Drywall, also known as plasterboard, wallboard or gypsum board is a panel made of gypsum plaster pressed between two thick sheets of paper. It is used to make interior walls and ceilings.
"Sackett Board" was invented in 1894 by Augustine Sackett and Fred Kane. It was made by layering plaster within four plies of wool felt paper. Sheets were 36" x 36" x 1/4" thick with open (untaped) edges."
"Gypsum Board" evolved between 1910 and 1930 beginning with wrapped board edges, and elimination of the two inner layers of felt paper in favor of paper-based facings. Providing efficiency of installation, it was developed additionally as a measure of fire resistance. Later air entrainment technology made boards lighter and less brittle, then joint treatment materials and systems also evolved. "
"Rock Lath" was an early substrate for plaster. An alternative to traditional wood or metal lath, it was a panel made up of compressed gypsum plaster board that was sometimes grooved or punched with holes to allow wet plaster to key into its surface. As it evolved, it was faced with paper impregnated with gypsum crystals that bonded with the applied facing layer of plaster.
A wallboard panel is made of a paper liner wrapped around an inner core made primarily from gypsum plaster. The raw gypsum, CaSO4·2 H2O, (mined or obtained from flue gas desulfurization (FGD)) must be calcined before use to produce the hemihydrate of calcium sulfate (CaSO4·½ H2O). This is done in kettle or flash calciners, typically using natural gas today. The plaster is mixed with fiber (typically paper and/or fiberglass), plasticizer, foaming agent, finely ground gypsum crystal as an accelerator, EDTA, starch or other chelate as a retarder, various additives that may increase mildew and/or fire resistance (fiberglass or vermiculite), wax emulsion or silanes for lower water absorption and water. This is then formed by sandwiching a core of wet gypsum between two sheets of heavy paper or fiberglass mats. When the core sets and is dried in a large drying chamber, the sandwich becomes rigid and strong enough for use as a building material.
Drying chambers typically use natural gas today. To dry 1 MSF ( 1,000 square feet (93 m2) ) of wallboard, between 1.75 and 2.49 million BTU is required. Organic dispersants/plasticisers are used mainly to reduce the amount of water, hence reduce the eventual drying time, needed to produce gypsum slurry flow during wallboard manufacture.
USA and Canada
Drywall panels are manufactured in 48 inches (120 cm) and 54 inches (140 cm) wide panels in varying lengths to suit the application. Common panel thicknesses are 1/2" (12.7 mm) and 5/8" (16 mm), with panels also available in 1/4" (6 mm) and 3/8" (10 mm). Both 1/2" (12.7 mm) and 5/8" (16 mm) panels of TYPE 'X' (a gypsum board with special core additives to increase the natural fire resistance of regular gypsum board) are used where a fire-resistance rating is desired. Regular 5/8" (16 mm) panels are used (with or without light gauge resilient metal channels) where additional mass is needed for the reduction of sound transmission.
Drywall provides a thermal resistance R-value (in US units) of 0.32 for 3/8" board, 0.45 for 1/2", 0.56 for 5/8", and 0.83 for 1" board. In addition to increased R-value, thicker drywall has a higher sound transmission class.
In the UK and Europe, plasterboard is manufactured in metric sizes, with the common sizes being corollaries of old imperial sizes.
Most plasterboard is made in 120 cm wide sheets, though 90 cm and 60 cm wide sheets are also made. 120 cm wide plasterboard is most commonly made in 240 cm lengths, though 270 cm and 300 cm length sheets are also commonly available.
Commonly used thicknesses of plasterboard available are 12.5 mm (modern equivalent of half an inch), typically used for walls, and 9.5 mm (modern equivalent of three-eights of an inch), typically used for ceilings. 15 mm thick board is commonly available, and other thicknesses are also produced.
Plasterboard is commonly made with one of two different edge treatments—tapered edge, where the long edges of the board are tapered with a wide bevel at the front to allow for jointing materials to be finished flush with the main board face, and plain edge, used where the whole surface will receive a thin coating (skim coat) of finishing plaster.
As opposed to a week-long plaster application, an entire house can be drywalled in one or two days by two experienced drywallers, and drywall is easy enough to use that it can be installed by many amateur home carpenters. In large-scale commercial construction, the work of installing and finishing drywall is often split between the drywall mechanics, or hangers, who install the wallboard, and the tapers and mudmen, or float crew, who finish the joints and cover the nailheads with drywall compound.
Drywall is cut to size, using a large T-square, by scoring the paper on the front side (usually white) with a utility knife, breaking the sheet along the cut, scoring the paper backing, and finally breaking the sheet in the opposite direction. Small features such as holes for outlets and light switches are usually cut using a keyhole saw or a small high-speed bit in a rotary tool. Drywall is then fixed to the wall structure with nails, glue, or more commonly in recent years, the now-ubiquitous drywall screws.
Drywall fasteners, also referred to as drywall clips or stops, are gaining popularity in both residential and commercial construction. Drywall fasteners are used for supporting interior drywall corners and replacing the non-structural wood or metal blocking that traditionally was used to install drywall. Their function serves to save on material and labour expenses, to minimize call-backs due to truss uplift, to increase energy efficiency, and to make plumbing and electrical installation simpler.
Drywall screws heads have a curved taper, allowing them to self-pilot and install rapidly without punching through the paper cover. These screws are set slightly into the drywall. When drywall is hung on wood framing, screws having an acute point and widely spaced threads are used. When drywall is hung on light-gauge steel framing, screws having an acute point and finely spaced threads are used. If the steel framing is heavier than 20-gauge, self-tapping screws with finely spaced threads must be used. In some applications, the drywall may be attached to the wall with adhesives.
After the sheets are secured to the wall studs or ceiling joists, the seams between drywall sheets are concealed using joint tape and several layers of joint compound (sometimes called mud). This compound is also applied to any screw holes or defects. The compound is allowed to air dry then typically sanded smooth before painting. Alternatively, for a better finish, the entire wall may be given a skim coat, a thin layer (about 1 mm or 1/16 inch) of finishing compound, to minimize the visual differences between the paper and mudded areas after painting.
Another similar skim coating is always done in a process called veneer plastering, although it is done slightly thicker (about 2 mm or 1/8 inch). Veneering uses a slightly different specialized setting compound ("finish plaster") that contains gypsum and lime putty. This application uses blueboard, which has special treated paper to accelerate the setting of the gypsum plaster component. This setting has far less shrinkage than the air-dry compounds normally used in drywall, so it only requires one coat. Blueboard also has square edges rather than the tapered-edge drywall boards. The tapered drywall boards are used to countersink the tape in taped jointing whereas the tape in veneer plastering is buried beneath a level surface. One coat veneer plaster over dry board is an intermediate style step between full multi-coat "wet" plaster and the limited joint-treatment-only given "dry" wall.
Water damage and mold
Drywall is easily damaged by exposure to water. While it can be waterproofed through covalent waterproofing, if waterproofing is absent or if the waterproofing layer is punctured, water will cause drywall to swell and eventually disintegrate, requiring replacement. Drywall is a porous, lightweight substance that supports the growth of mold. It is for this reason that greenboard and cement board is used for rooms expected to have high humidity, primarily kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.
When used as a component in fire barriers, drywall is a passive fire protection item. In its natural state, gypsum contains the water of crystallization bound in the form of hydrates. When exposed to heat or fire, this water is vapourised, retarding heat transfer. Therefore, a fire in one room that is separated from an adjacent room by a fire-resistance rated drywall assembly will not cause this adjacent room to get any warmer than the boiling point (100°C) until the water in the gypsum is gone. This makes drywall an ablative material because as the hydrates sublime, a crumbly dust is left behind, which, along with the paper, is sacrificial. Generally, the more layers of Type X drywall one adds, the more one increases the fire-resistance of the assembly, be it horizontal or vertical. Evidence of this can be found both in publicly available design catalogues, including, but not limited to DIN4102 Part 4 and the Canadian Building Code on the topic, as well as common certification listings, including but not limited to certification listings provided by Underwriters Laboratories and Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC). "Type X" drywall is formulated by adding glass fibers to the gypsum, to increase the resistance to fires, especially once the hydrates are spent, which leaves the gypsum in powder form. Type X is typically the material chosen to construct walls and ceilings that are required to have a fire-resistance rating.
Finished, painted, fire-resistance rated drywall assembly. A common deficiency: Lift ceiling tiles and find electrical and mechanical service penetrations without a firestop.
Improper firestop and fireproofing interface, August 2000
The "I-was-there-first" scenario, resulting in improper drywall firestops with plastic piping.
Fire testing of drywall assemblies for the purpose of expanding national catalogues, such as the National Building Code of Canada, Germany's Part 4 of DIN4102 and its British cousin BS476, are a matter of routine research and development work in more than one nation and can be sponsored jointly by national authorities and representatives of the drywall industry. For example, the National Research Council of Canada routinely publishes such findings. The results are printed as approved designs in the back of the building code. Generally, exposure of drywall on a panel furnace removes the water and calcines the exposed drywall and also heats the studs and fasteners holding the drywall. This typically results in deflection of the assembly towards the fire, as that is the location where the sublimation occurs, which weakens the assembly, due to the fire influence.
When tests are cosponsored, resulting in code recognized designs with assigned fire-resistance ratings, the resulting designs become part of the code and are not limited to use by any one manufacturer, provided the material used in the field configuration can be demonstrated to meet the minimum requirements of Type X drywall (such as an entry in the appropriate category of the UL Building Materials Directory) and that sufficient layers and thicknesses are used. Fire test reports for such unique third party tests are confidential.
Deflection of drywall assemblies is important to consider to maintain the integrity of drywall assemblies in order to preserve their ratings. The deflection of drywall assemblies can vary somewhat from one test to another. Importantly, penetrants do not follow the deflection movement of the drywall assemblies they penetrate. For example, see cable tray movement in a German test. It is, therefore, important to test firestops in full scale wall panel tests, so that the deflection of each applicable assembly can be taken into account.
The size of the test wall assembly alone is not the only consideration for firestop tests. If the penetrants are mounted to and hung off the drywall assembly itself during the test, this does not constitute a realistic deflection exposure insofar as the firestop is concerned. In reality, on a construction site, penetrants are hung off the ceiling above. Penetrants may increase in length, push and pull as a result of operational temperature changes (e.g., hot and cold water in a pipe), particularly in a fire. But it is a physical impossibility to have the penetrants follow the movement of drywall assemblies that they penetrate, since they are not mounted to the drywalls in a building.
It is, therefore, counterproductive to suspend penetrants from the drywall assembly during a fire test. As downward deflection of the drywall assembly and buckling towards the fire occurs, the top of the firestop is squeezed and the bottom of the firestop is pulled. This is motion over and above that which is caused by the expansion of metallic penetrants, due to heat exposure in a fire. Both types of motion occur in reality, because metal first expands in a fire and then softens once the critical temperature has been reached, as is explained under structural steel. To simulate the drywall deflection effect, one can simply mount the penetrants to the steel frame holding the test assembly. The operational and fire-induced motion of the penetrants, which is independent of the assemblies penetrated, can be separately arranged.
North American market
North America is one of the largest gypsum board users in the world with a total wallboard plant capacity of 42,000,000,000 square feet (3.9×109 m2) per year (world wide 85,000,000,000 square feet (7.9×109 m2) per year). Moreover, the home building and remodeling markets in North America in the late 1990s and early 2000s increased demand. The gypsum board market was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the housing boom as "an average new American home contains more than 7.31 metric tons of gypsum."
The introduction in March 2005 of the Clean Air Interstate Rule by the United States Environmental Protection Agency requires power plants to "cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 73%" by 2018. The Clean Air Interstate Rule also requested that the power plants install new scrubbers (industrial pollution control devices) to remove sulfur dioxide present in the output waste gas. Scrubbers use the technique of flue gas desulfurization (FGD), which produces synthetic gypsum as a usable by-product. In response to the new supply of this raw material, the gypsum board market was predicted to shift significantly. However, issues such as mercury release during calcining need to be resolved.
Because up to 17% of drywall is wasted during the manufacturing and installation processes and the drywall material is frequently not re-used, disposal can become a problem. Some landfill sites have banned the dumping of drywall. Some manufacturers take back waste wallboard from construction sites and recycle it into new wallboard. Recycled paper is typically used during manufacturing. More recently, recycling at the construction site itself is being investigated. There is potential for using crushed drywall to amend certain soils at building sites, such as sodic clay and silt mixtures (bay mud), as well as using it in compost.
Types available in the USA and Canada
- Regular white board, from 1/4" to 3/4" thickness
- Fire-resistant ("Type X"), different thickness and multiple layers of wallboard provide increased fire rating based on the time a specific wall assembly can withstand a standardized fire test. Often perlite, vermiculite and boric acid are added to improve fire resistance.
- Greenboard, the drywall that contains an oil-based additive in the green colored paper covering that provides moisture resistance. It is commonly used in washrooms and other areas expected to experience elevated levels of humidity. 
- Blueboard, blue face paper forms a strong bond with a skim coat or a built-up plaster finish providing both water and mold resistance.
- Cement board, which is more water-resistant than greenboard, for use in showers or sauna rooms, and as a base for ceramic tile
- Soundboard is made from wood fibers to increase the sound rating (STC)
- Soundproof drywall is a laminated drywall made with gypsum, other materials, and damping polymers to significantly increase the STC
- Mold-resistant, paperless drywall
- Enviroboard, a board made from recycled agricultural materials
- Lead-lined drywall, a drywall used around radiological equipment
- Foil-backed drywall to control moisture in a building or room
- Controlled density (CD), also called ceiling board, which is available only in 1/2" thickness and is significantly stiffer than regular white board.
- EcoRock, a drywall which uses a combination of 20 materials including recycled fly ash, slag, kiln dust and fillers and no starch cellulose; it is advertised as being environmentally-friendly due to the use of recycled materials and an energy efficient process.
- Gypsum “Firecode C.” This board is similar in composition to Type X, except for more glass fibers and a form of vermiculite, used to reduce shrinkage. When exposed to high heat, the gypsum core shrinks but this additive expands at about the same rate, so the gypsum core is more stable in a fire, and remains in place even after the gypsum dries up.
Common drywall tools
- Chalk line
- Corner trowel
- Drywall adhesive glue guns
- Drywall cart
- Drywall fastener
- Drywall (hatchet) hammer
- Drywall lifter
- Drywall jack
- Drywall screws and nails
- Electric screwdriver
- Keyhole saw or drywall router
- Screw gun
- Stud finder
- Tape measure
- Taping knife
- Utility knife
Levels of finish
In 1990, four major trade associations, the Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries International (AWCI), the Ceilings and Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), the Gypsum Association (GA), and the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA), presented their document about Levels of Gypsum Board Finish. This document was created to "precisely describe" the desired finish of walls and ceilings prior to final decoration. This description enables contractors to better understand the requirements of architects and building owners and increase customer satisfaction. Specifications that include Levels of Gypsum Board Finish also promote competitive bidding that allows the bidder to consider the correct labor and materials to finish the wall suitably for its final decoration." 
The official document (summarized below) is known as GA-214-96 "Recommended Levels of Gypsum Board Finish".
No taping, finishing, or accessories required.
Usage: Temporary construction or when final decoration is undetermined.
All joints and interior angles shall have tape set in joint compound. Surface shall be free of excess joint compound. Tool marks and ridges are acceptable.
Usage: Above false ceilings or other areas that are out of public view where a degree of fire and noise resistance is required.
All joints and interior angles shall have tape embedded in joint compound and wiped with a joint knife leaving a thin coating of joint compound over all joints and interior angles. Fastener heads and accessories shall be covered with a coat of joint compound. Surface shall be free of excess joint compound. Tool marks and ridges are acceptable. Joint compound applied over the body of the tape at the time of tape embedment shall be considered a separate coat of joint compound and shall satisfy the conditions of this level.
Usage: As a substrate for tile walls and ceilings as well as in garages, warehouses, and other places where appearance is not a primary concern.
All joints and interior angles shall have tape embedded in joint compound and one additional coat of joint compound applied over all joints and interior angles. Fastener heads and accessories shall be covered with two separate coats of joint compound. All joint compound shall be smooth and free of tool marks and ridges. It is recommended that the prepared surface be coated with a drywall primer prior to the application of final finishes.
Usage: Suitable base for heavy-medium textured paint or other thick finishes.
All joints and interior angles shall have tape embedded in joint compound and two separate coats of joint compound applied over all flat joints and one separate coat of joint compound applied over interior angles. Fastener heads and accessories shall be covered with three separate coats of joint compound. All joint compound shall be smooth and free of tool marks and ridges. It is recommended that the prepared surface be coated with a drywall primer prior to the application of final finishes.
Usage: "Standard" household and office walls. Used with light or non-textured finishes. Not suitable for harsh lighting conditions, which may highlight minor imperfections
All joints and interior angles shall have tape embedded in joint compound and two separate coats of joint compound applied over all flat joints and one separate coat of joint compound applied over interior angles. Fastener heads and accessories shall be covered with three separate coats of joint compound. A thin skim coat of joint compound, or a material manufactured especially for this purpose, shall be applied to the entire surface. The surface shall be smooth and free of tool marks and ridges. It is recommended that the prepared surface be coated with a drywall primer prior to the application of finish paint. The skim coat is a final leveling agent suitable to smooth out a surface to be used under the harshest lighting conditions that may otherwise highlight any imperfections under the finished surface.
Usage: Gloss and entirely non-textured surfaces.
Defective Chinese imports
There are reports that a substantial amount of defective drywall was imported into the United States from China and incorporated into tens of thousands of homes during rebuilding in 2006 and 2007 following Hurricane Katrina and in other places. Complaints include foul odor, health effects, and corrosion of metal within the structure. The same drywall was sold in Asia without problems resulting, but U.S. homes built much more tightly than homes in China, with less ventilation. A number of lawsuits are underway in many jurisdictions, but many of the sheets of drywall are simply marked, "Made in China", thus making identification of the Chinese manufacturer difficult. An investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, CPSC, was underway in 2009. In November 2009, the CPSC reported a "strong association" between Chinese drywall and corrosion of pipes and wires reported by thousands of homeowners in the United States. Further findings have shown that volatile sulfur compounds, including hydrogen sulfide, have been detected as emissions from the imported drywall and may be linked to health problems. Volatile sulfur compounds are emitted from many different types of drywall, and at least one investigation has pointed to high levels being emitted from drywalls manufactured in the United States.
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