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What Is Gypsum Wallboard?

Gypsum wallboard is widely used in construction projects.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
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Gypsum wallboard is a construction product used to finish interior walls. This product is used in structures all over the world, classically covered with a layer of paint or textured plaster, and was introduced as a replacement for traditional lathe and plaster finishing. Unlike lathe and plaster, which can take a week or more to install properly, gypsum wallboard can be installed quickly and efficiently in an entire structure by a relatively small team, saving construction costs and helping a project move along quickly.

This product is made by sandwiching a layer of gypsum plaster between two layers of reinforced paper. Typically, one side of the paper is designed to be used on the finished side, with a textured surface which will help paint adhere without creating a dimpled or divoted look. Various types of gypsum wallboard include features like paper which has been treated to resist water and mold, or gypsum plaster which has been blended with glass fibers to increase fire resistance to make Type X gypsum wallboard.

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This product is also known as plasterboard, drywall, or sheetrock, after the popular Sheetrock® brand. It is sold in large sheets which can be cut down to size to fit in odd places, although cutting or punching through gypsum wallboard extensively is not recommended, as it can compromise the integrity of the product. Many construction suppliers sell gypsum wallboard in bulk and by the sheet for various applications, ranging from finishing the interior walls of a new home to repairing damaged gypsum plasterboard in an existing structure.

Several companies make environmentally friendly versions of this product with recycled materials, and factories which are designed to be energy efficient. Plasterboard recycling is also possible, with companies hauling away and breaking down scrap or damaged plasterboard to gather materials for reuse, rather than allowing them to be thrown out to add to the burden of a landfill.

Unlike plaster and lathe, gypsum wallboard can be handled by people who are not experienced with construction. Many people can safely and competently install this product or make repairs to existing installations, with the real challenge lying in the taping, mudding, and sanding of the seams of gypsum wallboard after installation to prepare it for painting or other finishing techniques. People who are not familiar with the work of preparing gypsum wallboard for sheetrocking should plan on working patiently with the product while they grow accustomed to it.

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Discuss this Article

TreeMan
Post 4

Out of curiosity, what types of materials are used in the recyclable sheets of drywall? Do they still use gypsum or another material? How do they recycle the boards after they are used?

Emilski
Post 3

@stl156 - We suffered some water damage in our garage a few years ago, and I got the job of replacing the drywall. I have done a lot of home improvement, and I have to say that drywall is one of the easier things to work with once you get the hang of it.

As far as I know, sheetrock for walls only comes in a 1/2 inch thickness. I think the pieces are all about the same strength. Like the article mentions, there are special moisture resistant or soundproof sheets.

In most homes, a 4x8 foot sheet will reach to the ceiling, so you shouldn't need to cut. Again, like in the article, avoid only replacing small sections. Just remove the entire sheet (or sheets) from the wall and replace the whole thing. It will be much simpler. If you do need to cut a piece, you don't need any power tools. You can simply use a utility knife and a straight edge and make a shallow cut that goes through the top layer of paper. The drywall will make a clean break along that line every time.

If you need to cut out electrical outlets, use a keyhole saw to drill through the sheetrock and cut out the necessary shape. You can search online for detailed explanations of how to tape and plaster the seams. Good luck!

stl156
Post 2

@Izzy78 - Interestingly enough, I'm wondering the same things because my kids also put a hole in our drywall.

I think I would be able to fix the wall myself with a few suggestions from people who have experience. Like Izzy asked, are there different strengths, and how do I know what type of drywall I need? Also, can you cut the boards with a wood blade on a circular saw, or are there special drywall blades?

Is there anything else that I might be overlooking?

Izzy78
Post 1

I have always thought of sheetrock as a stronger, more durable version of drywall, but maybe I was mistaken.

Along the same lines, though, are there different strengths and thicknesses of drywall? I just remember when I was younger, my friend and I always used to wrestle in the house. One day, I fell backward and ended up putting a large hole in the wall. Needless to say, my parents were not happy.

In the house where I currently live, the walls feel very sturdy, and I think it would be hard for two kids to put a hole in it. So, are there different strengths, or did my fall just have a lot of force behind it?

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