What is Drywall?

Just what the heck is drywall, anyways? Well, it’s a dry wall, of course! In modern homebuilding, drywall has become the ubiquitous construction material that’s used to build walls. You’ll also see it in a lot of ceilings, too. Drywall is far more durable than plaster, which has been almost entirely phased out in 21st century construction. It’s also much faster to build and dry (it is drywall, after all) making it a far more efficient material than traditional plaster. 

But just what is drywall? Where does it come from, and what makes it work so well in modern construction? 

What Drywall is Made Of

The making of drywall starts deep beneath the earth’s surface in the mines, where workers arduously haul gypsum for construction use. Gypsum can be crushed into an ultra-fine powder that then re-binds into a sturdy hardened structure when water is mixed in. 

It’s worth noting, too, that modern drywall can also be made with synthetic gypsum, which is sourced from desulfurizing industrial chimneys in coal plants. Whichever way you slice it, the process of acquiring raw materials for drywall is a dirty one.

“Raw” drywall is then shaped into panels for construction. A single panel is a sheet of gypsum wrapped up in recycled paper. A layer of liquidized gypsum solution is poured over a long sheet of the wrapping paper and then covered by another layer of aerated gypsum (which is weatherized to withstand harsh elements). Finally, more gypsum solution is added before more paper tops off the panel. Drywall paneling is typically cut into uniform widths, and builders will then cut each panel into the appropriate length for the job. 

What to Call Drywall

You’ll hear all kinds of interesting nicknames that refer to common drywall. Frequently, the brand “Sheetrock” is interchangeably used to refer to drywall much like a cotton swab is often referred to as a Q-tip. However, you’ll also hear other generic names for drywall such as plasterboard, wallboard, or even gypsum paneling. 

Different Types of Drywall

Like most common construction materials, drywall comes in a variety of forms, and it’s important to know which type is best for your project. Let’s do a quick overview of the most prevalent forms of drywall you might run into on any given job:

Standard Drywall

What we’ve described above is drywall in its simplest form– layers of gypsum solution wrapped up in a recycled paper. It’s been around the longest, it’s usually the cheapest, and is often the easiest to work with. For this reason, almost any contract will be able to expertly install standard drywall in a new construction unit. 

Type X Drywall (Flame-retardant)

In more dangerous industrial environments, building codes will call for much more strict fire prevention and suppression methods to keep workers safe. This starts in the building’s very bones with the drywall. The paper wrapping on Type X drywall is blended with fire-resistant strands of fiber that stand up to higher temperatures and avoid combustion. 

Moisture-Resistant Drywall

As the name suggests, this type of drywall is used in environments that threaten structures with moisture penetration. However, moisture-resistant drywall isn’t just used in wet climates. It’s used in everyday construction where there’s some flow of water, whether that’s the kitchen, bathroom, or whirlpool.

Mold Resistant Drywall

Another popular choice in wetter environments is mold-resistant drywall. These days, fending off mold is such a priority for homebuilders that this style is replacing standard drywall more and more every day. The gypsum core in mold-resistant paneling is wrapped with a strong fiberglass material instead of paper. This hydrophobic wrapper helps expel moisture rather than trapping it, thus preventing the buildup of nasty molds and mildews.

Upsides and Downsides of Drywall

Drywall jobs are generally so popular because the paneling is easy to install and it’s inexpensive. The easy installation makes jobs go a lot faster and smoother. However, there are some notable drawbacks to drywall, and it may not always be your best bet. 

Drywall isn’t very soundproof even compared with plaster. If you need to have a private, quiet environment, you might be better off with materials that absorb more sound. Also, drywall doesn’t have the attractive aesthetic appeal of exposed brick or log. If you want a unique, eye-catching room, there might be better choices than drywall. 

About Brandon Potters

Hi, I’m Brandon and I can’t express how excited I am that you chose The Saw Guy as your resource for project ideas, tool reviews, and all-around guide to the world of DIY. I spent years in the construction industry refining my knowledge of various trades and even spent a few years working at a major hardware store. ​If there is anyone who can help you make a well-informed, unbiased, budget-conscious decision, it’s me and my team.

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