Early User of ZipWall Has a Few Things to Say About ZipWall

Zip Wall Clamping Foam

Early in my career writing about home remodeling, I received an e-mail from a marketing person at ZipWall or hired by them, asking if I wanted to have a free ZipWall system. I had just begun writing about home improvement and the idea that I could get products for free with the implied expectation that I would write about them was both novel and exhilarating.

It was 2006. ZipWall sent me a long cardboard box. Inside were two telescoping aluminum poles with red plastic spring-loaded ends. I used ZipWall for some projects, then wrote up a review in The Spruce (at that time called About.com), and I spoke favorably about ZipWall. In fact, I still write for The Spruce, and in looking at ZipWall literature I see that comments about ZipWall poles being aluminum is incorrect; they are stainless steel. I have changed that review accordingly.

I also see that ZipWall came out in 1999, a time so long ago that ZipWall was barely getting into that Internet thing (see first print clipping below). They had their first media blitz in 1999, with a second, much smaller media blitz-ette in 2003, and then the 2006 mini blitz-ette, which included me.

ZipWall Chicago Tribune, March 19 1999
Chicago Tribune, March 19 1999

First the Obligatory Accolades

From the standpoint of easy renovation, ZipWall is king. If not king, it’s somewhere in the royal circle. I don’t even know what to say other than check out the Amazon review, filter out those pissy two- and one-star reviews, and read the top reviews. It’s all true.

If you can afford ZipWall (and it isn’t cheap) and you have just bought a home and want to remodel, buy the damn things. Price has actually gone down since 1999, beginning at $140 for a two-pole set and now going for about $90. A whole $1,285 ZipWall Tool Kit would be a wet dream, but really the two-pole set is all a DIYer needs.

And Obligatory Improvement Recommendations

  • Add arrows to the poles, indicating which direction to turn to release or secure.
  • Add an attachment system so that the plastic sheet will stay on the end of the pole as you raise it.
  • There is no place to grab the plastic plate. You have to either pry the plate off by inserting a thin object under the plate (not a good idea) or searching for some grab point on the bottom of that plate. ZipWall will say that the way to release the pole is to push up on the pole itself (ignoring the plate) and this is true in 95% of the applications. But there are the rare times you need to grab that plate and you just can’t.

But Here’s Where It Gets Interesting

Zip Wall Clamping Foam

ZipWall has really missed the boat on promoting this one. Like many ZipWall users, I use my poles for far more applications that have nothing to do with dust barriers.

  • Above, I am using ZipWall as a push-clamp system to glue together two sheets of insulation foam.
  • I have used ZipWall to hold drywall against ceiling joists.
  • When building wire chases for rope lighting in my home movie theater, ZipWall poles were a friend I depended on for holding them up while I screwed them into place.

And those are only the first three that I can think of, on a brain that is ravaged by a poor sleep last night. With a clearer head, I’m sure I could come up with tons more.

Basically, I see a company that appears to not be taking advantage of the good thing they’ve got going. Promote it more. Clean up your dated website. Show how buyers use it for things other than holding up plastic. Do that Ryobi Nation type of thing, where users send in photos.

Yes, you’re pushing 20 years old. Congrats. But that’s no reason to keep your company running on fumes.

And as the saying goes, I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t love you, man.






Drywall or Flooring: Which to Install First?

When you are remodeling a room and have everything stripped out, it can be difficult to decide which surface to re-install first:  drywall or flooring.  Which should go in first?

Best Answer

Install drywall on the walls before installing floor covering.


Protecting Flooring

Both drywall work and floor installation create a mess, but drywall’s mess far exceeds that of flooring.  By putting in the drywall first, you separate drywall and its dust from the flooring later on.

Easier to Change Flooring Later

If you were to install flooring first, pushing it against or close to the wall studs, the drywall would then extend over the flooring.  This effectively traps that edge of the flooring under the drywall, making it more difficult to remove the flooring.


When the drywall is being installed in the ceiling, it matters less because that issue of drywall trapping floor covering is eliminated.  Still, you have the issue of mess to deal with, which can be significant when hanging drywall on a ceiling.

If you have the following conditions happening all at once, you may want to consider installing flooring first:  1.) you are hanging a significant amount of drywall; 2.)  the flooring is unfinished wood.  This point was brought up by a commenter at the Fine Homebuilding forum, stating that the humidity spike caused by drywall finishing and the painting can cause the flooring to “swell and buckle.”


Tier 1 – Trade Forum

Fine Homebuilding’s forum has a good discussion of whether drywall or flooring should go in first, along with that point about drywall finishing’s humidity having the potential to affect raw wood flooring.


Can You Build Everything With Drywall Screws and Make Your Remodeling Easier?

Drywall Screw vs. Steel Screw

Drywall screws are plentiful and cheap.  Since they are used in great quantities, they come in great quantities–which means that they always seem to be at hand.  Can you build with drywall screws?  Or are they too weak for anything but hanging drywall?

Best Answer

Yes, you can use drywall screws for light building projects around the home.


It is heretical to say that drywall screws can be used for building.  If you’ve ever opened a box of drywall screws and seen the duds–heads snapped off in production and random bits of metal–this may give you some pause.

Snapping Off (Shear Strength)

True, drywall screws snap.  This cannot be denied.  With drywall screws, it’s all or nothing.  Either they’re holding or they have broken apart, unlike steel or brass screws or nails which bend before breaking.

Tension Pull-Out Strength

Some evidence shows that drywall screws have roughly half the tension pull-out strength of steel self-drilling screws.

Benefit vs. Risk

The benefit to you may outweigh the risk of using drywall screws to build with.  Benefits include:  they are inexpensive; coarse-threaded drywall screws easily pull into wood; driver grips screw heads well.  The risk is that your kitchen cabinet falls down.


Light Building Only:  Using drywall screws for any type of heavy building project, like framing a house or setting a beam to replace a load-bearing wall, would not be a good idea, to put it mildly.  Used in great numbers, the drywall screws would still likely have enough redundancy to hold up the roof or wall.  But given the safety issues, it’s just not worth it to go this route.

Indoors Only: Drywall screws have a black or gray phosphate coating that does not stand up to moisture well.  As Grabber Canada says, “Phosphate is a porous coating, which is usually applied in combination with oil. It is the lowest cost of all fastener finishes and as such, offers only a minimal barrier to corrosion . It is suitable for indoor applications only, where there is minimal chance of exposure to moisture.”

Impact vs. Resting Loads:  Because drywall screws have such a tendency to snap upon sharp impact, you would want to avoid using drywall screws for any building project that involves sharp movements.


Interfast Group, a fastener manufacturer, published some data about pull-out tension strength of their drywall screws vs. other types of their screws.

Matthias Wandel, a Canadian woodworker and former software engineer, takes a methodical, measured approach to the issue of drywall screw tensile strength and pulling ability.  He found that drywall screws snap off when hit by a hammer from the side and that they have good gripping strength.

Grabber Canada, a fastener manufacturer, offers some technical data about drywall screws’ strength.

Most opinions about the wisdom or not of using drywall screws for building are anecdotal, and go both ways.  One commenter on Sawmill Creek asks, “has anyone actually seen catastrophic failure from a cabinet installed with drywall screws?”  Another says, “I put the cabinets in my garage 20 years ago and hung them with drywall screws and have had zero problems.”


Drywall Screws vs. Drywall Nails: Which One to Use?

When fastening drywall to studs, you have a choice of using either drywall screws or drywall nails.  Which should you use to make it faster, easier, and cheaper to install the drywall.  Importantly, which one will keep the drywall most secure for the longest time?


Use drywall screws rather than drywall nails.


Screws are more secure because they cannot pull straight out.  When enough lateral pressure is applied to drywall nails, they will pull out.  In fact, older homes often have circular bumps in the drywall, caused by nail pops.


If you had asked me this question at any time in the last 20 years, the “drywall screws” answer would have been unequivocal and unqualified.  In fact, the conventional wisdom today is that a person is expected to use drywall screws, and that nails are considered archaic.

Recently, though, I used drywall nails to tack up small pieces of board to cover door headers, and it was a joy.  I realized that there is a limited place for drywall nails in your easy renovation repertoire.

Small Pieces:  It feels almost overkill to screw small sections of drywall in place.  Large sections (4 ft. by 8 ft. sheets) really do benefit from an all-screw or partial screw installation.

Tiny Pieces:  Sections of drywall that are downright tiny really do benefit from drywall nails over screws.  Screws can mangle up tiny pieces.

Extreme Edges:  In those instances where you have to drive a fastener closer to the edge than you would like (say, within 1/4 inch), drywall nails will drive cleaner into the board than screws.  Screws are larger, and because of the rotation effect, they will rip away gypsum on the open edges.

Field vs. Perimeter:  Professional drywall installers often like to use nails for perimeters.  It’s physically easier to get a board initially tacked up with a hammer and nail than by wrestling with a drill and screw.

Metal Corners:  Metal corner beam is nailed into drywall, not screwed.