Drywall is one of the most common materials used in construction today. It is an integral part of every building and people walk past it every day. It’s inside one’s home, office, and every store. It goes by different names like wallboard, plasterboard, gypsum wallboard, or most commonly, drywall. Despite the popularity of drywall, very few people know how it’s made, where it comes from or how useful this material really is.
Let’s get introduced to this universally favoured material first. Drywall is a construction material used to create walls and ceilings. It is a sheeting made of gypsum (calcium sulphate dihydrate) and consists of two paper boards, which sandwich the gypsum panel. It is also used to create many design features, including eaves, arches and other architectural specialities. It adheres to metal or wood studs using nails or screws.
Prior to the invention and wide use of drywall, walls and ceilings were always constructed by slathering layers of wet plaster over thousands of wooden strips called laths, which would eventually harden to form walls. The installation and repair processes were complex and time-consuming.
Drywall was a ground-breaking discovery made by the US Gypsum Company in 1916 to save time and labour and the cost of the plaster and lath. In its humble beginnings, drywall was sold in the form of small fireproof tiles. A few years later it evolved into multi-layer gypsum and paper sheets. Few more years passed and drywall has become what we know today, consisting of a single layer of compressed gypsum sandwiched between two heavy paper sheets.
Many attribute the rise of the use of drywall to World War II when the US’ labour force became focused on war manufacturing. With drywall, houses and factories could be constructed in a fraction of the time and with a fraction of the labour previously required. By the time the war ended in 1945, drywall had become the dominant building material in the US and contractors used it in their projects, constructing homes and workplaces in one-tenth the time and leading to higher profits.
Drywall is made primarily of gypsum. Gypsum is a mineral usually found in massive beds that look like white sand and contains a lot of water in crystalline form, which gives the final product its fire resistance. The drywall is heated to remove the water by evaporation, keeping the drywall cool and protecting the structure behind it. Once mined, gypsum is shipped to factories globally where it is mixed with starch, paper pulp and a thickening agent to form a dense paste, which is spread onto Manila paper in thick layers and then another sheet of the paper is laid on top. Different additives are mixed for different purposes. This product is placed in a 500°F oven, that dries the material out and prepares it for cutting.
Drywall is an easy construction material that even the amateur home carpenter can install, reducing energy and labour costs. It has incredible strength, it can support and sustain walls for years; if damaged, it requires minimal repair, which can be done quickly; it can be permanent (ceiling applications) or temporary (partition wall applications); it can be dismantled, cut, changed and modified as desired; clothes hangers, frames, mirrors, paintings, etc. can be hung on drywall with ease. Different types of drywall are created to be mould, moisture and fire-resistant and can also be made for soundproofing. Despite all these benefits, the use of drywall was slow to catch on with builders. It was only in the past five or six decades that it gained respect.
TIPS FOR THE AMATEUR ‘DRYWALLER’
Three common sizes:
4 X 8-FOOT
The most common size, which allows for either vertical or horizontal installation.
Ideal for small and medium construction projects
4 X 10-FOOT
Provides a smoother surface on tall walls and expansive ceilings.
4 X 12-FOOT DRY
Ideal for large rooms and areas with high ceilings. It covers more area in fewer panels.
Four common thicknesses:
1/4-INCH AND 3/8-INCH: The thinnest ones of all the options, these drywalls can be mounted over an existing layer of wall to refresh the look and hide old blemishes.
1/2-INCH: The most common choice for interior walls as they are easy to carry and hang.
5/8-INCH: The thickest of all types of drywall, 5/8-inch drywall is fire-resistant and the best choice for soundproofing rooms. It’s great for ceiling applications as it helps prevents sagging over time.
Once the size and thickness are chosen, use a handy ‘project calculator’ that you can find online to know how much you’ll need for your project.