Drywall vs Plaster: What’s the Difference? [2023 Update]

If you’re involved in new construction or adding to your existing home, one the decisions you’ll have to make is how to finish newly built interiors walls.

Luckily, there aren’t that many options! Let’s take a closer look at two popular methods.

Plaster vs Drywall

Plaster and drywall are the two most common ways to finish interior walls. Believe it or not, there are a lot of differences between the two.

What is Plaster?

Plaster was once the material of choice (and at times the only material) for interior walls. The plaster used today is made of gypsum. The plastering process has changed slightly over its history. Today, metal or plasterboard lath is secured to the studs. Lath is basically thin slats that give the plaster something to grip to. One coat of plaster is applied and allowed to dry, scratched to create texture, and left to dry. The second coat is applied and, after it dries, a third.

What is Drywall?

Newer construction generally favors drywall and is used for interior walls and ceilings.

Drywall is made of gypsum that’s been mixed with water and then pressed flat between two large sheets of paper. Once dried, large panels of about 4 x 8 feet are cut.

Generally, these panels are installed by lifting them in to place. This is done by hand or can be assisted using recommended drywall stilts or a panel hoist if working with high walls/ceilings and then screwing them directly into the wall studs with a screw gun.

The seams are taped before three layers of joint compound are applied. The wall is smoothed with a drywall sander between each layer. Primer and paint are applied after the third layer is sanded. The process is pretty simple and very fast which led to drywall becoming the more popular choice for construction after the 1950s.

There are several kinds of drywall available, including water-resistant, mold resistant, and even fire resistant. Some people mistakenly think that sheetrock and drywall are different, but they’re actually the same thing. Sheetrock is a brand name that has become synonymous with the product, like Kleenex or Chapstick.

Pros and Cons of Drywall vs Plastering

When it comes to plaster walls vs drywall, there are a lot of things to consider. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Plaster Pros:

  • Much harder and creates a more durable surface.
  • Can last centuries
  • Much more difficult to install
  • Takes a long time to complete
  • Can match plasterwork in older houses for a seamless look
  • More soundproofing qualities
  • Looks more high end

Plaster Cons:

  • Can cause echoes
  • Labor is more expensive
  • Not a good DIY project
  • Repairs are difficult if large portions of the wall need fixing
  • Difficult to hang items on

Drywall Pros:

  • Faster process
  • Don’t need as much experience to do it right
  • Repairs are pretty straightforward
  • Less expensive if paying a craftsman
  • Can DIY with some practice
  • Provide better temperature insulation
  • Multiple options to choose from
  • Easier to hang items on

Drywall Cons:

  • Difficult to get it to bend
  • Can’t get as many textured finishes as plaster
  • Can be difficult to manoeuvre around with one person and may require a drywall panel hoist for bigger buildings.

When Would You Use Plaster vs Drywall?

If you’re working with new construction, you can choose either material for the interior walls and ceilings. Remember, drywall doesn’t bend very well so if you have curved walls, plaster is the better choice.

When you’re repairing walls or making additions to an older home and you want to match the same aesthetic, you might also prefer plaster. A skilled plasterer can match new plasterwork to the style used in the original construction to achieve a more cohesive look.

Drywall is a great pick in just about any other situation. You can choose from the different types that are available to add mold, moisture, and fire protection to your home. Plus, it’s fast and easy to install which will save you on labor costs.

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