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 What is Corner Bead and Where You Might Need It?

Corner bead is a component of a drywall installation project that forms a durable outside corner hidden inside the joint. Drywall is brittle by nature, especially on the edges, so when two pieces of drywall meet perpendicularly, corner bead is installed over the joint to provide strength and rigidity. Corner bead comes in a few different forms, so today we will discuss the types of corner bead available and what they are used for.

source: canva.com

Can I Install Corner Bead Myself?

If you are a handy do-it-yourselfer, you can probably install corner bead. Most DIYers using corner bead have likely also installed the drywall and the process will involve some of the same tools. Since most corner bead will be relatively short in length (as opposed to crown molding or baseboard), most of the time it can be installed by one person.

Corner bead is designed to hide the edges of perpendicular drywall panels, while tying the two panels together. Without corner bead installed, the corner formed by two perpendicular panels is extremely brittle and will break from even a small impact. Therefore, corner bead not only provides clean, crisp visual lines, but adds durability as well.

Corner bead can also be used in place of trim, such as in a window sill. Corner bead is also used to form compound miters, like those found in coffered ceilings. Corner bead is not necessary on drywall corners that will be covered, (such as by a door frame or low level of drywall finish), but it will be needed for any others.

Can I Use Corner Bead For a Hexagonal Doorway Arch?

If your project includes a hexagonal doorway arch, you can use corner bead for the angles. Hexagonal doorway arches are really just four forty-five degree turns. When building a hexagonal doorway arch, most pro installers will simply notch the corner bead in the appropriate locations instead of cutting it into pieces. Bending the corner bead instead of cutting it reduces the finishing work and results in crisp angles in the doorway without the need for trim. 

If your experience with angles is limited, you can use a carpenter’s square or speed square to mark the angles. Speed squares are already in the shape of a triangle, which represents the 45 degree angle you need. All you need are the dimensions of the arch, which are transferred to the corner bead. Simply notch a 45 degree angle at each mark and bend the corner bead into its final arch shape.

What Tools Do I Need to Install Corner Bead?

For most versions of corner bead, the only tools you will need involve a way to cut the material and a way to fasten it.  Most DIYers will have tools like a hammer or cordless drill for fastening, so if you have metal shears or a metal blade for a saw, you should have what you need. Of course, you will also need standard items, like gloves, eye protection, measuring tape, etc.  

Corner bead is lightweight, so it does not require large fasteners. In fact, some of the vinyl and paper-backed metal versions are held in place with drywall compound only and use no metal fasteners at all. Corner beads that require no metal fasteners eliminate problems like nail pops and fastener heads showing through the compound after it dries.

Most corner bead however, will be installed with either #6 drywall nails, or 1 ¼” drywall screws. For wooden structures like houses, coarse thread screws are used, but for commercial buildings made from metal components, self-tapping fine thread screws are common. Using screws is generally preferred because they are stronger and can always be tightened if necessary.

What Different Kinds of Corner Bead Are Available?

Corner bead comes in various forms, depending on where it will be used. Standard metal corner bead is about 1 ¼” wide, comes in 8’-12’ lengths, and is available at most home improvement stores. Plastic or vinyl corner bead is usually the same size, and used in the same way. Both of these versions are straight and rigid, but corner bead is available in flexible forms as well.

Metal Corner Bead

Basic metal corner bead will be perforated along its length to receive the nails or screws. Most corner bead also has a texture stamped into it to improve adhesion to the joint compound. However, metal corner bead is also very easy to bend, so handle with care. Gloves are strongly recommended when working with metal corner bead as the material is very sharp.

Plastic/Vinyl Corner Bead

Plastic or vinyl corner bead may be the easiest to work with. Where metal corner bead has the disadvantage of bending and denting, vinyl and plastic corner bead is much more durable. Plastic and vinyl corner bead is also safer to handle, as the material is not dangerously sharp. Plastic and vinyl corner bead can be easily cut with a drywall knife, eliminating the need for metal shears.

Paper Faced Metal Corner Bead

Some drywall panels are thicker, while others are installed in layers. Due to the additional thickness, often this type of project will employ paper faced metal corner bead. Making the effective surface wider, the paper also bonds very well with the compound. 

Paper faced corner bead includes a layer of paper tape used to finish drywall joints. The tape not only widens the effective surface of the corner bead, but also results in a smoother finish. By adding more paper and less metal, paper backed metal corner bead adds surface area for better bonding without adding significant weight. The  paper is also very friendly to the compound used in finishing and will bond to it quickly.

Bullnose Corner Bead

Certain building designs require specific elements to maintain the motif. In adobe and southwestern building designs, this often means using bullnose corner bead. Bullnose corner bead replaces the typical sharp, ninety degree angle with a graceful arch shape, known to ceramic tilers as bullnose.

Installing bullnose corner bead results in a rounded corner, which tends to deflect glancing strikes from shoes and furniture. You won’t want to use bullnose corner bead if the connecting walls are not the same color however, because bullnose corner bead has no defined edge. The rounded edge makes transitioning from one color to another very difficult.

You should also consider the floor and trim to be used when installing bullnose corner bead. Trim, like baseboard and crown molding, is often unfriendly to bullnose corner bead, again, because of the rounded edge. Flooring can be difficult to install for the same reason, so plan accordingly. 

Articulating/Arch Corner Bead

Flexible corner bead is available for rounded edges, like in an archway. Articulating corner bead is made from vinyl and contains a slot every few centimeters to allow it to bend and articulate in a gentle arc without crimping. Articulating corner bead can can be installed perfectly straight or curved, making it infinitely useful. Articulating corner bead often comes in a roll of eight to twelve feet, but it can also be added to itself for larger jobs.

Metal Veneer Corner Bead

Metal veneer corner bead can be used for either plaster, stucco, or drywall. Metal veneer corner bead replaces the solid, flat nailing surface of standard metal corner bead with metal lathe, which is a mesh of galvanized steel. When used with plaster or stucco, the metal lathe does a great job of holding onto the plaster as it dries by allowing the material to squeeze through the mesh. When used with drywall, metal veneer corner bead allows the drywall compound to squeeze through and harden, forming a solid, rigid corner.

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