7th Dec 2022 -

The terms ‘drywall’ and ‘plaster’ are often confused when discussing interior design. Yet, just like commonly muddled terms such as the United Kingdom and Great Britain, or shrimps and prawns, drywall and plaster mean completely different things.

This confusion comes from the wide use of the term ‘plasterboard’, which obviously could be mixed up with plaster — it is half the same word, after all. However, unlike drywall and plaster, drywall and plasterboard are actually the same material, just described in two different ways..

Although drywall ultimately stems from plaster and is also referred to as plasterboard, there are very few similarities between drywall and plaster in practice. Because of this, you need to know the difference as your choice will have a huge impact on your property.

What is plaster?

Plaster refers to the paste used as a protective or decorative coating for walls. Typically made from minerals and water, the process of plastering usually involves applying the paste in layers onto laths (narrow strips of wood), with drying time in between. The earliest documented forms of plaster were lime-based and found in Jordan around 7500 BC, while ancient China and India used clay and gypsum (a naturally occurring mineral consisting of hydrated calcium sulfate) to make a smooth plaster surface over stone or mud-brick walls.

Plaster became widely used in Europe in the Middle Ages, with gypsum and water often the default combination. However, the material fell out of favour by the 1930s and 1940s, and it was all down to its near-namesake: plasterboard — or drywall.

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What is drywall?

Since gaining popularity around the time of World War Two, drywall has become the go-to material for coating interior walls and ceilings. Like plaster, it often consists of gypsum. However, the difference is that this substance is sandwiched between two boards of paper and is typically sold as 4x8 foot panels. You can also just screw drywall into the studs of a wall, whereas plastering is a much more labour-intensive process. Think of drywalling like wallpapering a wall and plastering like painting it. That said, you still need to skim drywall afterwards to create a smooth finish, as well as paint it your desired colour.


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Why is drywall more popular than plaster?

Drywall is a cheaper and much more hassle-free option than plaster, boasting many other advantages from its thermal qualities to its flexibility.

Drywall is less labour-intensive and cheaper

As touched upon, fixing drywall is a fairly easy job. Conversely, wet plastering must be done by a professional over several days, with drying time needed between different coats. Even though the materials for both jobs are often roughly the same cost, the labour involved makes plastering a more expensive endeavour overall.


Drywall offers better insulation

Although plaster is denser than drywall, it lacks the thermal capabilities of its more modern counterpart. The drywall installation process offers a lot more flexibility for accommodating additional layers. However, retrofitting original plaster walls with insulation is difficult and still might not offer the same levels of protection.

Drywall is easier to hang items on

As plaster is more solid than drywall, it’s almost impossible to push thumbtacks into plastered walls to hang up posters. What’s more, doing so risks chipping or cracking the plaster. Consequently, drywall is a more flexible interior design option in this respect.

Why do some people still use plaster?

Despite being overshadowed by drywall these days, plaster has the edge in certain aspects. It is more soundproof, lasts longer and is often considered more sophisticated than drywall as plaster is generally better-made. 

Plaster is more soundproof

Because of its denseness, plaster is typically more soundproof than drywall. This is measured using STC (Sound Transmission Class), where the higher the number, the more soundproof a material is. Research by National Gypsum found that 1/2″ drywall on 2×4 wood studs has a rating of 34. Yet, an almost 1″ thick lath and plaster wall has an STC rating of 52 according to US Gypsum.

Plaster lasts longer

Plaster’s thickness also comes in handy in terms of durability, whereas drywall is a lot more susceptible to damage. It’s easy to see why those considering the long term choose the older building material.

Plaster is more sophisticated and flexible

Unlike drywall, plaster can be applied in a smooth, glossy or textured finish. What’s more, it’s a popular choice for difficult-to-drywall areas like curved walls.

So that’s that, the difference between drywall and plaster has been cleared up! Thanks for reading and be sure to check out our plasterboard range for all your drywall needs. 

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