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Moisture problems? Sound concerns? Here's what to use
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Sheetrock. Gypsum board. Blue board. Wallboard. There are many common names for drywall, but they refer to the same types of products. Drywall is hardened gypsum sheets covered in some sort of paper and then hung on studs to make walls. Chances are good that the walls you are staring at right now are made from drywall.
Drywalling is a relatively simple—not to be confused with easy—process that some homeowners feel they can tackle on their own. With patience, help, and good measurements, smaller drywalling jobs are imminently doable.
The first thing to note is the drywall products come in various heights, widths, and thicknesses, depending on the application. Standard drywall dimensions are 4 feet by 8 feet by ½ inches. However, drywall is also available in 4-foot by 10-foot sheets, 4-foot by 12-foot sheets, or even smaller sizes like 4-foot by 4-foot sheets, which are great if you’re only looking to patch.
When it comes to thickness, the standard ½-inch is good for the majority of cases, but there are also other common sizes. Although it lacks rigidity, thinner drywall can be great for using over existing drywall or on surfaces that aren’t flat as it bends more easily than thicker drywall.
Before you embark on a drywalling project, know that drywall isn’t a single product; it’s a family of products, each member of which has specific applications and use cases. We’re here to explain what type you need before you go out and purchase for your project.
Pro tip: This article is a starting place. You should always consult your local building codes, which define specific requirements for what kind of drywall to use when.
You will recognize standard drywall because it’s typically gray on one side and a darker shade of gray or brown on the other. It is ideal for walls, ceilings, basements, and patches—anywhere that doesn’t require some sort of mold, moisture, sound, or fire protection.
Unless you have a specific reason to use a special drywall, you’ll want to go with standard drywall. It’s the most affordable option and is available in all of the common sizes and thicknesses.
With a slightly higher price point than standard drywall, green board is a moisture-resistant variation of drywall. This means it is perfect for areas that are exposed to a lot of ambient moisture, like bathrooms, kitchens, and damp basements.
This said, it’s important to clarify that green board is not waterproof and will not do well if it comes in direct contact with water. You can use green board for the walls of your bathroom, but not around your shower where you’ll need a product with a much higher water-resistance like cement board.
Purple drywall is both mold and moisture resistant, and is another great choice to use in bathrooms, but it’s much more forgiving than green board when it comes into contact with water.
You can use purple drywall for the ceiling and/or upper walls of a shower, for example. The biggest difference between green board and purple drywall is additional mold and mildew resistance. If you’re concerned about mold growth, upgrade to purple drywall.
Blue board is different from other types of drywall because it’s designed for plaster finishes rather than paint like standard drywall. Plaster is a hard, durable, moisture-and-mold resistant finish that can be applied with a variety of different aesthetic textures.
If you’re trying to match an existing plaster finish, or particularly like the plaster look, then use blue board for your project. This is great for both walls and ceilings, and it is moisture and mold resistant for use in damp areas as well.
All drywall is naturally fire resistant to some degree, because gypsum doesn’t burn very well.
This said, there are specific fire-resistant drywall products that should be—and may be mandated to be—used in areas that need additional fire protection, like around a boiler, between levels in multi-family buildings, or in garages that share a wall with the main structure. Fire-resistant drywall tends to be thicker and has met specific regulations around combustibility.
There is a wide variety of soundproof drywall on the market, but it tends to be more expensive than traditional drywall, and so it isn’t often used without a specific reason.
Interestingly, it may be cheaper to double-layer regular drywall with a special soundproofing glue in between, which can work well. Whether it’s more affordable to double up drywall or use a specific soundproof drywall often comes down to the cost of labor —installing two layers of drywall with an adhesive between is more labor intensive and more challenging—more than most homeowners can handle.
Technically, cement board is not drywall. It’s a thin board made of cement wrapped in fiberglass mesh, sometimes with cellulose fibers running through it for strength and to reduce brittleness.
Cement board is specifically designed to be a tile backer board in areas that are exposed to a lot of water, such as in shower surrounds. Cement board is a better option than drywall because it is less susceptible to water damage.
However, not all cement board is made equal, with varying degrees of water, mold, and mildew resistance. Make sure that you select a board that fits your specific needs, and check with your local building codes.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.