5 Methods for Cutting Drywall

Cutting drywall is one of the toughest challenges that a DIY expert can face these days. If you have faced the case yourself you must be understanding that how things can go South just in a blink of an eye. The main reasons that we came across are a large amount of dust generated while cutting the drywall, also in some cases, we found out that the boards snap from the wrong positions.

It really sounds quite tough, isn’t it? But wait; let’s give it a second thought before jumping to any conclusions. We have been continuously telling you guys that every job has some dedicated tools. What if the act of cutting drywall too has some special tools and tricks, will that make any difference?

The answer to that question is an obvious and big YES. With the proper tools and techniques, you can master the art of cutting drywall. In fact, once you get used to it this is one of the easiest, cleanest and quietest jobs that pay really well. Moreover, there is not much hard work and mental toughness required.

What is Drywall?

Before we go into the in-depth analysis let us know what Drywall is actually. You may be familiar with the term Sheetrock is the brand name for drywall. Technically it is a sandwich where mined Gypsum or Plaster of Paris is wrapped in the sheets of recycled paper. If you have a look at the individual components then you will notice that neither one of them have the strength or the stealth capabilities. But as soon as they are pressed together they become a remarkably strong, sheathing and fire resistant entity. This is what makes the drywall so popular these days.

Drywall is also known as plasterboard, wallboard or Sheetrock. It is a dried, pressed gypsum cement that comes in thicknesses from 1/4” to 3/4” and come in widths up to 54” to use on ceilings and walls. Longer sheets can be troublesome as they are heavier but there are fewer joints which will make finishing easier.

When hanging drywall you’ll need to start with the ceiling first and then the walls. There are really two basic ways of cutting drywall, these are either sawing or scoring. Which method works best depends on what you are trying to do with it, for example, scoring is better if you are trying to cut sheets at a length while sawing is better for holes and openings.

Why do we need special tools for cutting drywall?

Drywall is not a use and throws kind of material; instead, it can be used for multiple times. Even if you have drilled holes in it, still some part of that chunk can be used to fit in someplace. So if the cuts and fitting are not proper in the first place then how can we use that again? Moreover, when we are cutting holes for lights, switches or power outlets, clear measurements and cuts are required. With the right sets of tools you will not only get fine cuts but also wastages can be minimized which are caused by irregular snapping. Also, dedicated tools minimize the gypsum dust which hinders the process working.

What tools do you need?

  • Drywall Rasp
  • Drywall keyhole saw
  • Drywall saw
  • Straight Edge
  • Utility Knife
  • Measuring tape
  • Circle Cutter (if needed)

What’s the generalized process of cutting drywall?

The cutting of drywall can be divided into basic three steps. It does not matter much that what kind of special tool you are using for the cutting process you are bound to follow the below-mentioned steps.

Method 1 – Scoring

Start with your drywall standing or laying flat and evenly supported. Measure the drywall to where you want the line. Mark the line across the drywall vertically in several places along the width. Using the straight edge mark across and intersect the vertical marks across the board using a straight line.

Take the utility knife and score along the marked line through the paper and into the core. You do not need to cut the board through, just past the paper and into the gypsum. Support the sheet on the back and apply pressure to the face on one side of the score. The board should snap cleanly to the paper on the other side. Using the utility knife again cut the back paper on the sheet at the fold. Using a drywall rasp smooth the cut edges out.

This method is best used for smaller pieces of drywall that are smaller than 3ft across any larger makes it hard to keep the pressure even on all parts of the score to break it, risking the cut not going through the scoreline in places.

Method 2 – Sawing Doors

As you can see from the list above there are two types of drywall saws. A keyhole saw is used for making smaller cuts like those needed for electrical boxes while the large drywall saw is better for windows or doors. Mark the location for the cuts using the straight edge and the measuring tape. Remember to measure twice before cutting. This may be easier to do before installation depending on where your cuts are.

When creating a door measure from the corner of the room to the edge of what will be the door jamb and then mark the same measurement onto the drywall if it has not already been hung. Mark the wasted piece with a large X so you know which is which. Measure the vertical height of the door and mark that on the sheet too. Start with the shorter cut using the drywall saw. Score along the long edge using the utility knife and snap off the waste piece.

Method 3 – Sawing Electrical Boxes

When cutting an electrical box you’ll be working with a much tighter space. The most common method of doing this is to mark the location and then use the box itself as a cutting guide. Hold the box onto the drywall and mark around the outside with a pencil. Using a keyhole saw cut around the opening. Push the sharp point of the keyhole saw into the sheet then hold the saw at a slight angle so that the back is slightly larger than the front for a snug fit. Use a utility knife to even up the edges, leaving no more than a 1/8” gap around the box.

Method 4 – Power Tools

A rotary or multi-tool sounds like a quick way around not having a keyhole saw, the problem is that you’ll need the right bit or you can make a huge mess. A downcutting bit is important if you’re working with drywall that’s already been hung and only needs a small cut.

Check out our article about How to cut Drywall with Oscillating Multi-Tool

You can find drywall bits for as little as $3. Start by marking the area the same as you did with method 3, using a drill out one corner of the marked area enough to fit the multi-tool bit in. Carefully use the multi-tool to trace around the marked area.

This is by far the hardest method as the weight and speed of the power tool makes mistakes much more likely, especially if you can’t guarantee to have a steady hand.

Method 5 – Compass/Circle Cutter

Cutting circles in drywall are not as difficult as it might sound, the method is much the same of that as sawing an electrical box. You can use a keyhole saw to cut small circles if you feel confident with it.

A circle cutter is much more convenient though, it has two sharp wheels that pivot around the center tip to evenly cut the plug out which can then be removed. Mark the circle using a compass so that you have a small indent where the exact center is. Slide the wheels to the diameter of the required circle and place the center tip into the indent from the compass. Firmly turn the wheel around so that the wheels score out the circle. Pop the circle through and remove.


Drywall can be heavy, you’ll want a helper or a drywall lift for larger pieces so they don’t break. Use a pencil or a scoring tool rather than pen as the ink from pens can bleed through when you start painting, the same goes for the old trick of using lipstick to make electrical boxes. Keep a spare blade for your utility knife as it will quickly dull against the gypsum. Throw away scraps or place them in a designated area so that you don’t get them confused, also make sure they are properly marked as scrap so that you don’t use them on accident.

In the upcoming sections, we will look at some of the best tools to cut drywall and How to cut Drywalls using those tools.

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