Paper or fiberglass joint tape - take two

Damn hamsters!

Which is better for taping drywall seams, old fashioned paper tape, or the self-stick fiberglass mesh? Info on the web seems to give mixed reviews on both methods. I’ve heard the pros use paper, but never any good reasons why. Is one stronger than the other? My gut says fiberglass should be stronger and I think it’s much easier to work with. Is there a definitive answer or is it just personal preference?

Mesh is better.

Do pros always do what’s better? NO! They do what is faster or cheaper (or both) frequentky -not always.

Tape might be a smidge easier…if you are a rookie with the mud.

As a rule, mesh really is better. It’s better to start with on basic seams, and it’s better by a looooong way when making repairs.

Whether it’s tile work, cutting and coping moldings, choosing light switches or whatever…a pro doesn’t always go ‘top of the line’.

I always go top of the line.

When I first started doing mud work around my house, I used mesh. It seemed to be a more stable, crack resistant material. I was also unhappy with the paper joints done by the builder that were coming loose all over the place.

But I eventually gave up on mesh. It was just too easy to have a few fibers “lift” up and then you’re stuck with them. Won’t stay down, can’t cover them, can’t sand them. So now I go with paper.

Mesh is best for certain types of repairs however, esp. if used as a backing where it won’t be near enough to the surface for the fibers to be a problem.

…but you should note that the mesh tape, if laid in the joint correctly should not snag when you drag mud over it. All drywall joints are recessed to receive the tape and the mud and not be raised above the surface. So if you tend to overwork the joints or don’t have a great techinque, go with paper because it is easier to skim over it.

You don’t have to apologize for not having a great technique. You can still get excellent paper joints, but it might come at the expense of some elbow grease/time.

Also, on non-load-bearing walls, and where you are consistently using good screws of the right length and amount AND you use adhesive to bond the drywall boards to the framing, the need for mesh tape strength goes down.

When this happens to me, I just take a fresh utility knife blade, cut a divot in the mud, and shear off the fiber below the surface. Then fill in the hole on next coat.

As for paper vs fiber… for some reason the mesh manufacturer only recommends it for use with fast setting joint compound, not the stuff that comes in buckets. However, I have used it quite successfully with the bucket joint compound.

I use fiber on the tapered joints and paper on butt joints and corners. Pros like paper because they have mud banjos (yes, they are really called that) that allow them to roll out the paper with the mud already on it in one easy motion. Saves them a step.

I have used both. Not as a professional, but remodel and addition work.

If you are patching up to existing, painted drywall, cut the paper down on the existing drywall. Not all the way, but at least the thickness of the tape, and a little mud. Score it with a utility knife and it will peal away. In that situation either paper or mesh will work.

My advice, is to buy a tape banjo. About $50 or so. You load this tool with wet mud. A role of paper tape is mounted on the back. The tape is fed through the banjo which applies a thin coat of mud on the bottom side of the tape. You pull/cut the tape like a piece of scotch tape and apply it to the joint.

This sounds a lot easier than it is, but IMHO is the only way to go. There is more clean up, but you will get better results.

Also, buy some joint knives. I use a 6" and a 10". And what is called a ‘bread pan’. The joint knives are used to spread mud over the joints and screw holes. The bread pan holds your mud. The bread pan is important. It is, about the size of small bread loaf. It may be made of plastic but will have steel edges on it to scrape your knife on. The bread pan is what you will use to carry mud and load your knifes for the finish work.

Pro here. We use paper because it is easier and because it gives a better finish (if done right).

The trick is making sure it’s bedded properly. Meaning that there is mud underneath all of it. Not even a little bit of the underneath can be missing mud. Banjos make this very quick to do. Then, a bazooka coat over it to finish bedding the topside, and a float coat over that. Light sanding is all that’s needed, usually. Of course, if the rock is put up poorly, you have a lot more work to do, extra float coats and whatnot.

Mesh is good for small repairs. It can be used for long joints but you tend to need to over mud it. Fine for a textured wall, but unacceptable for a wall that gets vinyl or faux treatment or just remains untextured.

So, they can both work, if done right, with the end result well in mind before beginning.