Bullnose corners. Layered geometric patterns. Fiber optic glamour lines and sweeping curves. With dozens of specialty beads, new tools, and even complete dome-building packages available, why not enhance your drywall detailing? For a couple hundred bucks' worth of labor, you can create a million-dollar impression.

Remember when you used to create archways by scoring a piece of 1/2-inch drywall a hundred times and screwing the floppy carcass onto a massive 2x4 frame? Or when forming a rounded corner required pounds of joint compound, several days of drying time, and a lot of sanding muscle?

Those days are history. In the last few years, a whole industry has grown up around drywall detailing, driven by two forces: commercial construction and high-end custom builders. But, like many new technologies, the trend has now become mainstream enough that even small "one-off" builders can afford to throw in. The secret: getting drywall subs on board.

"I hate to make it sound too simple," says Noe Perez, an experienced drywall installer who handles research and development for Trim-Tex, a manufacturer of drywall accessories in Lincolnwood, Ill. "But if you want me to do that extra detail, I need the extra $100 or $200. That's the nature of the beast."

The reason builders of less expensive homes don't include more drywall detailing, he says, is their focus on the bottom-dollar bid. "The builder is constantly trying to lower my price," he says, "but he doesn't see that by adding this one feature he can put himself a step ahead of his competitors."

Which is not to say that drywall detailing isn't surging ahead. Perez estimates that Trim-Tex has doubled its business in the last five years. Predictably, one of the biggest sellers has been bullnose corner beads and accessories.

"You don't see it as much in the East, where homes are more traditional," he says, "but in the West and Southwest, almost every single new house has bullnose features."

Breaking the mold

Perez says builders often miss the chance to add drywall interest at nominal cost.

"A lot of times you can just use scrap drywall that would otherwise end up in the dumpster," he says. "You can put scraps around windows, on a wall, or turn a square-framed doorway or window frame into an arch. You just cut the drywall piece to the right radius in the frame, and glue in a Fast Cap (ready-made PVC archway). That piece costs about $25."

Other companies such as U.S. Gypsum (USG) also offer their own line of custom drywall trims and beads, along with elaborate suspension systems to create barrel vaults and other architectural details.

And incidentally, creating a lot of fancy curves doesn't mean you should switch to fast-drying drywall mixtures. In fact, says Perez, vinyl accessories work best if applied as specified (typically with staples or adhesive), when coated with standard joint compound.

"Those fast-dry compounds tend to be more brittle," he explains. "They're also messier and harder to sand."

Whether you do your drywall in-house, or hire subs for the job, here are some tips and rules of thumb to help you make the most of the latest accessories and tools.

Harry Whitver

Arched flush windows

Installing arched flush windows (without trim) can be tricky. By using special archway L beads in combination with pull-away or tear-away tabs as shown, however, you provide the installer with an easy-to-finish system. One tip: To prevent paint and compound from chipping off when you pull the tab, run a utility knife along the tear-away joint prior to removal.

Harry Whitver

Low-cost niche

First, build a box from 3/4-inch plywood and insert into framing as desired. Add drywall, cut and staple on corner bead trim accessories as shown. Be sure to use 90-degree inside corner trim beading, rather than simply flipping over exterior bead pieces, which are not meant for inside corners.

Harry Whitver

Layer it on

To reduce monotony on large wall areas, try adding layers of drywall, edged by specialty beads, such as the chamfer shown here. Consider using 5/8-inch drywall instead of 1/2-inch, because it creates a more dramatic shadow line. Bead corners can be miter cut like any wood trim. Be sure to apply paper tape where bead ends butt.

Harry Whitver

Light the way

A new specialty bead from Trim-Tex has a pocket made for a 3/8-inch fiber optic cable. A 45-degree corner is also available, allowing you to follow curvy patterns in either 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch drywall. To keep the channel from filling with drywall dust during sanding, push a 3/8-inch foam backer rod into the gap. Order the cable through Advanced Nitenday Industries (800-644-0733).

Harry Whitver

Bullnose base

By combining rough framing with layers of drywall, you can eliminate baseboard molding altogether, or use the same technique to create recessed and tray ceilings. When applying standard bullnose to 90-degree corners, butt, but do not overlap. Adding a piece of specialty bead, such as the bullnose rail bead, shown, improves the custom look.

Concrete-look vault

Harry Whitver

For a simple barrel vault with the look of commercial concrete, you can separate drywall panels with a 1/2-inch reveal bead. If beads are not long enough to span the full arch, they should be joined with flexible, paintable caulk where ends meet. One caveat: Be careful not to violate fire-rating codes for ceilings. You are removing narrow sections of the drywall shield.

Bullnose Tools

Harry Whitver

With bullnose drywall profiles has come a need for specialty tools. These inexpensive products do the trick. They include (from top to bottom): a 3/4-inch bullnose miter marker, a 3/4-inch bullnose cleaning tool, and an archway finishing tool (for applying mud to bullnose archways). All are available through Trim-Tex.