The debate over plaster vs. drywall has been circulating since the invention of drywall. But which one is truly superior? Is there a right answer? Today, we’ll go over what plaster is and what drywall is, letting you decide for yourself.
What Is Plaster?
Plaster is a building material used primarily on walls. It has ancient origins, being thousands of years old, and used in both Greek and Egyptian architecture. Despite its age, plaster is still used today in modern homes.
Most plaster is made from lime, water, and sand. It is applied as a paste over a mesh or lath, which gives the paste something to attach to. Plaster is usually applied in layers to add thickness, insulation, and a sound shield.
What Is Drywall?
Drywall, also called sheetrock, is a relatively new type of wall covering. The first plasterboard plant didn’t open until the late 1800s, the term Sheetrock being coined in the early 1900s. This makes it one of the newest wall coverings in use.
Drywall is made with plaster, gypsum, and fiber, along with other materials. It comes in 4×8 ft sheets on most occasions and is one of the most popular wall coverings used today. But why do people use it?
Pros And Cons Of Plaster
Before looking into why drywall is so popular, let’s take a look at plaster. There’s a reason it’s such a high-end wall covering that’s highly sought after. Here are the pros and cons of plaster walls and why you should consider using them.
Higher End – plaster is expensive so it is considered high-end. Just like granite countertops, which are also costly, plaster walls can make a home look much more valuable. In fact, they can add to the value of your home.
More Authentic – plaster is an authentic wall covering made with organic materials in most cases. If you want your home to look like it’s been around for centuries but is well taken care of, then plaster walls are your best choice.
More Soundproof – although there is a debate as to whether drywall or plaster offers better insulation, no one’s arguing this point. Plaster walls offer better soundproofing than drywall, and just about any other wall.
Good Insulator – here is that debate we were talking about. Since plaster walls are thicker and more solid than drywall, it is more often believed that plaster walls offer better insulation than drywall.
Green Materials – most plaster is made with green materials like lime. According to the National Lime Association, “Lime absorbs and neutralizes sulfur oxides from these gases, helping to prevent acid rain and reducing emissions of hazardous air pollutants, including mercury.”
All In The Details – you won’t see any fancy Greek light coverings or crown molding with drywall. But with plaster, experts can craft just about any shape or design that you can imagine. And it will last forever!
Fire-Resistant – according to UL experiments, plaster walls burn three times slower than drywall. While drywall doesn’t burn quickly, it also doesn’t offer much protection. Plaster walls offer a barrier of sorts.
Rare In New Homes – this may be a con in some books, but being part of the reason a perfectly good wall covering doesn’t die is a great thing. Being rare means that you may be the only one in the neighborhood with plaster walls.
Harder To Install – this is the second most common reason people don’t use plaster. It is simply difficult to install. It requires an expert to install and even then, it can take weeks. Drywall is much easier to install.
Costly – this is the number one reason people choose drywall. Plaster is expensive. Primarily due to labor costs, although the materials are also more expensive than buying sheets of drywall. this is why plaster is high-end.
Pros And Cons Of Drywall
Drywall is the most popular wall covering in America and with good reason. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its weak points. Here are the most notable pros and cons of using drywall as opposed to plaster.
Easier To Install – anyone with a drywall knife and a drill can hang the drywall. It’s as easy as a child’s craft project. Finishing it is another story, as taping and mudding have to be done well as to not reveal flaws.
Can Hang Stuff – this may seem small, but if you have plaster, you understand why it’s important. While you can hang stuff on plaster walls, it’s much easier to do so on the drywall as you can use drywall anchors.
Cheap – drywall is quite cheap compared to other wall covers. This is the main reason people choose drywall. It is affordable and does the job well. You can paint it, put wallpaper up, or leave it be, it’s still cheaper than plaster.
Making Changes Is Easy – changing drywall is easy. You can even take walls down and put them back up. This isn’t possible with plaster. Once it is up, it cannot be salvaged if you’d decide to move walls around.
Not As High End – drywall isn’t as nice as plaster, that’s no secret. It is cheaper, which usually means it just isn’t as high-end. Most homes have drywall, so there’s no shame in it, plaster is simply nicer.
Can Look Cheap – this is different than not being high-end. After all, if installed correctly, it will look just as nice as any other wall. The catch is that if the mudding isn’t done right, it can look messy and cheap.
Should You Remove Plaster Walls?
The short answer is that no, you should not remove plaster walls or change them to the drywall. You also shouldn’t cover them with some other type of wall covering. In fact, unless the plaster is a hazard, it should be repaired.
Homes constructed before the 1930s or so, probably have plaster walls rather than drywall. So if you’re lucky enough to have a historic home like that, then it should be preserved and not brought to this century.
Instead, use furniture and decor to modernize your house if that’s what you want. Use the money you would use to buy new walls and have someone come to repair the plaster you do have. Or, you can do it yourself!
How To Repair Plaster Walls
Repairing plaster walls isn’t easy, but it can be done. It is recommended to hire a professional, but if you can’t afford one, then feel free to try to do it yourself. Here’s what you need to know before getting started.
Types Of Cracks In Plaster Walls
Hairline Cracks – hairline cracks are tiny cracks in plaster that are long and thin. They may loosen pieces that look like paint chips. In order to repair this type of crack, remove the pieces and plaster over it.
Wide Cracks – if the wide crack is stationary, then you will need to apply tape before adding plaster. If the crack is also deep, you can feel it with plaster before adding tape on the top. This will prevent the tape from breaking.
Moving Cracks – moving cracks are the most complicated. You need to remove any plaster that is moving or else it will cause more problems later. When you do, you will need to apply all three coats of plaster back on.
For a complete guide on repairing plaster walls, check out this article where we go over how to repair and renovate plaster walls. We even let you know the layers of plaster so you can fix those moving cracks in no time!
How To Repair Drywall
If you have a home that has drywall and need to make repairs, don’t get overwhelmed. Repairing drywall is easy! Take these steps and you shouldn’t run into any problems.
Cut Out The Damaged Piece
For small cracks, you can cover them with tape and mud again. But for best results, you need to cut out the damaged piece of drywall. You can feel the small hole with newpsaper and tape it. However, the correct way is to cut the piece out.
To do so, you need to find the stud. Find it and cut the drywall halfway through the stud. The stud should be half, though not fully, exposed. Do the same sixteen inched, or wherever the next stud is.
You should end up with a square or rectangle piece cut away from the wall. Each stud should be exposed halfway through. This is so you have something for both pieces of drywall to attach to.
In the event that you can’t find a stud, you can secure a new 2×4 to a backboard or baseboard. Make sure two opposing sides of the drywall has something to screw onto.
Make Sure Area Is Flat
After you cut the drywall out, make sure that there isn’t any mud, sheetrock, or screw heads sticking out. The area should be completely flat. You can scrape off most things with the knife or painter’s tool.
Measure New Area
After you clean an area, you can measure it. Measure it one way and then another. Write this measurement down even if you think you’ll remember it. Measure the area between each other piece of drywall, not each stud.
Measure New Are And Cut New Piece
Yes, measure again. Measuring twice will save you a lot of trouble and mistakes. After you measure again, you can mark and cut your new piece of drywall. If there are any outlets or switches, make sure you cut holes for them.
Install The New Drywall
Finally, screw the drywall in. Make sure that the screws are flush with the drywall so you don’t have to retape and mud them. Now, all you need to do is tape and mud the drywall.
Mudding drywall is no doubt the most inconvenient part of installing drywall. To do so you need to use drywall tape, adhered to cracks with drywall mud. Then, use a painter’s or drywall tool to add a thin layer of mud on top.
If your other wall is stomped or done with popcorn, you will need to match it. If you have trouble, call a professional to help out. Repairs aren’t nearly as expensive as entire walls. For a complete guide on repairing and even installing drywall, check out this informative article.