Whether you are constructing a new build, adding to an old one or doing some refurbishing, you’ll eventually need to ask these questions…
What is drywall? What’s the difference between drywall and plaster? What are the benefits of plaster? Etc.
Even though they are both made of the same stuff – gypsum – their application and qualities are quite different. And the finished look of both makes it difficult to know how to tell the difference between plaster and drywall.
Drywall (sometimes mistakenly called sheetrock) and plaster are the two most common interior wall finishes that you’ll find in use today. Here are the main differences:
- – Cost
- – Installation method
- – Sound limiting
What Is Plaster?
Plastering is a longer process than using drywall and was once the main (and sometimes only) way that people finished interior walls. The modern plastering technique involves securing lath (thin strips of metal, wood or plasterboard) across a stud wall, which gives the plaster something to stick to. An initial coat of plaster is applied, scratched while drying, then left until dry. This process is repeated for at least a further two coats.
Then the wall is ready for finishing and painting.
What Is Drywall?
These days, most interior wall finishing is done using drywall instead of lath and plaster. Drywall (plasterboard in the UK or Gyprock in Australia) is basically a sheet of gypsum that has been mixed with water and pressed into a flat board between two large sheets of paper. Standard sized sheets are then cut and shipped out for use. The most common drywall size is 4 x 8 feet.
These drywall sheets are then lifted against a framed wall or ceiling and fixed into place using a screw gun. For speed and efficiency, professionals will use a specifically designed collated screw gun for this job. Drywall stilts and panel hoists will also make the drywalling process much faster and easier.
The job is not quite over yet though, as there is still some plastering work to be done. But, this plastering is a lot less labor intensive and easier than plastering an entire wall.
The joins of the drywall (or plasterboard) sheets are taped and then plastered-over with joint compound (it’s mostly just gypsum and water) two to three times until the desired result is achieved.
The wall is then ready for finishing and painting.
You’ll see many brands available on the market, the most famous of these being Sheetrock. This is why people mistakenly called drywall, sheetrock. Or think that sheetrock and drywall are different things. But in reality, Sheetrock is just a brand name. Like Makita or DeWalt. Or any other of those trusted brands we love.
Lastly, be aware that drywall comes in a few different forms. In addition to the standard sheeting – water-resistant, fire-resistant and mold-resistant drywall are available. Different thicknesses are available too, so choose the size most suited to your needs. If you are sheeting a wall with a slight and gradual curve, a thin sheet of drywall will have enough flex to achieve the required bend. A thicker piece will snap.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Drywall?
- Much faster installation and finishing
- Easy to repair
- Fairly DIY friendly
- Technique is fast to learn
- Cheaper than plaster if paying a professional to do the work for you
- Better temperature insulation
- Wider variety of options
- Easier to hang decorations, i.e hanging pictures on drywall
- Easier to install fixings
- Mostly suited for flat surfaces
- Less textured finish than using plaster
- May be difficult for one-person installation if not using a panel hoist
- Added cost of panel hoists, especially on buildings with high ceilings
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Plaster?
- Creates a much harder and more durable finish
- More suitable for curved and irregular walls
- Lasts much longer than drywall – centuries even
- Looks more prestigious when done well
- Better soundproofing
- Great for matching with existing plaster in old houses for a seamless finish
- More difficult to install and finish
- Takes more time
- More labor intensive means more labor costs
- Large scale repairs are more difficult
- Harder to learn for DIY projects
- More difficult to hang items or install fixings
Plaster Vs Drywall
When to use drywall
Short answer – most of the time. Particularly on most new construction jobs and even many refurbishment jobs. It’s cheaper and faster, meaning it costs less to pay someone to do it for you, or if you feel confident, you can go ahead and try it yourself. Drywall installation is very DIY friendly and if you know your way around tools at all, you should pick it up in no time. Drywall is all about speed and efficiency. It wasn’t used in older buildings, simply, because it didn’t exist then. So unless there’s a direct need for plaster, go with drywall.
When to use plaster
If you’re repairing or extending an old home or establishment and want to keep the same look and feel as the original, use plasterboard. A professional plasterer will be able to recreate the original look that you are after. I’d advise against trying this yourself though, as there is definitely an art to it that takes years to master.
Also, you might need to consider bringing in a plasterer if your design features odd shaped and curved walls, as drywall might not have the flex to achieve the required look.
There is an argument that you could also use plaster for better soundproofing. This is true in the sense that plaster has better sound insulation qualities than drywall. But if it’s a new construction, I’d recommend installing soundproofing in the walls and then using drywall sheets instead.
Also, if you want to reproduce that vintage look of plaster, you can always apply a layer of plaster veneer over the top of your drywall to give it that plaster look and feel.