Methods for Identifying Drywall and Plaster

To have this knowledge is helpful while hanging wallpaper or artwork.

It's easy to take walls for granted unless something goes wrong or you're in the middle of a restoration project. Though essential to your home's design and construction, they serve a more supporting role.

However, it is crucial to know what material your wall is made out of before doing any home renovation jobs, such as hanging a picture or removing wallpaper. If you can't determine from appearances if a surface is brick or wood, for example, it's definitely drywall or plaster. Okay, but which one? How to determine this is explained below.

What sets apart drywall from plaster

To begin, drywall and plaster are not the same thing. Drywall is made of gypsum plaster sandwiched between two heavy sheets of paper. It is supplied in lightweight, pre-cut sheets. To create a plaster wall, first glue strips of wood to the studs, and then cover them with a mixture of water and gypsum, cement, or lime powder.

Plaster walls are far more durable and weighty than drywall ones. Although drywall is more energy efficient, plaster is better at blocking out noise. Plaster requires more time and effort to install, making it more expensive than drywall.

Differentiating between drywall and plaster walls and how to fix them

Do you not know the composition of your walls? Some indicators include:

Plaster walls predated drywall at the time your house was constructed. Drywall wasn't widely adopted until around 1940, despite its introduction in 1916. If your house was constructed before 1940 and hasn't undergone any substantial renovations, the odds are excellent that the walls are made of plaster.

Drywall walls are common in homes built after the 1970s. It's a crapshoot with houses from the '50s and '60s.

Use a pushpin to double-check

Use your thumb to firmly press a pushpin into your wall in a nondescript location. Plasterboard is simply installed and doesn't break when dropped. In any other case, it's probably just plaster.

Ring the bell

Make a soft knocking sound on the wall. You know you're knocking against drywall if it has a hollow sound and sensation. Plaster can be identified by its lack of audible sound and its harder, more solid texture.


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