A Beginners Guide to Cutting Drywall with a Jigsaw (4 Simple Steps)

Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Barry Gray

sheets of drywall

A jigsaw is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal, but I often find that people think about using it in a very particular way. That way will tend to focus on cutting wood where you find yourself standing over the material and looking down upon the line you want to follow.

But here is a cool thing. You can easily cut drywall with just a jigsaw and it’s a simple project that’s even suitable for beginners. Actually, you only have a few short steps to follow to then get the perfectly cut piece of drywall.

You see, a jigsaw can work with more materials than you think. However, I do accept it has its limitations due to the blade size and also the blade strength. So, while you won’t be hacking through anything tough, a jigsaw still has the ability to perform in more areas than you ever thought possible.

So, what am I talking about here? Well, it’s drywall, and yes, you can use a jigsaw to successfully cut through drywall, and I’m going to take you through exactly how to achieve this.

In just a few moments, you will learn how easy it is to complete this particular project, and at the end of the day, you will then have the knowledge to go out and do it yourself. 

Why a Jigsaw?

jigsaw tool

Before I go through the different steps you need to take in order to successfully complete this project, let me tell you why a jigsaw is actually an excellent tool for this job.

The blade on a jigsaw is sharp enough to pass through something such as drywall, and it’s also a thinner blade than you get with other tools. That should mean it doesn’t rip through it, leaving a rough edge, so you have a better surface to work with to complete the job.

With the blade being so thin, it does also mean you should find it easier to stick on the marked line. I love you have this control because it’s the key to getting a good result.

But I would also ensure my jigsaw allows me to vary the speed. I will tell you later on the speed you need to start at. Yet, I understand not everyone has the confidence to use their power tools to use them at full speed or power, so the ability to add some variation to the speed can make a huge difference.

Preparation is Key

tape measures for measuring drywall

But before I dive into taking you through the key steps you need to follow, I need to stress that preparation is the most important thing of all. By that, I mean making sure you have all the tools you will need in order to make the cuts. 

So, I won’t have you simply use a jigsaw and nothing else. Instead, you will require a knife, blades for your jigsaw, a tape measure, and also something to mark where you need to cut. That’s pretty much it, so you don’t have too many things on your mind when it comes to setting it all up.

The good news is that cutting drywall does not require any sort of special equipment. It’s not designed to be difficult, and yet so many people feel put off trying to cut drywall to size when, in all honesty, it’s not much different from cutting wood to size.

Thankfully, what that means for you is that cutting drywall with a jigsaw only requires a few simple steps. Also, I feel it’s a perfect project even for an individual who has never carried out any job such as this before.

So, let me start taking you through the different steps you need to follow in order to make a successful cut and to get your drywall to the size you want.

Step 1: Making Your Marks

marking drywall for cuts

The first thing you must do is to be confident in the marks you make when setting out what has to be cut. This is something where you need to take some time to ensure you get it right. After all, you only get one real shot at doing this as an error can lead to a pretty major mistake and you ruining your project.

If you are planning on making rectangular cuts, then I have a suggestion to help things go more smoothly.

Use a combination square with a bubble level. What this does is it allows you to ensure your lines are straight and also plumb. This is key because you need everything to be level, or your drywall will start to look wrong. Also, you can just mark everything off with a pencil. There’s no need to be fancy or elaborate with this part, as it’s the position of the marks that’s key.

Check your marks, and then go back and double-check that everything is to perfection. As I said, this is your only chance of doing this, so it’s always better to take that extra bit of time to stop things from going wrong later on.

Step 2: Making an Initial Cut

drill bit with drywall

I know a jigsaw will be unable to plunge down with an initial cut, so you need to use something else to effectively get everything started. 

You see, the problem with a jigsaw is the blade does have a tendency to be relatively thin. Some argue you can line up the jigsaw with the corner of the area you wish to cut out and then push down, and the blade will go through the drywall.

While that may indeed happen, I feel it’s too risky to try this approach, and it’s not something I would then recommend. You run a real risk of breaking the blade or even just bending it out of shape, and it’s just not something I would do.

Instead, this is the approach I prefer, and I feel it does make life significantly easier as a result.

For me, I use a drill and a drill bit. I effectively make a pilot hole where the hole is placed so it doesn’t then interfere with the piece of drywall I would be using. However, part of the hole must come up to the line I will be cutting along.

By doing this, I create a space for the jigsaw blade to sink down into the drywall. It then gives me the opportunity to line up the blade for the rest of the cut. I know it does mean it takes slightly longer, but it just allows you to kickstart your cut without putting too much pressure on the blade.

I know it may not be the approach that others would take, but it’s something that works for me, and I absolutely believe you will benefit from taking this approach as well. 

But If You Still Want to Use the Jigsaw

But if you find that you still want to use the jigsaw to make the initial cut, then there is a method that may make it slightly easier while also preserving the blade itself. However, while it works, I don’t think that it’s completely foolproof, and it’s certainly something you want to try out first.

The key here is to ensure the blade itself is at an angle to the line you will cut. This is where you then need to use the shoe to your advantage. The best method is to have the heel of the shoe resting against the drywall. That’s going to provide you with a sense of stability as you go ahead to make the cut.

It’s this angle that’s different from the norm when using a jigsaw, and it’s where people can sometimes struggle to grasp what they need to do to then make the cut. 

Also, double-check your jigsaw to ensure it does not have an orbital function switched on. That’s going to screw up your plunge cut and make life significantly more difficult than it needs to be.

When you go to make the cut, you need to get the jigsaw effectively moving at full speed. It’s the best way of getting through the drywall, as it does need all that power, thanks to the size of the blade.

After switching on the jigsaw, ensure the heel of the shoe is still in direct contact with the drywall. At that point, slowly push the blade into the drywall. Take your time, and do not apply too much pressure at the one time. If you do, then don’t be surprised if you lose control or even break the blade.

Remember to apply more of the pressure through the shoe. It’s less likely to slip or move, and that will then allow you to begin to cut through the part of the drywall you want rather than moving off your line. 

Step 3: Making Your Regular Cut

holding jigsaw for cutting drywall

So, you have managed to get your cut started, and the jigsaw blade is fully immersed in the drywall. At this point, the shoe is also going to be flat against the drywall, which then allows you to have the jigsaw blade at its more normal angle for cutting any material.

As is the norm with a jigsaw, ensure you have a clear sight of the line you will cut. This part is no different from what you would do if you were cutting wood with a jigsaw. 

However, even here, I have a few tips that should make the entire process that bit easier for you. After all, I don’t want you to make life more complicated than it needs to be. 

The easiest method, for a rectangular cut at least, is to use the jigsaw to cut all four sides. Keep the speed of the jigsaw high to ensure you get a cleaner cut through the drywall, and keep the shoe flat against the material.

I find using the jigsaw for all four sides of a rectangular cut to be the easiest method. However, some people don’t want to use this approach, so here’s an alternative technique you may wish to employ. 

Use your jigsaw to cut three of the four sides. Then, use a knife to cut through the fourth side and push out the piece you have cut. I know this approach does work; after all, a lot of people use a drywall knife to make the entire cut, but even with this, you are not entirely finished with the cutting.

Step 4: Smoothing Things Out

smoothing out drywall

One of the problems with cutting drywall is you can often be left with some rough edges, so you don’t want to leave things like that if at all possible. Thankfully, your jigsaw can come to the rescue with this as well, and it will take you just a matter of minutes, depending on the size of the piece you are cutting.

What you need to do is to look at where rough parts of drywall are effectively sticking out. You need to remove them as much as you can, so run the blade of the jigsaw over those areas to remove the notches.

This does mean you need to rest the shoe against the drywall, and there’s no need to apply a lot of pressure to then remove those pieces. Quickly run around the edges with the jigsaw to get the majority of those pieces off, and even with that, you are still not finished.

What I then do, when I’m happy that I will be unable to cut off anything else with the jigsaw, is to go ahead and use a drywall rasp to really smooth things over. Again, this is quick and easy to do, and it just gives you a much better finish which is then easy enough to work with through the rest of your project.

And that is basically it when it comes to cutting out the drywall with a jigsaw. However, I know some people will be cutting out large sections of drywall, so let me take you through what needs to happen with that situation to ensure you get the best results possible.

Cutting Large Drywall Sections with a Jigsaw

large sheets of drywall boards

So this section is more in line with someone cutting out a piece of drywall to perhaps insert a new door or even a window. As you can imagine, that will then relate to a large piece coming out, and I admit that it can prove to be a scary proposition at times.

However, by taking your time with things, I believe there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to this size of the project. 

Also, this project will prove to be significantly easier to do if you have the ability to mark and cut the drywall when it is flat. I know it can be done with drywall that has already been hung, but this involves a lot of cutting, and doing it on a piece of drywall that is hung will be tiring for your arms. Tired arms increase your potential to make mistakes, so try to avoid it wherever possible. 

Starting with Measuring and Marking

As always, the first step is to measure and mark out the section you will be cutting. As before, double-check all of this before you proceed to the next step and make sure you are happy with the measurements.

Again, use something with a bubble level to ensure everything is perfect. The problem with larger pieces of drywall is that a slight error with the measuring at one part will result in a significant issue developing over the entire project.

Making Your Cuts

With more significant pieces of drywall, I would look at cutting the two sides first and follow that with cutting the bottom. Leave the top side until last, and this is where cutting with a knife can prove to be highly useful.

When cutting the final piece, use the knife to score along the line rather than simply cutting all the way through. By doing this, you reduce the chances of breaking the drywall and ruining the entire piece.

After scoring along the line with the knife, move the piece of drywall down and then snap it up in a sharp movement. This should then effectively snap the piece out, but note you have still not completed the job.

Tidying Up and Dealing with Paper

After cutting, you do still need to deal with the tidying up process, and that’s going to be along the same lines as I mentioned earlier.

Take your jigsaw and run around the edges to remove those rough parts. Also, use a drywall knife to tidy up the paper part, followed by the drywall rasp, to get things as smooth as possible.

But overall, the only difference when cutting out a large drywall section is the advice of leaving the top edge until last and then removing it by scoring with a knife and snapping the section out. Aside from that, everything else stays the same, and it should still lead to a pretty good end result.

Tips to Make Life Easier When Using a Jigsaw

close up of jigsaw blade for cutting drywall

Finally, I want to make life as easy as possible when it comes to using a jigsaw to cut out drywall. 

Use Pilot Holes if Worried

My first tip is to use pilot holes if you have any concerns regarding cutting out the drywall. I did mention how you would do this earlier, but there’s no reason to only cut out one solitary pilot hole if you still have that same level of concern.

Instead, what some people do is to drill a pilot hole in each corner. In doing so, it does make it easier to effectively cut around the corner and to get started with cutting another straight edge. This is something I would recommend, and you just follow the same process repeatedly. 

But why stop there?

If you are worried about even cutting the straight edges, then it’s not unusual for additional pilot holes to be made along each edge, and not just in the corner. I admit that I do feel this is taking the pilot hole aspect a bit too far, but it’s certainly something I would not rule out if it’s going to make your life easier.

Practice First

If you plan on using your jigsaw to make even the initial holes, then this is a technique I would test before I get to work on the actual drywall. 

The tricky part is having the jigsaw at an angle. Most people are not used to doing that, thanks to the nature of the cuts being made, and it can certainly feel as if it’s quite an awkward thing to do.

But that’s why using the shoe as a balance point is so important. The shoe will give you the confidence to then apply a slight bit of pressure on the blade to seek to push it down through the drywall.

However, do look at getting a scrap piece of drywall and work on your technique and method. It could stop you from making a mess of your main project. 

Overall Conclusion

That is how to cut drywall with a jigsaw, and it’s not that difficult to do. Sure, you need to take time to ensure you make the correct cuts, but I don’t see any reason why you would be unable to get the sort of end result you were hoping for from this project if you are careful from the outset.

But in order to get the best out of both a jigsaw and drywall, I suggest checking out these other articles available here on the website.

The best jigsaws on the market

Miter saw vs jigsaw

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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