6th Mar 2024 -

A key decision for a construction project is what type of plasterboard to use. Builders face a choice between traditional plasterboard and insulated plasterboard

Selecting the right plasterboard impacts the installation process, long-term maintenance requirements and compliance with building codes. This feature examines the key differences between insulated and traditional plasterboard.

Traditional vs insulated: Pros and cons

Factors like ease of installation, acoustic properties, insulation value and code compliance all play a crucial role. To help identify the differences, here is a comparison between the 2 types highlighting the key pros and cons. 

Insulated plasterboard

Types such as PIR insulated plasterboard have higher insulating R-values per inch (typically R-3 to R-5). They prevent costly heat loss and reduce energy bills.Long drywall screws are needed for insulating plasterboard sheets. This is to help avoid piercing the foam backing.
Sound absorption properties minimise noise transfer up to 50% better than standard drywall.More precision is required around windows or doors to achieve a tight seal.
The prefabricated single layer cuts installation time and avoids separate insulation steps.In some cases, surface indentations can happen if sheets are poorly stored before installation.
Moisture-resistant facing is available for bathroom, laundry and humid environments.Generally, insulated plasterboard comes with a higher material price per sheet (2x to 5x more than traditional).

Traditional plasterboard

Working with the traditional type (also known as standard plasterboard) makes installation simple.It only has a base R-value of R-0.5. This means traditional plasterboard requires insulation layers.
It is flexible for curved walls or moisture-prone areas such as bathrooms and utility rooms.Unlike acoustic plasterboard, it allows greater sound transfer without sound isolation.
The general lower cost per board helps to keep the overall project budget down.High wall or ceiling plasterboard projects may require multiple plasterboard layers.
Overall, it is more widely available which is beneficial for any replacements and plasterboard repair work.Because of its low R-value, it may fail to meet tighter modern building energy codes.

How to install both plasterboard types

The choice between traditional and insulated options involves weighing up some significant differences. Understanding these points is key for efficient and effective installation.

1. Pre-installation preparation

  • Traditional plasterboard: Ensure the framing is properly spaced and secured. Clean the area to remove debris and ensure a smooth surface for installation.
  • Insulated plasterboard: Pay attention to aligning the insulation layer with the framing. Check for compatibility with existing structures and ensure adequate ventilation to prevent moisture buildup.

2. Handling and weight considerations

  • Traditional Plasterboard: Standard sheets are lighter and easier to handle. Use proper lifting techniques to prevent damage.
  • Insulated Plasterboard: Because of the added insulation, panels are thick and heavier. Employ additional manpower or equipment as needed. Handle with care to avoid damage to the insulation layer.

3. Installation process

  • Traditional plasterboard: Measure and cut panels to fit, ensuring proper spacing around edges and fixtures. Secure panels to framing with appropriate plasterboard fixings. Apply joint tape and compound for seamless transitions.
  • Insulated plasterboard: Install panels while ensuring the insulation layer faces the interior space. Fix panels snugly to the framing. Use a plasterboard sealer for joints and edges carefully to prevent thermal bridging.

4. Fixings and fasteners

  • Traditional plasterboard: Use standard plasterboard screws to secure panels to framing. Ensure proper spacing and depth to avoid damaging the panels.
  • Insulated plasterboard: Whether you are working with tiles or brick substrates, consider using specialised fixings for attaching insulated panels. This includes longer screw types and plasterboard wall plugs.

5. Plasterboard beading

  • Traditional plasterboard: Plasterboard beads are measured, cut to size and simply attached using appropriate fasteners.
  • Insulated plasterboard: Extra care is needed for the beading plasterboard to ensure alignment over the thicker panels. Specialised fasteners such as expanding anchors may be required. 

6. Efficiency and project timelines

  • Traditional plasterboard: Installation is straightforward and can be completed quickly, contributing to the job’s progress.
  • Insulated plasterboard: Integrated insulation may add complexity and time to the schedule. Plan and coordinate carefully to minimise delays. 

For both types, store panels in a dry, climate-controlled environment to prevent warping or moisture damage. Avoid stacking panels directly on the ground and provide good support which stops the sheets from bending. 

When cutting plasterboard, use a sharp utility knife to cut panels to size. Score the surface lightly before cutting through to minimise edge damage and create precise cuts.

How does plasterboard maintenance differ?

When preserving plasterboard sheets, required upkeep and repair techniques vary based on standard drywall vs insulated board. 


  • Clean dirt using mild soapy water applied with a soft cloth.
  • Repair minor wall dings by filling indented foam areas with general-purpose joint compound.
  • Monitor humidity levels in rooms to prevent mould growth on facings.
  • Replace boards showing signs of moisture damage after 15-20 years.
  • Apply protective coatings such as a plasterboard primer before painting drywall. 


  • Use only low moisture-permeability cleaners to avoid saturating vapour barriers.
  • Fill minor dings with backing foam to preserve thermal integrity across damaged sections.
  • Caulk trims annually to maintain air gap effectiveness and energy efficiency.
  • Prevent exterior sheathing punctures which would lower insulating R-values.
  • Maintain safety standards by following manufacturer guidelines for repair work.

What is the difference with building codes?

You must ensure plasterboard compliance with regulatory codes. Set by the British Standards Institution (BSI) they outline factors on fire performance, thermal efficiency, moisture resistance and electrical safety. Requirements vary between the 2 types.

Traditional plasterboard

Fire safety - Must satisfy BS EN 520 standard specification for plasterboard products.
- Class 1 normal flammability rating under BS 476 protocol for surface spread of flame tests on materials.
Thermal efficiency - Introduce standard plasterboard with additional insulated layers. Examples include stone wool or glass fibre blankets to meet Part L Building Regulations for the conservation of fuel/power.
Moisture resistance - Only offers limited water repellence if the facing papers are treated rather than a waterproof barrier.
Electrical safety - No specific certification is required for traditional plasterboard. Outlets can directly contact standard drywall without risk.

Insulated plasterboard

Fire safety - Insulation foam core achieves a Class 0 fire rating, which is the lowest risk group.
- Meets the requirements for non-combustible internal linings when tested via EN ISO 1182:2010 standards.
Thermal efficiency - Rating from R-3 to R-5 per 25mm insulated plasterboard thickness adheres to Part L conservation of fuel targets.
- Examples such as foil-backed plasterboard exceed standards for roof, ceiling and wall areas in a single prefabricated layer.
Moisture resistance - Bonded cement backer boards are rated for high-humidity areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.
- Alternatives utilise vinyl layers to reliably block water saturation.
Electrical safety - Certified with written proof demonstrating insulation material used will not enable dangerous electrical shorts behind walls if compromised.
- Proof against possible thermal bridging meets UK Building Regulations for electrical component installations.

Can you dot and dab both plasterboard types?

For traditional plasterboard, the dot-and-dab technique is a viable alternative to screw-mounted installation. However, using this method for insulated plasterboard poses some challenges. Here are the key factors to consider.

Traditional plasterboard

  • Code approved for UK building standards as screws become optional.
  • A rigid gypsum core allows firm bonding to adhesive spots evenly spaced at 300-900mm intervals.
  • Paper, fibreglass or aluminium facings smooth irregularities for consistent dab contact.
  • Sheets mounted vertically and then horizontally strengthen the total wall connection.
  • The cavity remains accessible to route electrical wiring behind bonded plasterboard panels.

Insulated plasterboard

  • Despite installing thin insulation plasterboard sheets, the foam adds weight and rigidity challenges compared with standard plasterboards.
  • Cement-backed boards adhere properly but many block alternative techniques.
  • Weaker fibreglass facings may slowly detach from adhesive forces alone over months or years.
  • Altering installation to achieve dot and dab insulated plasterboard risks thermal efficiency and fire safety.
  • Make sure vapour barriers, air gaps and sealing meet standards with any dwelling wall insulation.

Shop high-quality plasterboard with UK delivery

Discover the unmatched versatility of traditional and insulated plasterboard. We also supply a diverse range of accessories such as plasterboard adhesive and wall plugs to suit your construction needs. 

Whether you choose the efficiency of traditional or the enhancement of insulated options, you will find top-quality products for all job sizes.

For industry customers, opening a trade account with us brings a host of benefits. As a trade account holder, you will benefit from fast delivery options and personalised one-on-one service.

Our trade accounts provide you with the tools and materials you need promptly. Contact the team below for more information or sign up today for instant access.

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