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What Are the Different Types of Gypsum Products?

A cast made with gypsum plaster.
A drywall installer applies a finish coating to a gypsum wall.
Ordinary schoolroom chalk is made from gypsum.
Powdered gypsum is typically used to make plaster.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 April 2014
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A number of types of gypsum products are in use all over the world. In fact, humans have been utilizing this mineral for centuries, primarily in construction, and it has a number of uses which are sometimes surprising to learn about. A variety of products feature gypsum as a major ingredient, and many others involve gypsum in their manufacture; while the mineral may not be readily identifiable, it can be an important part of the product.

The most famous group of gypsum products is probably plasters. Plaster of Paris is traditionally made with gypsum, and gypsum is also used to make alabaster and an assortment of other plasters used in art and in the creation of molds. Gypsum plasters are also used in texturing; for example, gypsum products can be run through a spray gun to create a textured wall or ceiling. Many building plasters contain gypsum, including compounds used to prepare walls for painting.

Other gypsum products used in construction include joint compounds and plasters used as backings during the installation of products such as tile. Finer gypsum plasters can also be used to make decorative molding. Wallboard, also known as gypsum board, Sheetrock, or drywall, also contains gypsum. This product can be treated to resist moisture, mold, and fungi, and is available in a range of sizes and thicknesses for different applications.

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Some gypsum products are used in the agricultural setting. Gypsum can be added to dense clay soils to loosen them up, acting as a soil conditioner which will allow crops to thrive, and gypsum is also used in the manufacture of fertilizer. Gypsum is also added to cement to slow the speed at which it sets, and it can be utilized as a binder in some other products.

Blackboard chalk is another example of a gypsum product; in this case, the gypsum may be dyed to produce various colors as needed. Gypsum is also used in food production. Food grade gypsum products can be used as binders in products like tofu, or in the filtering process of foods such as mead.

Companies which specialize in gypsum products tend to focus on a particular area of interest, such as products for the construction trade or products designed to be used by artists. However, some may be willing to work on custom projects by request, and all can offer referrals to companies which might better suit the needs of a particular project if they feel that their product line will not work.

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Discuss this Article

TreeMan
Post 5

@cardsfan27 - I believe you are right. I know there are some special types of drywall you can buy that have additives for strength, but basic drywall is just the calcium mixed with water. Heat is what bonds the water with the gypsum.

I had never thought about gypsum being used on crops before. I suppose it makes sense, though. I have added calcium to my garden as fertilizer before. I didn't really know where it came from, though. It is interesting that gypsum can be used in food production, too.

Since gypsum is so important, where does it come from? I'm sure it is mined from rocks somehow, but where in the world is it commonly found or mined? Given that we use the term plaster of Paris, I'm guessing it is fairly common in the rocks of Italy or southern Europe. Does anyone know?

cardsfan27
Post 4

@matthewc23 - I am not an expert in the area of how they make gypsum drywall, but I do believe it is basically made of the gypsum and water. As far as I know, they just take the gypsum and mix it with the water like you would with plaster. After that, they put the mixture in between two pieces of paper and let it set. After that, you have the finished drywall.

If you have ever worked with drywall you know that all you need to do to cut it down to size is put a small slit in the paper coating, and the interior material will break very easily. If you've never tried this, check it out the next time you have a piece of scrap drywall you can play with. It is fairly difficult to break apart by bending until you cut the paper on the outside.

I guess there are probably additional things that the companies may add to make the boards a little bit harder, but I don't think it is really much more than just the gypsum and water.

matthewc23
Post 3

@jmc88 - I believe you are correct that gypsum and school chalk are both calcium sulfate. I believe there are probably a few additional steps taken to get from the gypsum itself to the chalk. Given the other products that are made, I'm willing to assume that gypsum is usually ground into a powder and then mixed with other materials to give it whatever final properties it needs.

Keeping that in mind, what exactly is mixed with gypsum when they make gypsum wallboard? Obviously it is not the same thing as chalk or else the wall would just fall apart under its own weight when you picked it up. I think it would be difficult to get nails and screws to go into drywall as well if it was just the natural gypsum.

jmc88
Post 2

I knew that gypsum was a main component of drywall but didn't know that it could be used for so many other things. I have used Plaster of Paris several times in my life, but never thought about what it was actually made out of.

Now I am wonder what exactly gypsum is. The article said that it was commonly used as chalk, so am I right in assuming that gypsum is some sort of calcium compound? If I remember correctly, chalk that is used in classrooms is usually calcium sulfate. Am I also correct in assuming that gypsum is usually a white material in nature? It seems like all the products made from gypsum are white. I would also be interested in hearing where it comes from.

anon88906
Post 1

i need the chemical difference and similarities between gypsum products used in dentistry.

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