Wallboard is the broad term for the stock material attached to wood or metal studs, creating the finished wall and ceiling surfaces found in the interior of homes and buildings. While wallboard comes in a variety of materials, from plaster to plywood to plastic, drywall is by far the most popular choice for most homes today.
If you've ever been involved in a home remodeling project, you have likely come across terms such as gypsum and gypsum board, Sheetrock gypsum board, Sheetrock, and drywall. Learn the terminology along with the difference between Sheetrock, drywall, and gypsum.
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What Is Drywall?
Also known as plasterboard, drywall is a manufactured panel used to finish a wall during a construction or remodeling project. Gypsum wallboard, one of the most common types of drywall used in North America, is made by pressing a gypsum plaster core (and possibly other additives) between two heavy paper sides. It is then kiln dried to ensure a rigid surface.
This type of gypsum wallboard was first invented by the U.S. Gypsum Corporation (USG) in 1916 (they called their gypsum wallboard Sheetrock), but the new building component really caught on in the late 1940s, replacing the more expensive and labor-intensive lath and plaster walls still found in some old homes today. It is a cost-effective and efficient product that is still preferred not only by professionals but also by amateurs due to its ease of installation and fire-resistant nature.
What Is Gypsum?
Gypsum is a naturally occurring, mined material that is also known as hydrous calcium sulphate. It is the most common sulfate mineral. Also used in plaster of Paris and cement and as a soil conditioner, gypsum's predominant use is as a construction material used in wallboard. Gypsum wallboard is durable but is mostly renowned for its intrinsic heat and flame-resistant properties, making it a safe and protective choice among building materials.
Gypsum wallboard thickness, like that of other wallboard and drywall, comes in four common sizes: 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch, and 5/8 inch, with 1/2 inch being the most common. The thicker 5/8-inch version is often reserved for soundproof or fire-resistant drywall panels that are made with a thicker middle layer of gypsum plaster.
Sheetrock vs. Drywall
You have probably heard the term Sheetrock used interchangeably with drywall. Sheetrock is a specific brand of drywall, so it is true that all Sheetrock is drywall. However, not all drywall is Sheetrock.
Sheetrock gypsum board is still manufactured by USG, which is the leading gypsum panel manufacturer in the world. It has embraced many iterations of gypsum wallboard options over the years, including the Flexible, Mold Tough, and Firecode lines available today among others.
Types of Drywall
While not a definitive list of drywall options, some of the typical drywall selections commonly used in homes and remodeling projects include standard drywall, mold-resistant drywall, moisture-resistant drywall, and fire-resistant drywall. Standard drywall is just that — standard. Even with no special features, standard drywall is still durable and fire-resistant due to its gypsum core. Standard drywall works well for finishing walls, ceilings, and even basements.
For added resistance to moisture and humidity that can result in mold, there is mold-resistant drywall. Made with a paperless backing and mold-resistant coating, this drywall is optimal in bathrooms, kitchens, and other moisture-prone places where it will prevent the buildup of mold. Similarly, moisture-resistant drywall is ideal for bathrooms and kitchens as well as basements, laundry rooms, and utility rooms, which could see more actual moisture than minor humidity.
With a thicker layer of gypsum in its core and additives such as fiberglass, fire-resistant drywall is a safe choice for any home, especially in kitchens, utility rooms, garages housing furnaces and heating elements, or living areas that include a fireplace. Designed to prevent the speed and spread of a fire, this drywall produces less smoke than the standard version and is even required by some building codes.