day about the differences in hot mud vs. premade. (I'm a hot mud girl thru and thru!)

    Can't wait to see how it comes out (and a garage is a great place to start, since you don't need to strive for perfection!)

    1. Interesting -- I've never heard of hot mud! I will have to check into that.

  11. Wow! Wow! Wow! You are my HERO! Great job. Between your inspiration and Nicole Curtis' inspiration, I might just become a DIY superwoman myself!

  12. I thought I was the only one to put off insulating and drywalling my garage. I just finished my garage this summer...after 11 years! I had 3 entire walls to insulate and drywall, so I had someone else do it for me...but after they cleared out...I got to painting the ceiling and 4 walls. It's so much easier to keep clean (ever try sweeping dust and cob webs from between studs?)...and it looks so nice, sometimes I open the garage door just to look at it. :) BONUS: My electric bill has gone down since insulating the garage, even tho' there is only one common wall. Woop! Woop!

  13. You are just amazing what a great project. I will want ot have same at my house very soon.

  14. Ooh yeah! Nice going, woman. "Drywall gray" well gray is the new neutral so that makes your garage trendy, right?? :)

  15. This is exactly what we are putting off doing in our garage. Thanks for the tutorial! Can you give a cost breakdown of this project?

  16. Sarah, fantastic work! :) I do not know if I am confident enough to tackle installing dry wall. lol


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