Drywall is a wall-finishing material made of refined gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of heavy paper. Drywall is a sturdy, inexpensive, and fire-resistant wall material used in most residential and commercial building projects. In addition to being lightweight and strong, drywall has the advantage of being easy to cut to a specific shape during installation. Because of its durability, safety, and ease of installation, drywall has largely replaced lath-and-plaster walls in most of the United States.
What is Drywall Made From?
The main ingredient in drywall is gypsum. Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral composed of calcium, sulfur, and water molecules. To make drywall, natural gypsum is mixed with paper pulp, starch, or wood pulp to form a plaster. This mix of gypsum and pulp makes up the hard, white material of drywall.
- The white inner material of drywall is mostly made from gypsum.
- Gypsum is mixed with pulp, starch, and thickening agents to form a white plaster.
- The paper on each side of a drywall sheet is typically made from wood pulp.
A sheet of drywall is backed on both sides by a sheet of heavy-duty manila paper. This paper is made from wood pulp. Drywall really is that simple. It’s mostly made from gypsum and layers of paper.
How is Drywall Made?
Drywall is manufactured by refining raw gypsum to get the correct balance of calcium, sulfur, and water. This gypsum is then mixed with paper pulp and other thickeners to form a spreadable plaster. This wet plaster is poured on top of a sheet of manila paper to reach the desired thickness. Next, a second sheet of manila paper is placed on top of the plaster.
- First, raw gypsum is refined and mixed with thickeners to form a plaster.
- The plaster is poured on top of a sheet of manila paper.
- A second sheet of manila paper is placed on top of the plaster.
- The plaster-and-paper sandwich is baked in a giant oven to dry and bond the ingredients.
- Baked drywall is cut into sheets for use in construction.
Once the paper and plaster layering is complete, the drywall is sent to an oven. The drywall is then baked at temperatures of 500℉ (260℃). This baking process hardens and dries the plaster. It also bonds the paper to the gypsum plaster. Once baking is complete, the drywall is sliced into 4-foot by 8-foot sheets (1.2 by 2.4 meters) for use in home and commercial construction.
What are the Benefits of Drywall?
The top benefit of drywall is how easy it is to use in building projects. Full sheets of drywall can be quickly hung by screwing them to wall studs or masonry. If necessary, drywall can be cut to shape with nothing more than a utility knife. As an added bonus, drywall is one of the most fire-resistant building materials on the market.
- Easy to install
- Easy to cut
- Durable and long-lasting
- Easy to repair
- Takes paint well
Drywall installations hold up well to time and use. Drywall construction remains durable for decades and can be easily repaired if it is damaged. To top all this off, it is typically the cheapest wall-finishing material. It’s easy to apply paint, paneling, or wallpaper onto drywall. This makes it a super-versatile wall material.
What are the Drawbacks of Drywall?
Drywall is not very soundproof, which is one of the key differences between plaster vs drywall. Another drawback of drywall is that it is very rigid. Covering curved surfaces—such as archways—with drywall can be challenging.
- Poor soundproofing material
- Too rigid for covering curved surfaces
- Can be water damaged
- Cannot be used for walls and ceiling in showers
Drywall is also subject to water damage. It is not suitable material for walls and ceilings in showers. If you want to tile over your shower, make sure you do not tile over drywall in your shower. Drywall used in wet environments is prone to breaking apart, as well as forming a breeding ground for mold and mildew. A waterproof backer board must be used in areas where drywall would be destroyed by water exposure.
What Does the Paper on Drywall Do?
Drywall paper is essential for providing structure and flexibility to drywall sheets. The gypsum plaster that makes up the core of drywall is very strong and hard, but also very brittle. Without sheets of paper backing the gypsum, the drywall material will crack and crumble.
- Adds strength and flexibility
- Prevents the hardened gypsum plaster from crumbling
- Creates a smooth surface for painting or wallpapering
The paper backing of drywall also provides a smooth working surface. The paper takes plaster, paint, and adhesives well. This makes it easy to finish a drywall surface. You can easily choose to paint your walls, apply wallpaper, or glue another type of wall paneling to your drywall. Gypsum’s porous nature makes it less adept at taking glue and paint without substantial finishing work.
Is Gypsum Board the Same as Drywall?
Drywall goes by many different names. It is commonly called gypsum board, sheetrock, wallboard, and plasterboard, among others. Some of these names refer to name brands of drywall, but all are essentially the same product.
Can You Finish Drywall Without Tape?
Finishing drywall surfaces requires the use of drywall tape and joint compound (also called drywall mud). If drywall tape isn’t used the seams between drywall sheets will be apparent. Joint compound used to cover large seams without tape is prone to cracking and falling out.
- It is essential to use drywall tape when finishing drywall.
- Joint compound applied without drywall tape may crack and fall out.
Although there are some ways to finish drywall without mudding, tape and joint compound is the best choice. With a little practice, any DIYer can become a drywall-finishing pro.
Can You Paint on Drywall Paper?
Drywall paper is excellent at taking paint. However, it’s important to follow the right process to make sure you get a smooth finish and even color when painting drywall. The best technique is to:
- Apply tape and joint compound in stages to hide drywall seams with paint.
- Sand your joint compound to a smooth finish.
- Apply 1–2 coats of primer, allowing 24 hours of drying time between coats.
- Apply 1–2 coats of your final paint color, allowing 24 hours of drying time between coats.
It is essential to prime drywall surfaces before finishing. The paper used for drywall absorbs non-primer paint, which can lead to an uneven color. By priming your drywall, you will ensure a smooth, beautiful finished product.
What are the Different Types of Drywall?
Drywall comes in a few different types. Standard drywall is suitable for most rooms in your home. Water-resistant and mold-resistant drywall often have blue or green-colored backing paper. These types of drywall can be used in bathrooms but they still only resist water. Even water-resistant drywall won’t hold up if used in showers. True waterproof backing board made of concrete or other material must be used for the walls and ceilings in a shower.
- Standard drywall
- Water-resistant drywall
- Mold-resistant drywall
- Fire-resistant drywall
- Soundproof drywall
Although drywall is naturally fire-resistant, special varieties of drywall are manufactured using glass fibers in the plaster mix. This increases the fire resistance of the wall material so it can be safely used near furnaces and fireplaces. Finally, some manufacturers produce soundproof drywall that is far better at dampening noise than standard drywall.
Why Do They Call Drywall “Drywall?”
Drywall was first named after its inventor, Augustine Sackett, and was marketed as Sackett Board. However, early builders were slow to adopt this new wall material, preferring to build with lath and plaster instead. Sackett Board was rebranded as Sheetrock and “drywall” became the common term used to refer to every brand of gypsum board. As drywall became a more common building material during the labor shortages of the Second World War, the “drywall” name became popularized. That’s why it’s known around the world today.