Often the question is asked “Should I go with 8 foot sheets of drywall hung vertically or 12 foot sheets of drywall hung horizontally?” This article addresses that question and offers advice on a case-by-case basis.
Advantages of Hanging 8 ft Long Drywall
The one obvious advantage of 8 foot long pieces of drywall is the ability of a single person to pick up a full piece and position it in place. Twelve foot long pieces, unless you have unusual strength, are near impossible to handle alone. And if you have to fish a 12 foot long piece around corners and down stairs, it may be impossible.
You may transport 8 ft long drywall pieces within a closed full-sized SUV or truck bed or even in the back of many mini-vans (like a Grand Caravan). 12 ft pieces will require a fairly long trailer or require a delivery charge.
Another advantage of eight foot long pieces of drywall is that when sheets are placed vertically on walls, all seams lie within a recess. And this means you do not need to do the extra work involved in properly finishing a butt joint.
Advantages of Hanging 12 ft Long Drywall
One advantage of 12 ft long sheets is that you may cover an entire wall of a small room (less than 12 ft wide) with only two sheets fastened horizontally! And in general, if the width of an area is 12 feet or less, you can cover it with two sheets and a single recess joint running horizontally down the center.
12 foot long pieces of drywall, fastened horizontally will result in a stronger, more stable wall. I can vouch for this personally even though I use 8 ft sheets for nearly any remodeling job I do: When I hang drywall around windows or doors, I will usually hang the sheets horizontally so as to avoid a vertical seam at the edge of a door or window . This use of horizontal sheets around windows will add stability to the structure and reduce the seam cracks that occur at vertical seams during winter sub-zero temperatures. And, in fact, I have even removed drywall around windows where a vertical joint was cracking and replaced it with a horizontally orientated sheet.
12 ft sheets, hung horizontally will reduce the total amount of taping required. For an 11-ft wide wall, only 11 total feet of taping is required vs. 16 ft of vertical taping for 8 ft sheets hung vertically. For a 13 foot wide wall, one would have to use a total of four 12-ft sheets, cut down and staggered horizontally, resulting in 21 feet of taping, 8 ft of which would consist of butt joints. For 8 ft sheets hung vertically, there would be 24 ft of taping, all in recessed joints (no butt joints). So in both cases taping is reduced, but in the latter case, you have nearly as much taping and 8 ft of butt joints.
If you are a DIYer remodeling a wall or small room, 8 ft sheets are your best bet. In a remodel job, you lack the luxury of being able to freely move pieces through wide open spaces. Rather you must somehow snake a 12 ft piece around corners, furniture, etc and you will need help in moving the piece. Also, do you want to mess with a 12′ trailer or pay for delivery of 3 or 4 sheets of 12-ft long drywall? And even though 12 ft pieces offer more strength from being hung horizontally, you may still hang your 8 ft pieces horizontally around windows and doors where that strength is needed. In areas away from doors and windows, I have never noticed strength issues, like buckling or cracked seams, for vertically hung 8 ft sheets. Of course this recommendation is contingent on your local building codes.
If you are building new, I would recommend using the 12 ft sheets. You will most likely opt to have the drywall delivered anyway so that is not an issue. And you will probably not be doing this drywall job alone, at least I would not recommend it! You will probably want to rent or borrow a lift so that would help with the positioning of these longer, heavier, pieces. The 12 ft sheets will give you the best strength and will result in less taping. If you hire a taper, they will probably charge you no more for butt joints than recess joints so less taping could save you a little money as well.