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Drywall or Plaster

Posted on May 16, 2019

If you’re contemplating taking on a wall project in your home, you will have two options: drywall or plaster.

Newer homes use drywall for interior walls, Drywall is a material comprised of gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of paper and usually comes in 4 X 8′ panels. Drywall is quick and fairly easy to install by screwing it into the studs of the wall. It comes in several types of thicknesses and other options to choose from as well.
Plaster and lath, however, is a more labor-intensive but high-end wall treatment where skilled workers nail lengths of wood called lath to the studs and then apply several coats of plaster over top. This method was used primarily in homes built before the 1940’s.

Both options have their respective strong points and weak points. We will be breaking down the two materials here. Drywall or Plaster, you be the judge.

Plaster Has A More Sophisticated Look.

While drywall is the standard in most houses today, plaster is still used for a variety of aesthetic upgrades. It can be applied with a smooth or glossy finish or as a stucco-like textured finish. For example, plaster may be the better choice on curved walls than the popular pick, drywall, since it’s difficult at best and impossible at worst to get drywall to bend as desired.

Plaster Takes More Time To Install Than Drywall.

It’s true. There was a shortage of workers during the second world war. This is one of the reasons for drywall’s rise in popularity. Today, plasterer is more specialized for contractors than drywall hangers, so having the skilled workers available in your city is the first thing to check before committing to the high-maintenance material. Drywall repair, on the other hand, while it is a multi-step process, tends to be more straightforward and easier for handy homeowners to complete themselves. As far as repairs, they can run the gamut from being as simple as touching up a little bit of plaster to rebuilding the wall, especially in cases where electrical or plumbing work needs to be done behind the walls.

Plaster Costs More Than Drywall.

The material costs are comparable. But plaster requires a certain expertise to apply than a drywall installation. Also, it takes longer to complete, and the labor alone will usually run about three times more than a typical drywall install.

It’s Easier To Hang Items On Drywall

With drywall it’s possible to push thumbtacks into the wall to hang up posters, and you probably would not be able to pierce a plaster wall with a small tack. Plaster is harder and more brittle than drywall, so you would probaly crack it. Using a hammer on a plaster wall can be catastrophic, if you need to hang an item like a picture frame on a plaster wall, use screws instead of nails to avoid potential damage.

Drywall Usually Means Better Insulation, But Plaster Is Better For Sound Proof.

Plaster is a dense material, and it blocks sound transmission much better than drywall. However, even though plaster is more dense, it can’t beat the thermal capabilities of standard drywall. Add this, along with modern insulation that is commonly found today. Drywall installation allows for great flexibility to accommodate those layers. Retrofitting original plaster walls with insulation, as with most work on plaster walls, can prove challenging and still offer less energy-efficient payoff than drywall with insulation.