Friday, February 11, 2011

Dust Free Drywall Sanding

by Will Selby

Here is a brief description of some simple-to-use equipment to prevent exposure to hazardous drywall dust.

Drywall dust is a known health hazard and a huge nuisance in remodeling and new construction.

Discussion: Dust-Free Drywall Sanding Equipment

Sanding Walls before Painting

Smoothing Walls

Porter Cable model 7800 Dust-Free Drywall Sander.

Dust free sanding is the only way to go when finishing drywall. We see excessive drywall dust remaining in most new homes in the ventilation systems, outlets and switches, can lights, etc. Drywall dust is extremely light weight, and should be prevented from becoming airborne, and traveling throughout the job site. This is an easily controllable nuisance when utilizing readily available tools and techniques.

See Equipment Description

For remodeling jobs, or an occupied job site, dust-free sanding is an absolute must. Drywall dust is a nuisance to both workers and homeowners. Drywall dust harms computer and audio equipment. Drywall dust can contaminate every finish in the home including wall and trim paint, wood finishes, hardwood floors, and all surfaces.

Drywall dust can also cause various adhesion problems, and contaminates paint finishes. We have had clients spend hundreds of dollars trying to remove drywall dust from ventilation systems. We had one client who spent several thousand dollars replacing duct work, after dealing with continual dust the first two years in their newly constructed house. (The furnace was operated during drywall sanding, without covering the return air ducts). We continually talk to homeowners who have had major cleanup issues in the rest of their house after a remodeling project. This nuisance can easily be avoided with some widely available tools and equipment.
We see great results with a system consisting of:

The Porter Cable Automatic Sander is light weight, easy to use, and fast. It can be especially useful to do-it-yourselfers who are inexperienced at drywall mudding and finishing. You can easily sand and apply additional mud as needed to achieve the desired finish. The sander is also great for sanding between paint coats or sanding after priming new drywall. This system is available for rent in some areas, or can be purchased through our online store.


We see a tremendous amount of dust remaining in recently constructed homes. Dust-free drywall refinishing during new construction can greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of drywall dust remaining in a new home. The added cost of dust free sanding versus traditional sanding is minimal, and we encourage homeowners to seek contractors willing to utilize readily available methods to control drywall dust when sanding and finishing new drywall.

Before installing drywall, be sure wall studding is sufficiently dry. Later shrinking of damp studs is a prominent cause of nail pops- a common drywall problem. Be sure to check moisture content of studs before drywall installation using a Moisture Meter to help prevent excessive stud movement leading to cracks and nail pops.

More about Wood Shrinkage

Drywall Imperfections and Nail Pops

Drywall Dust Causes Paint Problems

Full resurfacing (skim-coating) of drywall during new construction can greatly enhance the finished appearance of walls, giving a uniform appearance, and eliminating the surface variations of face paper, joints, and fasteners. This can be especially beneficial for areas that will be highly illuminated by natural or artificial lighting, not always available during the construction phase. A full skim coat is also called for when finishing with a velvet, eggshell, or gloss finish paint. The automatic sander can be utilized for quickly sanding fully skimmed walls, providing a much more uniform and smooth finished wall.

Use 500w halogen lights to illuminate at a right angle down walls and across ceilings before priming or painting new drywall. It is easy to make drywall repairs and re mud before you paint or prime. If you plan to make repairs after priming, the result is generally visible slick patches, and paint appearance problems. Many drywall flaws are not discovered until painting is done and the lights come on. So light it up! Use your judgment which walls will be highly illuminated once finished, or walls that will get a lot of natural light, and consider a full skim coat of mud on those critical areas.

These tools and systems are available for rent in some PaintSource Paint Centers.

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