There are many types of drywall so even when you think you know the type of drywall you need for a small repair, you'll probably guess wrong and have to make another trip to the store. This happened at my house recently. When traveling, my husband decided to patch the hole in the ceiling (shower leaked, plumber had fixed it and we'd waited to make sure it was really fixed).
It wasn't until he brought the drywall home that he realized he bought 1/2 inch drywall but the ceiling was 5/8ths drywall! That's a common mistake when you don't know which of the many types of drywall you need for a job. It was a common discussios with my handyman customers about why we didn't arrive with the drywall needed for repairs – there are too many different types of drywall!
… and if you're wondering, that is my dining room ceiling waiting for next coat of mud.
There are many types of drywall. They're all made by sandwiching gypsum between two sheets of heavy paper, so it's the thickness of the gypsum, the paper on the outside and the chemical additives that make up the different types of drywall.
Drywall has many names which adds to the confusion – plasterboard, gypsum board, wallboard and sheetrock. No wonder we homeowners and contractors often find it difficult to discuss a project where terminology and concepts are unfamiliar … and trust me, mudding drywall is something that needs lots of practice to do it well (Women Build at Habitat lets you learn how to mud).
Types of Drywall Used in Homes
While they look the same when painted, it's important to be aware of the multiple types of drywall so you pick the right one at the store. Some drywall provides better protection in case of a fire and others are reduce the risk of water damage in areas with high humidity.
You also have choices in the wearability of your walls, and look and feel with finishes like Venetian plaster that present a rock-hard, marble like finish. So let's explore the most common types of drywall used in the construction of homes.
Types of Drywall = Regular
The most common type of drywall is regular, white (really gray) drywall. Regular drywall is used for most ceilings and walls in single family construction. These drywall sheets are most often 1/2 inch thick, and come in 4 x 8 ft sheets because most of our rooms are 8 feet tall (available in lengths up to 16 feet for commercial work).
Don't panic about trying to get a sheet of 4 x 8 ft drywall home for small repairs. The box stores cut and sell drywall in small, 2 x 2 ft squares, so just look for them and ask if they're not easy to find.
To tell the complete story, drywall also comes in 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch thicknesses. 1/4 inch drywall is most often used for curved walls and needs to be wet down to make it more flexible. The 3/8 inch drywall can be helpful when making repairs to old plaster and lath walls.
Types of Drywall = Green Board
Green board is the most common type of moisture resistant drywall. It's used in areas prone to water and high humidity like kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms. Your local building codes will indicate if they allow green board or require a more resistant type of wall board.
Types of Drywall = Cement Board
Cement board is more water-resistant than green board, which makes it an excellent product for areas susceptible to water problems like shower and bathtub walls, bathroom floors, laundry rooms and kitchens. USG claims their “DUROCK cement board Next Gen is moisture and mold resistant and does not deteriorate, swell, soften, decay, delaminate, or disintegrate in the presence of water.”
Types of Drywall = Fire Rated
Garages with gasoline in our cars are highly flammable so the walls and ceiling between your garage and house are required by building code to be fire rated, to allow more time for those in the house to escape. You'll find similar requirements for the furnace and any type of multi-family buildings like condominiums.
While 5/8 inch drywall will take longer to burn, you want Type-X drywall which is denser and includes glass fibers to give it more structural integrity, allowing it to withstand the intense heat from a fire longer (minimum of 60 minutes versus 30 minutes for 1/2 drywall). You'll want to check your local building codes and when buying drywall, you can tell the type of drywall by the label at the end of the sheets.
Types of Drywall = Blue Board
Maybe you've heard of plaster walls? Blue board is recognized for its' special paper which is treated to bond well to a skim coat of specially formulated plaster. Unlike drywall where you apply several coats of joint compound to the seams, with blue board, you tape-and-plaster the joints and then cover the entire surface with 1 or 2 thin (1/8 inch) coats of plaster.