Generally, yes, sheetrock should be staggered. Most drywall contractors recommend staggering sheetrock boards so that the joints in one row do not match up with the joints in the next row, which adds strength to the wall or ceiling and helps minimize cracks. Most experts additionally suggest installing sheetrock horizontally rather than vertically, although vertical installation can be faster and easier in many cases. Every drywall job is different and every do-it-yourselfer has different standards and expectations.
A taped joint inevitably creates a small section that is weaker than the surrounding drywall. Aligning joints extends or, in many cases, more than doubles, the length of each of these week points. If a crack starts along a taped joint, it will meet little resistance until it reaches the end of the joint.
Horizontal or Vertical
One simple way to eliminate the need for staggered joints would be to install sheetrock vertically. Sheetrock is commonly available in 8- and 10-foot lengths. In any room that is less than 10-feet high, sheetrock boards could simply be installed vertically, creating joints that are the height of the room. This too, however, compromises the strength of the wall. Sheetrock is manufactured to have more strength when vertical. It is a similar characteristic to wood, which has more strength in one direction than another based on its grain.
Ease of Installation
Staggering joints is clearly a more difficult and time-consuming method for installing drywall. To not stagger joints or to install the boards vertically requires much less measuring and cutting than staggering the joints and installing the boards horizontally. Strength is important, but your time and effort are also considerations.
Ease of Finishing
Taping and applying joint compound are other considerations. Staggered joints create more T-shaped seams, which are more difficult to finish than non-staggered joints. Vertical installation creates only straight lines to which joint compound can be applied in one smooth stroke.
Matt Brown has been writing professionally for more than 15 years. He shares his experience in home remodeling and do-it-yourself projects with his readers. Brown earned his bachelor of arts in communications from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.