Drywall Vs. Sheetrock: Worth The Price?

image of partially sheetrocked livingroom with studs visible

As you shop for building material to finish in that project, you have likely run across the terms “sheetrock” and “drywall”. The first time I shopped for sheetrock I was overwhelmed by lengths, thicknesses and brands.

Now it is old hat.

What is the difference between these two types of material?

The simplest answer is that Sheetrock is the trademarked name for a popular brand of drywall wallboard.

Additionally, are there further distinctions that you should know about? Is it worth the added price to go with the name brand Sheetrock product?

Let’s put the sheetrock vs drywall debate to rest.

What’s The Difference Between Sheetrock And Drywall?

Sheetrock is the trademarked brand name of a drywall. Similar to how Chlorox is a brand of bleach and Kleenex is a brand name for tissues. Whether you call it gypsum, drywall, wallboard, or Sheetrock, it is all the same thing.

Except for private formulation differences, Sheetrock and Drywall are the same thing. They are both made of gypsum plaster and pressed between two thick sheets of paper. Sheetrock is a brand of drywall and the trademark is held by the US Gypsum Company. Both are similar in quality and suitable for building.

They are so identical, that you should not be worried about going with the cheaper option. Most folks use the terms interchangeably.

My only concerns are when there is a drywall shortage and we see lapses in quality assurance. I talk about the history of those concerns and “bad drywall” below. Sheetrock has a better track record in these nightmare scenarios. (See: “Is Sheetrock better than Drywall“)

What Is Drywall?

Most houses have drywall on their interior walls. Drywall comes in large, smooth sheets and is easily and quickly installed.

Drywall is made from powdered gypsum, a rock of calcium sulfate that is pressed between two thick pieces of paper. One of the biggest advantages of drywall is that it is fire-resistant.  While not the most durable against bumps and dents, it does have the advantage of being easily repaired. Patches and special drywall mud can be used to filling gouges, making this material ideal for use on interior walls.

Following installation, there is some taping and mudding with a joint compound that hides the screw marks.  Additional texture can be applied to the wall to further enhance the appearance. Drywall readily takes paint and provides a clean, finished look.

What Is Sheetrock?

image of man adding joint compound to a wall

Sheetrock is a trademark name for a brand of drywall.  USG (United States Gypsum)Corporation owns the trademark for Sheetrock.  They have been in business since 1901 when 30 smaller companies were combined into one large conglomerate.

Today, the United States continues to lead the world in gypsum board production. Gypsum board walls gained popularity in World War II when it was used to help erect army barracks. The speed at which it could be used for building, plus the added fire retardant, made it a popular choice.

 As a result, it is more popular in America than in any other country. There are several manufacturers of gypsum board in America, including American Gypsum, CertainTeed Gypsum, Georgia-Pacific, Lafarge North America, National Gypsum, PABCO, and U.S. Gypsum Company.

USG  remains the largest manufacturer of all of them, hence the popularity of the Sheetrock brand name.

Tape and joint compound is used to cover the seams. After multiple rounds of sanding and applying joint compound, you end up with a perfectly smooth wall that takes paint well, provides a little bit of fire resistance and gives you an extremely pleasant living environment.

Is Sheetrock Better Than Drywall?

image of unfinished wall in ToolTally Office
In 2020 we added an office in the back of the ToolTally testing garage by throwing up a simple wall with fire-rated sheetrock.

Drywall is drywall, correct?

You would think so.  Are you we need to do, is find the cheapest price, and get installed!

But, not so fast.

Let me tell you about the bad drywall saga of 2009.

In 2009 it came to light that an inferior Chinese made drywall was being imported and sold to US consumers.

During the summer months, when the houses would heat, those gases released into the house. The gasses created headaches and sinus issues for the homeowners, including asthma attacks.  Often, a rotten egg smell would be present inside the home.

Making matters worse, the sulfurous compounds would react with the wiring I will home, causing it to oxidize and ruining the electrical circuits.

 The only solution was to remove all of the drywall, rewire the house, and replace with new drywall. These remediation efforts commonly run $60,000 or more per house.

As there have been a few successful class-action lawsuits.   However, those are few and far between. In most cases, homeowners have needed to pay for the repairs and remediation out-of-pocket.

This backstory is helpful, since USG Corporation did not sell contaminated drywall. If a homeowner had chosen to stick with only sheetrock branded products, they would’ve been protected.

 However, all of that is changing. Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin was a major source of the contamination (See the full list of non-compliant brands, here).

Now the Knauf parent company is purchasing USG Corporation in a deal scheduled to complete in 2019.

As such, it raises questions as to whether the sheetrock brand will continue to maintain the quality standards that it has so far. 

stack of thick sheetrock for purchase

How Thick Is Drywall?

Drywall comes in different thickness, based on the type of work you are doing:

  • ¼-Inch: This thickness is perfect for laying over other material. This is called skimming. Sometimes it’s easier to skim with a new piece of drywall.  Additionally, this drywall is commonly used on curved walls, as it can be carefully molded to fit curved shapes.
  • 1/2-Inch: is the most commonly used option. These are standard thickness for both walls and ceilings. Most building codes require this thickness to be used at a minimum.
  • 3/8-Inch: currently, ½-inch is the go-to thickness for most building projects, which means you only occasionally will be using 3/8-inch.
  • 5/8-Inch: Sometimes building codes require thicker sheetrock.  The 5/8-inch thick panels provide a higher fire-resistant rating. Called “Type X” drywall, Fire-resistant-type drywall contains glass fibers woven throughout the Gypsum, to help keep it from crumbling under heat. Compared to 30 minutes of rated fire resistance that is standard for ½-inch drywall, fire-resistant drywall is rated for an hour. The thicker drywall is more durable.  It is sometimes used for ceilings where sagging is a concern (although the added weight makes it a challenge to get it up there. .  Finally, it does have excellent sound-deadening properties which makes it great for houses with children. However, 5/8-inch drywall does cost more.  As a result, most homebuilders only use it on walls such as that separating the garage from the rest of the house, where the building code requires it. Keep in mind that these thicker walls will need longer drywall screws.

What Size Are Drywall Sheets?

Most drywall panels are sold for residential use are sold in 4’x8’ dimensions. However, 4’x12’ and 4’x9; or 4’x10’ pieces of drywall are also available for longer or taller walls where it can save time and money by using larger sheets.

What Drywall size is the most popular?

For most building projects, the 4’x8’ dimension with ½” thickness is the most commonly used size of drywall used.

image of two drywall installers lifting a custom cut gypsum panel over their head

How Much Does A Sheet of Drywall Weigh?

There are some variations from company to company, but a sheet of drywall that is a ½ inch thick and 4’x8’ in size should weight about 50 pounds. There is an ultra-light version of gypsum panels available that weigh about 13 pounds less or only 37 pounds. Many installers are switching to this lighter board, especially for ceiling work.

How Much Does It Cost To Sheetrock A House?

One of the questions that come up frequently in building a house, home improvement, or renovating a house that has paneling walls, is figuring out how much it should cost to redo the sheetrock in that room or in the entire house.

super easy estimation (and very rough) calculation tool is to multiply the square foot of the house by 3.5 and then divide that by 48 square feet. Finally, multiply that by $25-30 depending on how much it costs to buy and install sheetrock in your area.

For an accurate calculation, measure each wall, and add up the dimensions. You can then divide that number by 32 (4x*) to determine how many sheets of drywall you will need. Most sheetrock installers can give you a pretty solid estimate based on a few photos and an accurate count of the square footage.

Drywall installation costs typically run around $1 or $1.50 per square foot.

Types of Drywall

There are different types of drywall, but the most common is the standard 1/2-inch drywall with some greenboard used in bathrooms and Fire-resistant drywall in places mandated by building codes.

Regular: Regular drywall refers to the general type of residential drywall where Gypsum powder is pressed between two pieces of heavy paper.

Greenboard

image of man applying tile to hardieboard in a bathroom. Greenboard is present as the mold-resistant drywall.
Greenboard joining with Hardiebacker for tile

Greenboard is paper-backed drywall that is commonly used in bathrooms where mold or mildew could be a problem. The paper has a special coating that helps inhibit mold growth. These green board types are less effective at avoiding mold growth than the mold-resistant variation used below but do offer more resistance than standard drywall. In the Midwest, we commonly use greenboard in areas above a shower but also install active ventilation to help keep moisture buildup at a minimum.

Mold Resistant Drywall: For basements and other areas where there could be a potential for mold, mold-resistant drywall can be a life-saver. This drywall is either solid gypsum powder without any backing, or it uses fiberglass backing. However, mold can still grow on this type of drywall and it is not warrantied against mold growth. That said, it is less likely to grow mold than regular paper-backed drywall.

Moisture Resistant Drywall

There is no drywall that is truly water-resistant. If you are installing something in a high-moisture area, it is recommended to use the cement board. HardieBacker is a commonly used cement board that is commonly installed under the tile. It also comes in thicknesses of ¼ -inch, 3/8-inch, and 5/8-inch. You can prime and paint HardieBoard as you would with drywall, making it an excellent choice for areas around a shower or behind sinks.

Fire Resistant Drywall

another shot of fire resistant sheetrock in a garage

Most of the 5/8-inch drywall is considered a fire-resistant drywall. Type X is the standard level of fire-resistant, but Type C offers more glass in the middle that allows it to offer even more fire protection that the type X board.  Typically, fire-rated drywall is only required near utility rooms, near furnaces and on the walls separating a garage from the house.

Many of the moisture-resistant types can also be purchased with a Type X or Type C standard making them both moisture and fire-resistant.

Acoustic Drywall

For enhanced noise-deadening, there are several brands of Drywall available. The core idea is to incorporate a layer of viscoelastic polymers between two layers of gypsum rock that provides sound-resistant walls. These polymers help to break up the conductivity of the gypsum, hindering sound transmission and making the walls much quieter than standard gypsum drywall.

This drywall isn’t the cheapest, but it offers greater sound protection than ½ inch drywall with 3 ½” of mineral wool insulation.

Some people would argue for doubling the layers of drywall to deaden sound, but this can add weight without reaching the same level of noise benefit. However, in many cases, using 5/8-inch drywall with soundproofing insulation will be just as useful and less expensive.

Alternatives To Drywall

  • Plaster: Plaster walls were the original “sheetrock”. Plaster and late were very popular in America’s buildings until Drywall began to be used at the turn of the century (and picked up popularity following World War 2). Building beautiful plaster and lath walls is a vanishing art, as it required a skilled had to properly lay and texture the
  • Cement Board: While much more expensive than sheetrock, it offers extreme moisture resistance while providing a nearly identical finish to sheetrock.
  • Plastic Panels: While being very easy to clean and resistant to mold, they do tend to provide a very sparse, institutional look. They work great in garages and laundry rooms where you might need to frequently clean them.
  • Wood Planks: Wood planks are making a massive comeback. They make an excellent accent wall and, when using reclaimed wood, they can tell a great story.
  • Paneling: Paneling is much vilified for being the dark, cheap finish that it was in the 1970’s. While the reputation has not changed much, paneling continued to be one of the cheapest ways to finish a wall.
Author:

Zachary Drumm

Hey! My name is Zachary Drumm! This site allows me to try these tools out, piddle around in the garage, and create fresh content for you. When it comes to tools, home improvement, and being a “shade tree mechanic,” you’ve come to the right spot.