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Off-angles. The rigidity of the plastic backing in the wider UltraFlex makes the tape ideal for use with off-angle inside or outside corners, particularly in cathedral ceilings where the least bit of waviness is quickly picked up by even an untrained eye. I’ve watched seasoned drywall finishers struggle with the joints formed at intersecting roof planes, and they generally devote a lot of time and energy to achieving a straight, crisp line. With UltraFlex tape, the plastic backing forces a straight and true joint, and reduces finishing time (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. Gaps in drywall joints, like these at the peak of a cathedral ceiling (top), can cause bubbles or wrinkles in ordinary paper tape. UltraFlex’s plastic backing not only bridges these kinds of gaps, but makes it easy to get a clean crisp line at the joint (bottom).

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Splicing, Cutting & Sanding

UltraFlex comes in 100-foot rolls, theoretically eliminating any field overlaps, but long lengths can be difficult to handle, particularly when working solo. It’s much like trying to extend a one-inch tape measure, unsupported, beyond 9 feet or so. To create a field splice, the plastic backing is scored and peeled off about one inch from the end. This creates a flap of finish paper that is bedded in compound and feathered over the previously installed piece, much the same way conventional paper tape is spliced. Three-way corners in flat-ceilinged rooms are treated conventionally, with the UltraFlex bedded in the ceiling corners first, followed by the vertical run. But the splicing technique is useful at cathedral ceiling intersections. Where the wall tape overlaps the ceiling tape, the plastic backing can be scored and peeled off, and the paper flap bedded and feathered out with compound.

Wrapped posts.

With standard corner bead, a 6x6 post wrapped in drywall would be finished by filling the entire space between each pair of beads with compound. While you could use the same technique with No-Coat, all you really need to do is fill the area between the parallel plastic strips of reinforcing. This might require a 4-inch or smaller taping knife, but it eats up a lot less compound.

Cutting.

Unlike regular paper tape, No-Coat tapes can’t be torn — you have to cut them to length. With a razor knife, it takes about three passes to score the plastic strips on UltraFlex, which then break easily by bending the tape back and forth a few times. UltraFlex can also be cut easily with scissors or shears, but the preformed corners are best cut using shears, just like standard corner bead.

Sanding.

Although No-Coat tape is designed so that just the 1/4-inch-wide flanges need to be covered with compound, it’s a cinch that some mud will end up on the finish tape. One advantage of these tapes is that you can use a damp sponge to spot-clean the surface before the compound dries. If you wait to sand until the mud dries, the rules are the same as for regular tape. If you never use sandpaper coarser than 180-grit, you won’t rough up the No-Coat paper any more than the drywall paper itself.

What’s It Cost?

UltraCorner costs about 34¢ a foot, UltraFlex runs about 50¢ a foot, and UltraFlex Lite, 28¢ a foot. That’s pretty steep when compared with 11¢ a foot for metal corner bead, but the reduced finishing time more than makes up for the higher cost of the material. For example, using UltraCorner for 100 linear feet of outside corners would add $24 to the price of the job, but the corners will be crisp and straight, and will probably be ready for paint by the end of the day. Plus, because very little if any sanding is needed, there’s virtually no dust — I won’t even try to put a price tag on that.

Word on the Street

It can be difficult (and costly) to schedule drywall subs for smaller jobs, so to keep the job moving, remodelers often become reluctant tapers. The remodeling contractors I talked to who take on "part-time" taping chores spoke highly of UltraFlex. The reduced sanding combined with the ability to tape and paint in 24 hours provides these semi-skilled drywall finishers with a real advantage. One seasoned taper I talked with has used UltraFlex for tricky off-angles and liked the results, but when working with standard inside and outside corners, he wasn’t convinced that he’d save any appreciable time over conventional finishing methods. As in most trades, old habits die hard, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a little longer for veteran tapers to form an objective opinion of the UltraFlex. As for me, I plan on keeping a roll of UltraFlex handy. When it comes to finishing drywall, I need all the help I can get. Carl Hagstrom is a builder and remodeler in Montrose, Pa.