Drywall and plaster are standard components used in the construction of our homes, schools, stores, hotels, and office buildings; even though drywall is seen as a substitute for plaster in modern construction, both methods remain outstanding and durable wall covering and design solutions for your home interior and exterior surfaces.

Plaster is used for upscale wall and ceiling decorative finish, while drywall is the inexpensive no-frills alternative with faster installation and better thermal insulation. But plaster’s denser composition gives it better soundproofing, fire, and water resistance rating than drywall. Drywall is mostly limited to interior use, while plaster is used for both interior and outdoor construction.

Although both drywall and plaster are primarily used as wall and ceiling covers, they serve distinct market sectors. Homeowners should perform due diligence to select the suitable option that fits their requirements when looking for a material to cover the framing on their home interior.

Drywall vs. Plaster What’s the difference

Drywall, also known as plasterboard, is the standard construction material for interior walls, ceilings, columns, and design features like arches and eaves. Drywall is Augustine Sackett’s invention, who patented it in 1894 as a labor-saving substitute to lathe and plaster. It offers a smoother surface for your interior home walls, including soundproofing and fire protection.

Drywall panels are renowned for:

  1. Durability.
  2. Low cost.
  3. Ease of installation.
  4. It is available in various finished and unfinished options, textures, thicknesses, and colors to suit every home interior.
  5. Usually available in 4 by 8 feet panels, with the length ranging from 8-16 feet.

Types of drywall

Manufacturers produce various grades of drywall by adding a blend of agents and additives to create different drywall types, which include:

  1. Regular drywall: the most common and inexpensive drywall. Available in several sizes with a thickness range from ⅜ to 1 inch.
  2. Green board drywall: is a more expensive drywall type with moisture-resistant capabilities. It is commonly used as a tile backer in high moisture areas like bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room walls.
  3. Blue board drywall: a popular drywall choice among builders with a trifecta of qualities. It provides an excellent base for putting up a veneer plaster surface. It has high moisture-resistant attributes, which makes it suitable for use on bathroom walls.
  4. Paperless drywall: this is durable drywall with a unique fiberglass covering. It has a high level of resistance to water, mold, and mildew. And it is recommended for use in damp and humid spaces.
  5. Purple drywall: has good moisture-resistant capabilities. It can be installed in areas where direct water contact is sure to occur.
  6. Cement board: made from a combination of cement and fiber. The cement board has high water-resistant capabilities, making it suitable for use in areas where water contact is sure to occur.
  7. Type X Drywall: is a ⅝ inch thick drywall with several layers of non-combustible glass fibers, which gives it a 1-hour fire rating and soundproofing qualities.
  8. Soundproof Drywall: consisting of a combination of materials that gives it a higher than average density. Soundproof drywall is rated for use where noise reduction is considered essential, such as in hospitals and libraries.

What is plaster

Plaster is a popular construction material commonly used to coat exposed masonry or frame construction. It is a versatile building material with fire resistance and noise reduction properties. Plaster is exceptionally durable, and it has been used in varied forms by ancient builders in the construction of temples and palaces for more than 4,000 years. We can still view famous examples of plasterwork on the Egyptian pyramids and Greek temples today.

Builders use plaster for these two purposes:

  1. As a protective coating on walls and ceilings to prevent damage from direct impact and exposure to rain, sunlight, and extreme weather.
  2. For decorative purposes. Plaster is used to cast architecturally appealing designs, moldings, and fancy flowered trimmings or scrollwork on plaster walls and ceilings.

Most types of plaster contain gypsum, and additional components may include cement or lime. Mixed plaster is malleable, and it can be hand-applied with metal tools to any surface.

  1. A good plaster material should possess the following requirements:
  2. A good plaster material must be cost-effective.
  3. A good plaster material should repel moisture.
  4. A good plaster material must be durable and can be finished into designs that will harden permanently.
  5. A good plaster material should adhere permanently to a wall or ceiling surface.
  6. A good plaster material can be applied to a surface under any weather condition.

Is drywall or plaster more expensive?

Plaster construction is more expensive than drywall. The average cost of hanging drywall ranges from $1 – $2 per square foot for materials and labor compared to $3 to $5 per square foot to install a plaster wall. Some plaster installations can cost around $10 per square foot.

The following reasons are responsible for the high cost of plaster construction:

  1. Higher labor costs – Construction costs are typically divided into two, namely, labor and material costs. While materials cost for both drywall and plaster are similar, the price for labor for installing drywall ranges between 35% to 60% of total project costs compared to 70% – 90% labor costs for plaster.
  2. Lack of skilled plaster professionals – Contractors, experienced in plasterwork are in short supply, and fewer tradespeople are learning the skills. This shortage has an impact on costs because existing plaster specialists will charge higher rates.
  3. High repair costs – Although easily maintained. Plaster can be difficult and expensive to repair. Repairing damaged plaster surfaces and decorations is a time-consuming process, and skilled professionals must tenaciously work on damaged areas to blend in with the surrounding surface.

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Drywall vs. Plaster Pros and Cons

Drywall and plaster construction are excellent and durable building options with long-term value. Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each method is essential to determine which option fits your project’s needs. In this section, we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Drywall vs. Plaster Pros and Cons master works

Drywall

Using drywall for your construction has several advantages and disadvantages. These include:

Advantages

  1. Strength – You can hang items such as picture frames, posters, and recessed lighting on drywall.
  2. Speed – Installing drywall is a quick process. With the right equipment, a competent contractor can quickly hang drywall ceilings and walls.
  3. Fire-resistant – The gypsum in drywall has fire-resistant properties, which gives drywall a high fire rating and prevents fire from spreading.
  4. Smooth surface – Drywall has a smooth and clean surface with a uniform look and feel, devoid of creases and undulations typical of plaster or masonry walls.
  5. Easy to repair – A unique advantage of drywall is its ease of repair. Replacing damaged drywall areas is carried out by simply cutting a piece of drywall and fixing over the gap.

Disadvantages

  1. Not waterproof – No matter what contractors may tell you, drywall is not waterproof. Various types of drywall offer varying degrees of water resistance. However, long-term direct exposure to water creates conditions that damage the drywall and allow mold growth.
  2. Easily damaged – Drywall surface does not impact resistant and is prone to having holes and cracks.
  3. Requires framing – Drywall is not designed to be a free-standing structure. You must install drywall on a wooden or metal frame explicitly built for this purpose.
  4. Complex utility installation – Electricity and plumbing lines cannot be directly installed on drywall surfaces.
  5. Limited use – Drywall use is limited to the home interior. You cannot install drywall on your exterior home walls unless reinforced with expensive water-resistant properties.

Plaster

Although the use of plaster for construction isn’t as widespread as drywall, it still has its advantages and disadvantages.These include:

Advantages

  1. Soundproofing – Plaster has excellent soundproofing capabilities. It is a high-density construction material with a natural ability to block sound transmission.
  2. Durability – Plaster is highly durable, and it can last for centuries in excellent condition. People can still marvel at well-preserved 14th-century plaster designs in Tudor palaces.
  3. High-end construction material – Plaster creates a premium interior finish for walls and ceilings in high-end homes. It offers a texture and ambiance that is unmatched by any other construction material.
  4. Decorative – Plaster is pliable, and it can be molded or cast into decorative architectural designs and shapes that adorn walls, trims, and ceilings.
  5. Highly versatile – Plaster can be adapted for use on any home interior or exterior surface. It provides a protective coating for interior and exterior walls and is the material for decorative elements on ceilings, trims, fireplaces, and archways.


Disadvantages

  1. Labor intensive – Working with plaster is a labor-intensive process. And it is precisely this reason that drywall became widely adopted as a time-saving construction alternative.
  2. Hard to repair – Repairing damaged plaster is a too time-consuming and laborious affair. Repaired plaster stands out from the previous material, and the entire wall or ceiling must be painted to achieve a uniform surface. In extreme cases, removing damaged utility lines buried behind plaster might necessitate rebuilding the whole wall.
  3. Expensive – Plaster costs more to put up compared to drywall. The declining number of skilled plastering tradespeople is responsible for very high labor costs, accounting for seventy to ninety percent of installation costs.

FAQ's

It is possible to hang things like your picture frames on plaster walls.

Special fasteners and studs designed to hang wall art, pictures, and mirrors on plaster walls without causing damage can be purchased from hardware stores and installed.

Plaster is denser than drywall, and this characteristic provides plaster walls with a better soundproofing advantage over installed drywall. Plaster walls are renowned for effectively blocking acoustic transmission better than gypsum drywall.

Although plaster has moisture-resisting capacities, it isn’t waterproof. Plaster is a water-soluble material, and without proper maintenance, it can be irreparably damaged by water or moist conditions.


Traditional gypsum plaster has non-combustible properties, which gives it excellent fire ratings. Also, lath and plaster walls used in older buildings are known to provide an intense fire-resistant barrier during a fire outbreak.

Funso Ogunnowo
Author: Funso Ogunnowo - Funso is a freelance writer with over ten years of experience working as an accountant. His love for writing prompted his foray into the world of freelance writing, and he is active on freelance websites like Upwork, where he has completed several writing projects for different clients.