From plaster to plywood, there are a number of different materials we can use for our walls and ceilings. However, one of the most commonly used is drywall – and for good reason.
In this guide, discover 9 types you can use in your home improvement project together with the history of drywall, what it’s made of, benefits.
In This Article
History of Drywall
Drywall was invented in 1916 by a US company called USG. The material was initially sold as small forms of fireproof tiles before it became available as a multi-layer gypsum and paper sheets. Within a decade later, drywall took on the form of a single layer of compressed gypsum in between sheets of paper.
While it took over 25 years for this board to evolve into the material we know today, right after World War II, builders started using drywall in significant quantities for both commercial and residential buildings. Before drywall was introduced, builders were using plaster for interior home building projects. In fact, for hundreds of years, walls and ceilings were made by placing layers of plaster over lath. The wet plaster would eventually harden to form the ceiling or walls. However, the installation and repair processes of the plaster were both difficult and time-consuming. Furthermore, plastering walls or ceilings required skilled builders to do the task correctly. Plastering often consisted of applying several coats, with each coat requiring a long drying time. The task of plaster application was not only time consuming, but it was also labor-intensive and expensive.
Plastering walls could take weeks to complete, whereas drywall only took a matter of days to be installed plus it costs less to build and lasts longer. If the drywall gets damaged, it can easily be patched up quickly without having to spend more money on labor.
Despite the convenience of drywall, it wasn’t as quick to catch on with builders as other materials. In fact, it took nearly 60 years for this material to finally gain a foothold.
What is Drywall Made of?
The term, drywall, refers to the dry form of plaster being applied on sheets rather than the wet form. Drywall is mainly made of gypsum and can be seen in modern buildings. It comes in large panels that consist of gypsum cores placed between two heavy sheets of paper. These sheets are often made from recycled paper, with one side being smooth while the other side is more like a paper-backing.
Raw gypsum is a mined material that’s mixed with many additives, including paper pulp, starch, and a thickening agent. It is then blended with water to form a thick paste. This joint compound is spread onto the paper in thick layers. An additional sheet of paper is then laid on top before the entire board is placed in an oven to heat at temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oven heat has dried the material, it is prepared for cutting. The most typical sheet sizes vary from 4×8 feet to 4×12. These are the most popular as they allow quicker installation on taller walls.
Interestingly, drywall boards contain a large amount of water in gypsum. This water is in crystal form, hence the reason why the gypsum molecules are dry. These water molecules play an important role in providing the drywall its fire-resistance qualities. As the board gets hot, the water crystals start destabilizing and vaporizing until the water reaches its boiling point. The evaporating water crystals prevent the drywall from heating up, thus protecting the structure it’s built on.
Why Choose Drywall?
Aside from being inexpensive, easy to work with, and flexible, drywall has many more advantages over plaster. It is readily available and can be painted to match a wide range of interior finishes. The sheets are easily cut with a sharp knife and sanded before getting painted. What’s more, drywall is noncombustible.
Eager to know more about the reasons to choose drywall? Here are some of the top advantages of this material:
- Affordable: drywall is affordable for all budgets. Its cost-effective benefit is what makes this material such a popular choice for homeowners. After all, it’s more affordable than plywood and plaster.
- Aesthetically appealing and elegant: the simple elegance and beauty of drywall make it an ideal choice for both offices and homes. The boards can be painted multiple times whenever you want to change the look of your rooms. If properly installed, drywall can be one of the most attractively looking materials, so if you’re not a DIY fan, be sure to hire an expert contractor for the installation task.
- Insulating properties: there aren’t many materials out there that are both affordable and have insulation properties. Drywall helps retain its temperature no matter whether it’s warm or cold. The improved insulation not only makes your rooms more comfortable, but it will also lower your energy bills throughout the year. You won’t need to use as much heating or cooling to keep your indoor temperatures consistent.
- Fire-resistant: since drywall slows the spreading of fires, it makes an ideal material for offices and homes. This safety feature is thanks to the crystallized water within the gypsum, which can potentially save your home from fire damage – or even save your family’s lives!
- Easy to install and repair: drywall is super easy to install for both DIYers and professionals. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for its popularity. Unlike plaster, which is labor-intensive and time-consuming to install, the installation of drywall is fast and easy. What’s more, the panels can be installed in large sections to save time and money. If repairs are required, you won’t have to replace an entire section. An expert contractor will easily fix the dents or repair the cracks without having to take down the entire panel.
- Eco friendly: modern versions of drywall panels consist of compressed fiber from waste materials like newspaper or agriculture, thus making them eco-friendly. There are also drywall panels that are composed of recycled industrial waste products, such as fly ash, kiln, and slag. These byproducts are mixed with water and filler to bind them into a thick, pourable paste. The biggest benefit of these eco-friendly materials is their resistance to termites and mold, which is why many homeowners opt for drywall instead of wooden panels.
While regular drywall panels are mainly used for most applications, there are other variations that are better suited. Here are 9 types of drywall and their uses:
9 Types of Drywall
1. Regular or White Board Drywall
The regular or white board drywall is the most common type used in both residential and commercial buildings. In regular drywall, the mineral, gypsum, is placed between two layers of paper sheets. The paper on the back of the panel is usually brown while the other one is grey in color. And the whole design is simple with one white color and no ceiling and wall texture. A regular drywall board can be used throughout a house and is available in a variety of dimensions. The most common size is a 4×8 foot sheet.
2. Green Board Drywall
Another commonly found type of drywall sheet is a green board. This is a more mold-resistant type used in rooms where moisture can be an issue – for example in the kitchen, bathroom, attic, and basement. To maximize mold resistance, I recommend using drywall mud on the green board. This type of drywall generally costs 20% more than white or regular drywall, but it is well worth considering in moisture-prone rooms.
3. Blue Board Drywall
Another highly moisture-resistant drywall that’s used for veneer plastering is the blue board. This drywall board has high mold and water resistance and is often used in basements and bathrooms. In addition to its unique water absorption qualities, blue board helps reduce noise, thus making it an ideal choice for converted basements and other habitable spaces in the home.
4. Purple Board Drywall
Purple boards resist mold, mildew, and moisture. They are also scratch and dent resistant, thus making them a good choice for high-traffic areas. These drywall panels are around 30% more expensive than white boards, offering superior moisture and mold resistant qualities that regular boards lack in.
Purple boards can be used with all ceiling and wall applications wherever enhanced mold and moisture resistance is needed. Being only 5/16 inches thick, these boards are super easy to install and repair.
5. Type X Drywall
While all types of drywall are fire-resistant, there is a special type that has higher ratings than others. The type X drywall consists of several thickness layers to achieve a higher fire rating.
The type X drywall is more difficult to cut and work with when compared to regular boards. The sheets are enclosed in the ivory-colored paper that comes with a strong liner back. They are usually used in apartments and garages and made from special non-combustible fibers. The thickness of these boards is 5/8 inches with excellent soundproofing characteristics.
To make a type X board, the 5/8 inch thick gypsum panel must achieve a minimum of 1-hour fire-resistance rating or 3 hours of fire-resistance rating for a half-inch board in a single layer.
6. Type C Drywall
The type C drywall is also the same thickness as the type X. The difference between the two is that more glass fibers are used in type C. In addition, the gypsum core of type C has anti-shrinkage properties, which makes it an improved version of type X.
7. Soundproof Drywall Board
Soundproof drywall is exactly the same thickness as a white board, but it is layered rather than flat. There is a quarter-inch layer of gypsum in between the front and back paper followed by a membrane and a further layer of gypsum of the same size. These layers reduce noise transmission from one room to another.
To install soundproof drywall boards, no special equipment or tools are required. These panels are highly recommended for home theaters, but they do cost significantly higher than regular drywall (up to 400% more!).
8. Paperless Drywall
Paperless drywall consists of sandwiched gypsum between fiberglass instead of paper. This type of drywall is highly resistant to moisture, mildew, and mold and is mostly used in bathrooms.
9. Cement Board
Another popular drywall type that’s highly resistant to water and mold is the subsurface cement board. This type of drywall is usually used in shower and bath areas. It is seen as a stable base for installing tiles on. The cement board is reinforced with fibers that make it very rigid. Aside from cement, veneer stone can also be used to manufacture these boards.
Drywall thickness varies from ¼ inches, 3/8 inches, half inches, and 5/8 inches. The panel lengths are usually 8 feet to 10 feet, but they can go as long as 16 feet. The widths are typically 48 inches and the most common drywall size you will find is a 4×8 drywall panel in ½ inches thickness.
The most recommended thickness for residential projects are the ¼ and 3/8 inches in a single and double layer application. These thin, lightweight panels are mainly used to cover the top of a cracked plaster wall or ceiling in order to achieve a smooth surface.
The ½ inch thick panels are usually single-layer applications that are commonly used in residential buildings. Most window and door frames are designed for use with this drywall thickness.
The 5/8 inch thick panels are for single-layer applications over studs. These panels control sound better and are recommended for garages and other fire-prone rooms. The Type X drywall normally comes as a 5/8 inch wallboard with boric acid or perlite for added fire resistance.
Drywall is likely to suit any type of home improvement project you have. Over the years, it has evolved into better quality materials that meet the specific needs of different types of rooms. By understanding the benefits of drywall and the different types available, you can pick the best one for your project.