Pick the Right Drywall Type for Your Project

Homeowners can choose between fire- and moisture-resistant drywall, and select drywall thickness. (Photo courtesy of Rose C. of Annandale, Va.)

Homeowners can choose between fire- and moisture-resistant drywall, and select drywall thickness. (Photo courtesy of Rose C. of Annandale, Va.)

If it was built in the last 50 years, your home most likely utilizes drywall in its walls and ceilings to cover up the structural framing, insulation and electrical wiring.

Easy to install, affordable and sturdy, drywall became increasingly popular during the post-World War II housing boom in the United States and replaced lathe-and-plaster as the construction technique of choice.

Most drywall is comprised of the same material, a layer of gypsum plaster sandwiched between two sheets of heavy paper. Gypsum is a naturally occurring soft mineral that can also be synthesized, so after drywall is torn out or discarded, the gypsum can be processed for use as an agricultural soil amendment.

But there are a variety of differences in the types of drywall, and knowing the difference between them can ensure any project involving drywall installation or repair achieves the most effective result to suit your needs.

Drywall thickness

Drywall comes in a variety of thicknesses, including 3/8-inch, ½-inch and 5/8-inch sheets. The most commonly used sheet thickness for most walls is the ½-inch variety. However, if you’re looking to increase the soundproofing in your home, a thicker 5/8-inch sheet or two sheets layered on top of one another can provide improved sound dampening.

When drywall is applied to ceilings, ½- to 5/8- inch sheets are recommended to reduce any potential sagging that may occur over time.

Specialty drywall

When moisture is present, such as in bathrooms, kitchens or homes in especially humid climates, special drywall products are sometimes needed to prevent decay from moisture penetration or mold growth.

RELATED: Is Drywall Fire Resistant?

Commonly called greenboard or tile backing, this moisture-resistant drywall should be used in bathroom applications and some areas of the kitchen.

Homes built in especially hot, muggy or humid climates can benefit from specially made mold-resistant drywall, which is manufactured specifically to inhibit mold growth.

No matter the type, installing new drywall or repairing large sections of it is a project best left to a professional. While the product is easily affordable, relatively simple and sturdy once installed, drywall breaks easily if not handled properly and can significantly detract from the appearance of a home if not cut, installed and finished correctly.

For more information: Angie's List Guide to Drywall and Plaster


Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Dec. 2, 2011.


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Is Drywall Fire Resistant?

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fire resistant drywall
Manufacturing processes increase the fire resistance of drywall. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Robert G. of Carlsbad, Calif.)

Looking for fire resistant drywall? Drywall is relatively fireproof, but manufacturing processes such as adding glass fibers can increase the resistance.

Comments

Your information on dry wall is going to be a big help to me in the future. We live in Houston TX a hot humid climae and we are going to be renovating our master bath so the info on green board is also helpful.

Like every component of construction, there are many books written on this topic, so these few sentences are just a brief introduction. There are two really crucial additions that should be made to this article. First, while "green board" can a good backer for decorative tile in areas that are not directly exposed to water, it should not be used in wet areas such as a tub or shower enclosure. Unless a waterproof membrane is used between the tile and the backer, some water will get through tile/grout and damage green board. This can cause the gypsum core to fall apart, may cause mold, and in some cases actually damage the structure of the building. Cement board, which is fiber reinforced cement and doesn't have any paper facing material, is generally a better choice. Cement board is harder to work with - it's twice as heavy as drywall and is more difficult to cut and install, but it is usually only needed in limited areas. Also, in most typical homes with 16" ceiling joist spacing, green board should not be used on ceilings or other horizontal applications, as it is more prone to sagging than standard drywall. Second, another crucial use of drywall is in creating fire rated separations within buildings. The most common example of this that homeowners encounter is in homes with attached garages. The drywall on the wall(s) separating the garage from the adjacent rooms of the house (and on the ceiling of the garage, if there are rooms above) is acting as part of the fire separation assembly. In some cases, standard drywall can be used, but in other cases, fire rated (or "type X") drywall must be used. Making changes to fire rated assemblies can be complex because all of the components have to be right for the end result to work: limiting the spread of fire until fire fighters arrive. If you need to make changes to parts of your home that may be fire rated, you should start by talking with the local building department and/or an architect.

You might want to mention fire-rated drywall, called for by code in certain areas and for certain uses; commonly, for walls within 10 feet of a property boundary line. Use the wrong drywall there, and an inspector can require you to bust it back out, and replace it.

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