Topics

•  The Ins and Outs of Drywall
•  Plugs vs. Anchors
•  Screw-In vs. Tap-In Anchors
•  Load Forces
•  Screw-In Preparation Tips
•  Screw-In Installation Tips
•  Application Tips
•  Wall Repair Tips
•  What's My Wall Made of?

The Ins and Outs of Drywall

It’s hard to imagine a more significant development in the construction industry than the proliferation of drywall during the mid-20th century. Compared to the antiquated “lath and plaster” method of interior wall construction, drywall offers advantages such as faster installation and better resistance to fire.

The ease with which fasteners can be attached to drywall is, of course, another outstanding attribute of this versatile construction material.

Drywall, also referred to as gypsum board, wallboard, plasterboard, or Sheetrock (a trademark of United States Gypsum), is offered in a variety of thicknesses. 1/2-inch drywall is the most common size—found in 90% of houses. 5/8-inch drywall is generally used in upscale residences for soundproofing. It is also the standard for commercial applications that require adherence to stricter fire codes. 3/8-inch drywall has limited use—generally in interior enclosures such as pantries and closets.

What makes drywall so innovative is worth a closer look. It is essentially a “sandwich” consisting of gypsum on the inside and a paper facing on both of the outer sides. Gypsum is a mineral (calcium sulfate) that is mined from the earth.

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To make drywall, gypsum is first crushed and ground into a fine powder. Next, the material goes through a drying process called calcination. The calcined gypsum is then mixed with water, fiber, and various additives. This mixture is poured between layers of paper, dried, hardened, and ultimately bonded into one solid mass. The result is a stiff board that can be cut to the desired dimensions for building or home construction.

The real marvel of drywall, however, is found after the product leaves the manufacturing plant.

Walls that used to take days to construct with lath and plaster, which involved applying wet plaster to narrow wood strips, are now completed in mere hours with drywall. Installers simply cut the sheets to size and nail or screw the boards to wood studs or ceiling joists. The boards are then taped to conceal the joints and “mudded” with a joint compound to form a smooth, clean surface. Cutting holes for outlets and light switches is also fast and easy. All it takes is a keyhole saw and a steady hand.

When subjected to fire conditions, drywall panels actually help slow the spread of fire. This is because the gypsum in drywall contains crystallized water. When heated, the drywall board actually gives off steam to help retard heat transfer and slow the spread of fire.

Not sure if the walls in your house are drywall or plaster? Here’s a simple test you can perform to find out.

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