The History of Drywall

Chipped Drywall

Drywall has been the leading material used in wall coverings since 1941. Actually, U.S. Gypsum Company (USG) first produced drywall in 1916 prior to world war II.

At first drywall consisted of multi-layers of gypsum and heavy paper compressed together. Later it evolved into one sheet of gypsum covered by layers of heavy paper.

Plaster was the primary wall covering at the time, and drywall considered cheap installation—obviously due to poor communications. Had the public become aware of its advantages at the time, drywall would have evolved into the primary covering much sooner.

Finsihed attic with drywallPlaster required wood backing over the studs to contain the plaster requiring a great deal more wood and labor. Not only that, but plaster contained a significant amount of water which required extensive drying time—not to mention the labor required to install and level.

The war’s drain on the economy and labor force brought drywall into the spotlight as the least expensive material which installed quickly with the least amount of labor.

Once the dog was loose he began to hunt quickly and before long-- its advantages fully realized--drywall dominated the scene, not only in the U.S. but internationally as well.

Drywall’s Composition

Gypsum is a mineral mined for its properties. In its original form it contains significant amounts of water, but in a crystalline form. This is advantageous in the event of fire. The crystalline water converts to steam cooling the panel’s surface and serves as a fire break.

Raw gypsum gets mixed with emulsifiers, wood pulp and starches and compressed. This combination is then covered with thick manila paper.

The now prepared sheet is heavy with water in its purest form. A 500-degree oven finalizes the process by ridding the sheet of water. The drywall sheets are offered in the most popular 4X8, 4X10 and 4X12 sizes from 3/8-inch through ¾-inch thickness.

The story doesn’t end there, a myriad of diverse chemicals and emulsifiers can be added to create panels for a wide range of different purposes such as mold, impact resistance and additional resistance to fire.

Types of Wallboard

  • Regular non-rated architectural
  • Fire-rated or type (X or Perlite) fire resistant strands added
  • Impact resistant for high use areas
  • Moisture resistant (green board) water resistant paper added for use in bathrooms and kitchen
  • Soundboard (quiet rock) viscoelastic polymers added which convert sound to heat which is not audible.
  • Lead lined drywall for protection from overexposure to X-rays used in hospitals.
  • Flexible drywall in ¼-inch sheets capable of bending when wetted down to form curves or arches.
  • Blue board used where a top decorative coating is to be applied. It has a green adhesive on the surface for better adhesion of the decorative surface.

Advantages of Using Wallboard

Drywall In A RoomAll new construction will experience a certain amount of warping in the walls as the new studs cure or the home settles.

Drywall, unlike plaster has enough flex to cope where plaster will crack. Not only that, but drywall has a fantastic insulation value and is fire resistant, not to mention the fact that it is the least expensive type of wall covering.

Planning Your Wallboard Needs

John and Ryan of New England’s Wallboard Supply Company (1), suggest making a worksheet before ordering your wallboard. This  insures the proper wallboard properties are incorporated in each application.

This will reduce your cost and keep you in code while minimizing waste.

  • Measure your walls, ceiling (length X width), divide by 32 (size of wallboard sheets), and add 20-percent for waste to arrive at the number needed. Keep in mind that the ceiling will be a thinner sheet than the walls.
  • Count your outside corners in hallways, entrances to bathroom and so on. These require end caps.
  • If there is more than one story inform your supplier.
  • Make a note of walls or ceilings getting decorative coatings.

When you order your supplies at Wallboard Supply Company, give the list to the sales rep. He is dedicated to keeping your cost down and will determine the exact number and type of panels needed.

At the same time he will set you up with all the necessary wallboard installation materials and tools needed for a trouble-free and successful installation.

As a reminder, Wallboard Supply Company also supplies building lumber, windows, roof coverings, ceilings, fasteners and siding to name a few.

When your ready to build or remodel, give our representative a call at any of our five locations throughout New England.

Drywall Product Guide

Photo credit: whiteknuckled / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Photo credit: jfilip / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.