Are certain drywall materials used for specific applications?

There are many home improvement projects which require the installation of drywall to cover the studs and to prepare walls to receive additional finishes. Whether you are installing new interior walls, a new bathroom or kitchen, or finishing a basement, there are certain types of drywall that are required for different applications, and yes, there are big differences.

For each type of drywall, there are specific fastening materials, screws, drywall nails, plaster or mud, and tape. Each of these additional supplies pay an important role in the proper installation of drywall and will affect the finished product.

What we all know to be drywall is normally white on one side and greyish brown on the other. This type of drywall is the most widely used and economical, and ranges in thickness, with ½” being the most common. Drywall, also known as sheetrock, gypsum board, wallboard and plaster board, cannot get wet. When it does, it will swell, get moldy and will need to be replaced. This type of wall covering is not moisture resistant and should only be used in interior spaces where excess water, humidity and heat do not exist.

There are many contractors that use paperless drywall in place of paper drywall. This type of drywall is covered with fiberglass instead of paper, which protects the gypsum board from rot and offers some resistance to mold and mildew. The quality of the board is a little rougher than regular drywall, however, some construction pros find it easier to cut. Remember that you need to take extra steps when dealing with fiberglass materials. Paperless drywall has some slight textures that will require skim-coating to achieve a smooth clean finish. As a result, this can cost a little more money than standard gypsum drywall.

If sound is an issue, there are manufacturers who offer soundproof drywall. This is composed of laminate drywall made with a mix of wood, gypsum and polymers. It is denser than regular drywall and can help to provide a noise barrier. However, this product can be four times more expensive than standard drywall and may not soundproof a room on its own. In many cases, additional materials are needed to achieve the desired sound rating, including the addition of insulation.

When applying drywall in a laundry room, kitchen or basement, and on the walls of the bathroom outside of the wet areas, greenboard is typically used, as this is a moisture resistant product. It has a green covering that provides increased resistance to moisture but is not used for walls where water may come directly in contact with the material. This product is more durable than gypsum as it comes with a thicker coating of paper that is protect by wax. However, greenboard is known to be weaker than drywall, and therefore needs additional fastening screws when installed. 

Green board should not be used inside shower areas, as water can seep through porous tile grout and damage the wall behind the tiles. This will eventually create mold behind the tiles and damage the finish in your bathroom.

As an alternate to greenboard, purple drywall is specially formulated to resist mold, mildew and moisture. In addition, it is fire-resistant. The cost of the of both are relatively the same.

When dealing with wet areas, Cement board is the answer. This material is also referred to as ceramic tile backer, Wonderboard, Durock or Hardibacker, the latter three being a brand name of the product. This type of protective wall covering is cement based with a glass mesh underlayment. This material is very durable and waterproof. It is ideal for backing tile, stone or marble in showers and even on floors.

As cement board is a dense material with no paper covering, it holds up well and does not provide a source for mold growth. Even if water is exposed to the boards, they will dry out without losing their form. These boards are installed with cement based joint tape to ensure water does not get through to the wall behind the cement board. Prior to installing cement board, a plastic barrier can be applied over the studs to provide a further moisture barrier.

Blueboard drywall is used for veneer plastering, as the surface has special absorption qualities. It has a high water and mold resistance and there are fewer steps required to apply the plaster to it. Blue board is not made for mud, tape and paint.  

If you are looking for fire-resistant drywall to install in a garage, around fireplaces or other high-risk locations in your home, then Type X drywall, sold in 5/8” sheets, is recommended. This product is also used in commercial buildings and is installed between floors and walls in multi-family homes to slow the spread of fire between units, as this product is made with non-combustible fibers. The more layers of Type X drywall, the higher the fire rating.

When finishing your walls after the drywall is complete, be sure to prime them. This will allow for your paint or wall coverings to be applied evenly. Without priming the walls, the paint will be sucked into the porous drywall causing blotches and shadows on the finished wall.

When utilizing any type of drywall other than standard gypsum board, you can expect a higher price point. However, installing the right product will make the cost worth the investment, as the right installation will last for years to come.

Installing drywall is a craft. It is important that drywall is installed properly, as an improper installation can be seen when nails pop through your paint, or wall coverings, or when there is a separation in the joints. There are specific requirements with respect to the distance between fasteners, and the finishing and taping of the joints and seams. As mentioned before, each type of drywall requires specific materials to complete the installation. When hiring a contractor, it is important to identify a company that provides a quality installation.

As with any home improvement, do your homework. Speak with your contractor about the type of materials that will be used for your job and ask questions. The more knowledgeable a homeowner is about the good and services they have agreed to, the more equipped they are to feel confident with the work that is being provided in their home.

Jeff Troost, President Troost Bros. Inc. Home Renovations

(718) 667-3131  www.troostbros.com www.facebook.com/troostbros

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