Don’t Leave Money on the Table: Use a Drywall Estimator

January 22, 2022
drywall contractor installing drywall

Tips for using a construction estimating software for your next drywall project

A construction project truly begins to feel finished when the walls go from open framing to gypsum board. Drywall defines a room, protects the intricacies of wiring and plumbing, and transforms that construction project into a livable space.

As a drywall contractor, there are certainly ways to guess the amount of gypsum board you may need to finish a room, but with volatile costs in the material and labor market, it is in your best interest (as well as your clients’) to use a drywall estimator that will give you the most accurate pricing for your area.

Before we get to the pricing details, let’s start with how you measure, how to determine fire rating, and what additional materials you should consider in your estimate.

Measuring a Project for Drywall Installation

To calculate your drywall measurements, first take the total square footage of the area and divide it by the square foot of your board size. If you are using a standard 4x8’ gypsum board, you will divide by 32, and if you are using a larger 4x12’ sheet size, divide by 48. If your construction estimating software has a digital takeoff tool, use it as this calculation will be more precise and account for various angles, insets, and openings in each wall area.

The simple square footage method will give you a measurement for your wall area, but if you are working on a new-build, or total renovation, don’t forget to add the measurement of your ceiling, taking into account the pitch of any vaulted areas.

Fire Rating & Moisture Resistance

Each type of gypsum board or drywall has a different level of both fire and moisture resistance. Depending on your project type and architectural specifications, your team needs to ensure that materials pricing is for the correct type of drywall. Prices for specialty drywall applications can vary widely, and some need more labor as well; a drywall estimator—or construction estimating software—should break these out for you to make bidding a drywall project faster.

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Regular Drywall

Standard drywall boards are typically 3/8" thick and 4X8'. If your project does not have any specific requirements like a bathroom, garage, or kitchen, then this is the drywall that should be in your construction bid. You can also consider larger boards, like 4x12’, to avoid additional seams, but also know that these larger boards will require an additional crew member to help hold them in place.

Type X or Type C Drywall

Produced with specialty non-combustible fibers, Type X drywall is intended for areas that require a higher fire rating, such as a laboratory, manufacturing area, or garage. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) lists a fire resistance rating of not less than one hour for 5⁄8” thick boards or 45 minutes for ½” boards. Type C drywall goes above and beyond the Type X standard, with a shrinkage-compensating additive. When this type of board is exposed to extreme heat, the board expands and provides more fire resistance around its edge, where it creates a seam.

Moisture Resistant Drywall

Moisture resistant drywall, or green boards, has an outer paper covering that makes it the ideal material for humid areas like bathrooms or basements; however, cement board should be used for shower and bath surrounds. Its light-green coloring on one side will help you identify it and keep it separate from your regular drywall. Use purple board for an even higher level of water resistance, especially if the wall may have direct access with water, such as behind a kitchen sink.

Paperless Drywall

An improved version of typical drywall is a paperless product made from fiberglass. This type of gypsum board is durable, moisture resistant, and easier to cut into irregular shapes. Some contractors find that additional mud or plaster is needed to get the smoothest finish, so take into consideration additional materials and labor costs when taking this route.

Additional Materials in Your Cost Estimate

When creating an assembly—or group—for drywall in your construction estimating software, it is not just the price of the board you need to think about. When you use a drywall estimator like 1build, the software includes prebuilt assemblies, ensuring that nothing gets left out of your final price. Here are some items that should definitely be on your list:

  • Drywall Screws
    These should be the appropriate size for your project type and drywall thickness. For a 5/8” thick sheet of drywall, use #6 x 1-1/4” drywall screws.
  • Drywall Joint Tape
    Most often, interior drywall projects require paper joint tape; but if you are working on a tapered seam or a high-stress joint like a door or window frame, consider fiberglass joint tape. This comes in widths ranging from 1 7/8” to 6”.
  • Drywall Joint Compound
    Typically sold in gallons, an all-purpose joint compound is used for most interior applications. It is available as a premixed compound—or dry powder—that needs to be mixed with water for the correct consistency. Joint compound is not only used to cover joint tape at the seams, but also as a skim coat to create an even texture across the entire wall area. Levels 1-5 dictate the level of finish with 1 being bare drywall and 5 being ultra-smooth coating with no visible texture. You can also consider topping or quick-set compound, depending on your project needs.

Pricing Your Project with a Drywall Estimator

Once you know what tools and materials are necessary on the job site, you can make sure you have the right tool to get the most accurate pricing. If you current method is pen-and-paper, or even a spreadsheet, there is a big chance you will either overestimate the project and lose the bid before you start, or underestimate and lose money during construction due to frequent change orders. An online drywall estimator tool will not only keep you organized, but also save you time by creating a more efficient process.

1build’s construction estimating service allows builders to ensure that local prices for materials, labor, and equipment are always included in their estimates, so they are never caught off-guard by price fluctuations.

Current Local Prices for Regular Drywall

While you will want to regularly check prices, especially in a volatile market, we’ve gathered the most recent pricing for 1/2" 4X8' Regular Drywall in these top construction cities:

  • Dallas - $0.48/SF ($15.36 per board)
  • Houston - $0.46/SF ($14.72 per board)
  • Orlando - $0.49/SF ($15.68 per board)
  • Miami - $0.48/SF ($15.36 per board)
  • Los Angeles - $0.50/SF ($16.00 per board)
  • New York City - $0.50/SF ($16.00 per board)

If your project is large, or you are running low on time, 1build’s marketplace option, our Estimator Network, provides a place where you can send your plans to a professional estimator, who will have your estimate completed in about a week.*

*Delivery timing may vary depending on project size/type

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