There are numerous tools for finishing interiors. These include rasps, saws, drywall tools, sanders, trowels, and various types of cutters.

In this lesson, you will learn about different types of interior finish tools and their uses. You will also learn how to select the right interior finish tool for the job, use various types of interior finish tools, and provide the proper care of the interior finish tools to keep them in good working condition.

When you have completed this lesson, you will be able to do the following:



Types and Uses

Drywall Rasp

The drywall rasp is used to perform minor trimming on drywall panels that are too tight for the space they are going into. A good drywall rasp is self-cleaning.

Drywall Circle Cutter

The drywall circle cutter is similar to the circle gasket cutter. The drywall circle cutter marks a round hole to be cut in drywall. This tool is commonly used to cut holes for ceiling mounted lighting fixtures.

Drywall Saw

The drywall saw is used for cutting drywall that has already been placed. Openings, such as windows, are easier to cut in drywall once installed. Unlike other saws, the drywall saw has a sharp point, which is used to get a hole started.

Drywall Lifter

The drywall lifter is used to lift and hold sheets of drywall into place while being attached to the wall or ceiling. You may also hear this tool referred to as a board lifter.

Drywall Panel Hoist

The drywall panel hoist is used to lift and hold sheets of drywall into angled positions while being attached. The drywall panel hoist allows one person to install large sheets of drywall at various heights.

Finish Knife

The finish knife is used in drywall work to smooth mud and tape seams. The steel blade makes the tool easy to clean when the job is complete. The handle is usually made of a material such as polypropylene so that it will hold up to exposure to chemical cleaning agents.

Mud Pan

The mud pan is used for mixing and holding mud for drywall taping, texturing, and patching. Mud pans have watertight seams and range in length from 10 to 24 inches.

Clinch-On ® Cornerbead Tool

The Clinch-On ® cornerbead tool is used to install cornerbead on walls covered with drywall. One blow from the rubber mallet will crimp the cornerbead tightly and accurately into place.

Inside Corner Tool

The inside corner tool is used to finish inside corners on drywall installations. It is a one-piece, flexible, stainless steel tool with a 103 degree angle that flexes to 90 degrees.

Outside Corner Tool

The outside corner tool is used to finish outside corners on drywall installations. It is a one-piece, flexible, stainless steel tool with an 80 degree angle that flexes to 90 degrees.


The hawk is used to hold drywall mud right before it is applied. It can carry a larger amount of mud than a trowel can from the mud pan to the wall or ceiling where it will be applied.

Pole Sander

The pole sander is used to sand drywall joints. The attached pole helps reach joints, such as those on ceilings or high walls, which are difficult to reach using regular hand sanders.

Hand Sander

The hand sander is used to sand drywall joints.

Mud Masher

The mud masher is used for mixing drywall mud. The 24-inch handle makes the mud masher a good tool to use when you are mixing mud in a 5 gallon bucket.

Mastic Trowel

The mastic trowel is used to apply mastic to walls and floors before ceramic tiling. The smooth edges are used to apply a thin coat of mastic to the surface. The notched edges are used to ridge the mastic for better adhesion to the tile.

Notch Trowel

The notch trowel is used to apply mortar to surfaces. The flat side of the trowel is used to apply a skim coat to a surface. The notched side is used to comb the mortar.

Rubber Surface Trowel

The rubber surface trowel is used in tile grouting.

Tile Nipper

The tile nipper is used to make circular cuts in ceramic tile. When using the tile nipper, take small bites, or nips, from the tile because large nips can cause the tile to break. Eye protection is critical, as sharp tile fragments can fly from the cut in any direction.

Tile Cutter

The tile cutter is used to make straight or angled cuts in ceramic tile. A scoring wheel makes a score across the tile surface, which can then be broken along the score line. Tile cutters come in various sizes to accommodate various tile sizes. The beams holding the scoring wheel can be adjusted for height to accommodate various tile thicknesses.

Using Interior Finish Tools

The following paragraphs describe how to use interior finish tools properly.

When attaching drywall, hold it firmly against the framing to avoid nail pops and other weak spots. Nails or screws must fasten securely in a framing member. If a nail misses the framing, pull it out, dimple the hole, fill it in with compound, and then try again. If you drive a nail in so deep that the drywall is crushed, drive in another reinforcing nail within 2 inches of the first.

As you nail, it is important that you dimple each nail, that is, drive each nail in slightly below the surface of the drywall without breaking the surface of the material. Dimpling creates a pocket that can be filled with joint compound. Although special convex headed drywall hammers are available for this operation, a conventional claw hammer also works, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 — Dimpling of gypsum drywall.

Nail or screw drywall from the center of the sheet outward. Sheets are single or double nailed. Where you double-nail sheets, single-nail the entire sheet first and then add the second (double) nails, again beginning in the middle of the sheet and working outward. Single nails are spaced a maximum of 8 inches apart on walls and 7 inches apart on ceilings. Do not double-nail around the perimeter of a sheet.

Begin by attaching sheets on the ceiling. First check to be sure extra blocking that will receive nails or screws is in place above the top plates of the walls. By doing the ceiling first, you have maximum exposure of blocking to nail or screw into. If there are gaps along the intersection of the ceiling and wall, it is much easier to adjust wall pieces.

Ceilings can be covered by one person using two tees made from 2- by 4-inch wide boards. This practice is acceptable when dealing with sheets that are 8 feet in length. Sheets over this length will require a third tee, which is very awkward for one individual to handle. Two people are needed to install drywall on ceilings. A drywall panel hoist can be used, if available, to position larger drywall sheets on the ceiling.

Walls are easier to hang than ceilings, and one person can work alone effectively, although the job goes faster if two people work together. As you did with the ceiling, be sure the walls have sufficient blocking in corners before you begin.

Make sure the first sheet on a wall is plumb and its leading edge is centered over a stud. Then, all you have to do is align successive sheets with the first sheet. The drywall lifter shown earlier is useful for raising or lowering a sheet while you level its edge. After you have sunk two or three screws or nails, the sheet will stay in place. A gap of 1/2 inch or so along the bottom of a sheet is not critical; it is easily covered by finish flooring, baseboards, and so on. If you favor a clean, modern line without trim, manufactured metal or vinyl edges, called casing beads, are available for finishing the edges.

Finishing gypsum board drywall is generally a three coat application. Attention to drying times between coats prevents rework that involves cost as well as extra time. Where sheets of drywall join, cover the joints with joint tape and compound as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 — Finishing drywall joints.

The procedure is straightforward:

  1. Spread a swath of bedding compound about 4 inches wide down the center of the joint as shown in Figure 2A. Press the tape into the center of the joint with a 6-inch finish knife as shown in view B. Apply another coat of compound over the first to bury the tape as shown in view C. As you apply the compound over the tape, bear down so you take up any excess. Scrape clean any excess, as sanding it off can be tedious.
  2. When the first coat is dry, sand the edges with fine grit sandpaper while wearing personal protective equipment. Using a 12-inch knife, apply a topping of compound 2 to 4 inches wider than the first applications, as shown in Figure 2D.
  3. Sand the second coat of compound when it is dry. Apply the third and final coat, feathering it out another 2 to 3 inches on each side of the joint. You should be able to feather the joint compound with a 12-inch knife. Otherwise, you should use a 16-inch feathering trowel.

When finishing an inside corner as shown in Figure 3, cut your tape the length of the corner angle you are going to finish. Apply the joint compound evenly with a 4-inch knife about 2 inches on each side of the angle. Use sufficient compound to embed the tape. Fold the tape along the center crease as shown in Figure 3A and firmly press it into the corner. Use enough pressure to squeeze some compound under the edges. Feather the joint compound 2 inches from the edge of the tape, as shown in Figure 3B. When the first coat is dry, apply a second coat. A corner trowel, shown in Figure 3C, is almost indispensable for taping comers. Feather the edges of the joint compound 1 1/2 inches beyond the first coat. Apply a third coat if necessary, let it dry, and sand it to a smooth surface. Use as little compound as possible at the apex of the angle to prevent hairline cracking. When molding is installed between the wall and ceiling intersection, it is not necessary to tape the joint, as shown in Figure 3D.

Figure 3 — Finishing an inside corner.

When finishing an outside corner, as shown in Figure 4, be sure the corner bead is attached firmly. Using a 4-inch finishing knife, spread the joint compound 3 to 4 inches wide from the nose of the bead, covering the metal edges. When the compound is completely dry, lightly sand and apply a second coat, feathering edges 2 to 3 inches beyond the first coat. A third coat may be needed, depending on your coverage. Feather the edges of each coat 2 or 3 inches beyond each preceding coat.

Figure 4 — Finishing an outside corner.

Corner beads are no problem if you apply compound with care and scrape the excess clean. Nail holes and screw holes usually can be covered in two passes, though shrinkage sometimes necessitates three. A tool that works well for sanding hard to reach places is a sanding block on an extension pole; the block has a swivel head joint.

To give yourself the greatest number of decorating options in the future, paint the finished drywall surface with a coat of flat oil base primer. Whether you intend to wallpaper or paint with latex, oil base primer adheres best to the facing of the paper and seals it.

Care of Interior Finish Tools

Use the following guidelines when working with interior finish tools:


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1. What interior finish tool is used to perform minor trimming on a drywall panel that is too tight for the space it is going into?

A. Finish knife
B. Pole sander
C. Drywall rasp
D. Drywall saw

2. What interior finish tool has a sharp point to get a hole started in drywall?

A. Finish knife
B. Pole sander
C. Drywall rasp
D. Drywall saw

3. The drywall panel hoist can lift and hold sheets of drywall into what type of places?

A. Angled
B. Flat
C. Hard to reach
D. Tight

4. Which of the following interior finish tools carry drywall mud from the mud pan to the area where it will be applied?

A. Finish knife
B. Hawk
C. Mastic trowel
D. Mud masher

5. The mud masher’s handle is how long, in inches?

A. 12
B. 24
C. 42
D. 54

6. The tile nipper is used to make what type of cuts in ceramic tiles?

A. Angled
B. Square
C. Circular
D. Triangle

7. What term describes driving each nail slightly below the surface of the drywall without breaking the surface of the material?

A. Chipping
B. Dimpling
C. Flaking
D. Rippling

8. At what location should drywall be attached first?

A. All corners
B. Ceiling
C. Wall opposite of the door
D. Wall with the door

9. How many coats of compound should be applied to a joint?

A. One
B. Two
C. Three
D. Four

10.When finishing an inside corner, joint compound should be applied to what distance on each side of the angle?

A. 2 centimeters
B. 4 centimeters
C. 2 inches
D. 4 inches

11.Keep interior finish tools in which of the following conditions?

A. Clean
B. Dirty
C. Dull
D. Lubricated

12.To protect the tool and yourself, what action should occur to the edges of the interior finish tools?

A. Cover
B. Make dull
C. Paint orange
D. Polish


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Answers to Exercises

1. C
2. D
3. A
4. B
5. B
6. C
7. B
8. B
9. C
10. C
11. A
12. A


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