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Drywall Shims

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Drywall Shims: Making Imperfect Walls a Little Less Imperfect
Drywall Shims
In a perfect world, you hang drywall on studs and all the edges meet up perfectly with each other and with all the window and door trim. All is right with the world.

But in a remodeling world, all is not perfect. So, either you accept the imperfect or you nudge it along until it's closer to perfect.

Even new studs can be janky, but especially in a remodel you're found to find warped, twisted, and bowed studs. Additionally, entire rows of studs--if if they are in good condition--may not be far out enough to match your other work.

That's where drywall shims come in.

I've always produced on-site, problem-specific shims (more on that later), but it wasn't until I was hunting in the darkest recesses of a Lowe's that I saw dedicated drywall shims. They were so mysterious and hidden, you'd think they were part of a top-secret project. No one there even knew they had these shims.

What Are They?

Far from being technological marvels, drywall shims are dead-simple: very cheap cardboard strips. Unlike window shims, these are not tapered; they are flat all the way down their length.

At 45", they are the perfect length by being the width of a sheet of drywall or half of an eight-foot length, however you choose to look at it.

At 1 1/2" wide, they are the width of a stud. At about 1/8" thick, they are thin enough to correct shallow irregularities, but can be stacked to address worse problems.

They are hard cardboard that does not compact under pressure, as corrugated cardboard might do.

How Do You Use Drywall Shims?

I've always cut shims on an as-needed basis to fix studs that cause drywall problems. They could made from any scrap materials I had laying around, such as veneer board or tar paper. With veneer, just rip it in a table saw to produce multiple strips. With tar paper, use your drywall square and slice off strips with a utility knife. Use drywall shims to:
  • Bring a Wall Forward a Bit. If you need to bring a wall forward just a little bit in order to meet other work, drywall shims laid in equal numbers on every stud will do this.
  • Correct a Bowed-Out Stud. Build up several shims of gradually increasing length to fill in a bow. You can't just lay full strips across the bow, because the bow will transmit to the shim and you will not have accomplished anything. If the entire stud is bowed, it's far better and faster just to sister a stud against the bad one.
  • Drywall Butt Joints. I have never done this and cannot vouch for this. But what I understand is that for butt joints (where you cannot fill in the recess with drywall mud), you shim up the stud or joist on either side of the butt joint, thus creating a cavity for the mud.
If you need to shim more than 1/8", just buy wood lath.

Where to Find Them?

Good luck. At your local big box home improvement store, try to find them yourself (you will be met with bewilderment if you ask any sales associates). Locate the big stacks of drywall. Nearby should be drywall tools and materials. Locate the drywall tape and mud. They will probably be in this area, likely on a high shelf and covered in dust.

Or go to a contractor's supply house, where they will know what you want.

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