Drywall and sheetrock are lightweight construction materials used to create walls and ceilings, making them both a near-ubiquitous presence in most homes. However, drywall is a massive industry, valued at $46 billion in the United States alone (although this does include insulation installation). The terms sheetrock and drywall are often used interchangeably, although, as the guide will show, the reality is a little more complex than that. For those who are not operating at an industry level, however, the differences between the two are fairly minor.
Understanding how drywall and sheetrock are made, and their primary uses is very useful if you plan on using them in a building project. Knowing their strengths and their weaknesses is also essential knowledge if you are to understand when best to utilize them.
This guide will walk you through all of the key information on sheetrock and drywall so that you will have all of the key facts and figures at your disposal. If you’re planning a project yourself, knowing the ins and outs of drywall will be useful. Even if you are hiring a professional, understanding the nuances of drywall will help everything run smoother.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHEETROCK & DRYWALL?
The first key point to make is that drywall and sheetrock are fairly interchangeable terms, and much of the confusion relating to their use is due to the fact that they are treated as synonyms. While you can generally get away with using the two terms interchangeably without any real issues, in reality drywall is the umbrella term, and sheetrock is a brand of drywall.
Think of it as comparable to soda, and Coca Cola. Soda is the generic term – like drywall; Coca Cola is a specific brand of soda, and sheetrock is a specific brand of drywall. All Coca Cola is soda, but not all soda is Coca Cola. All sheetrock is drywall, but not all drywall is sheetrock.
Both are made up of the same materials. Drywall and sheetrock are both panels made of gypsum plaster that are pressed between two thick pieces of paper. Sheetrock is a brand name patented by the United States Gypsum company. Such is the ubiquity of sheetrock that many people soon began to assume that sheetrock was the generic term.
However, the U.S. Gypsum Company has its own method of constructing its sheetrock that distinguishes it from the generic drywall materials available. The key difference is some of the chemicals that are involved in the process, and most amateurs (and even some professionals) would be hard-pressed to notice or explain the difference).
Both sheetrock and drywall are cheap and light materials used to make walls and ceilings. They are an extremely common lightweight way to complete a room, or as a temporary surface while a more sturdy wall or ceiling is being constructed. Either way, in almost every home construction project, sheetrock or drywall are involved.
HOW ARE SHEETROCK
AND DRYWALL MADE?
Despite the relatively lightweight and seemingly flimsy makeup of sheetrock and drywall, both are actually made up of a rock, named gypsum. Gypsum in its raw form is an immensely sturdy material; in order to turn it into drywall, it is ground up into a fine powder. If you ever break a piece of drywall (and be sure to be wearing the correct PPE if so), you will be able to see the fine powder that fills the inside. Once the gypsum is ground up, it is placed and pressed between two very thick pieces of paper, to turn it into thick boards or sheets.
Drywall usually comes in sheets from the hardware store, most typically in 4 feet by 8 feet sheets. However, it’s possible to get sheets in a wide variety of sizes. Once you buy these sheets, it’s extremely easy to cut them to size so that they will fit into the required space. These sheets are then nailed to the wood framing of a building to provide an easy way to segment off rooms either as walls or ceilings.
SHEETROCK WAS DEVELOPED BY THE U.S. GYPSUM COMPANY,
as mentioned above. Sheetrock was first invented in 1917 as a type of drywall intended to replace lath and plaster, both of which are far more time-intensive to put in place. The development of drywall made building homes much cheaper and easier. In addition, the chemicals in sheetrock (and in some types of drywall) are developed to be fire-resistant and to resist moisture. The makeup of sheetrock is constantly being refined to make it a more useful product.
MOST CONTRACTORS TEND TO USE SHEETROCK AS THEIR GO-TO MATERIAL,
because sheetrock is a brand name but is seen by the wider public as a generic name. Sheetrock tends to be slightly more expensive than other types of drywall, mostly because of the cache of the name (although the quality of different types of drywall does vary). Many contractors believe that sheetrock is the best form of drywall and is easier to work with. Because of this, sheetrock is very much the market leader when it comes to drywall. Here you can learn more about the average cost of drywall installation or hanging.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF DRYWALL & SHEETROCK?
If you are working with drywall and sheetrock you’ll notice that there are certain different types you can buy. Each of these different variants has a slightly different purpose, meaning that you should research in advance the specific type you need for your circumstances.
This type of drywall is treated to be more resistant to moisture (although that doesn’t mean it is waterproof). This will not only help prevent the drywall from being damaged by moisture but will also prevent mold from taking hold if the drywall does get exposed to moisture.
This is similar to moisture-resistant drywall, although the key difference is that it is paper backed. This type of drywall is most commonly used in bathrooms, owing to its moisture-resistant properties.
As the name suggests, this type of drywall has flame retardant chemicals inside. As a result of their fire resistant-properties, they tend to be thicker than other types of drywall.
This type of drywall is specifically designed to be used on ceilings. In particular, they are designed not to sag, which is a common problem when it comes to using regular drywall on ceilings.
This drywall retains many of its lightweight properties but is filled with high-density gypsum. This means that it keeps out sound better than regular drywall. It can be used as a soundproofing tool by itself. In addition, because of its makeup, it is also good at repelling moisture.
OF USING SHEETROCK & DRYWALL
As suggested by the section above, there are a number of advantages to using sheetrock and drywall. Some of the main advantages are listed below:
The primary advantage of working with drywall is the speed and efficiency with which you can put a wall or ceiling in place. If you were to use lath and plaster you need to put it in place and wait for it to dry. This can take weeks or months (depending on the size of the rooms involved). Drywall takes days to put in place for an entire home.
Drywall offers some level of heat and sound insulation automatically, owing to the relative density of the drywall on the inside. In addition, because water crystallizes in the gypsum, it does also provide some fire resistance (although not as much as specialist fire-resistant drywall).
Because drywall is extremely easy to mass produce, it is extremely inexpensive. This means that it is easy to use in home construction without going over budget. In fact, it is so cheap, it’s possible for the amateur user to experiment with. So if you’re a budding DIY enthusiast and you want to have a go at installing some drywall, you can try it by yourself (and call in a professional if everything goes wrong), safe in the knowledge you won’t have wasted thousands of dollars on materials.
In 2017, 25 billion square feet of drywall and drywall-related products were sold across the United States.
This was the highest amount bought since 2007. What this shows is that the market for drywall is consistent and is not going anywhere. Drywall is an extremely resilient, cheap, and easy to use product that can be used in a multitude of different scenarios. This makes it an invaluable product for contractors and DIY enthusiasts alike.
Although sheetrock is a market leader when it comes to drywall,
there are other brands available on the market. Sheetrock remains the drywall of choice for many contractors because of the chemical composition, which provides benefits both in the short term (easy to cut and fit) and long term (fire and moisture resistant).
Ultimately, however, all forms of drywall will do much of the same job – it’s just a matter of working with it correctly.