plaster vs drywall

Plaster vs Drywall: 5 Key Differences

When it comes to different finishing options for walls, the two most common options out there are drywall and plaster. As a result, a lot of people may come to their contractors with the question “plaster vs drywall, which is better?” As a contractor, you need to ponder this decision heavily, before making a recommendation. Each of these options has its pros and cons, and it’s not easy to switch over when you’ve already committed to one. If you recommend, say, plaster to a client, then they find drywall was a better fit later on, you’ve likely lost that customer. So, when we talk about plasterboard vs drywall, here are the key differences you need to weigh out.

 

Material Makeup

 

First, let’s look at the components that comprise plaster vs drywall. Drywall, as every contractor knows, is generally gypsum sheets screwed or nailed into studs in a wall or ceiling. After the sheets are set into place drywall compound and tape are put over the seams between the different boards. The compound is then applied over the fasteners. If you opt for a higher-level drywall finish, you will get a final skin coat that is similar to plaster but don’t expect the same quality as a plaster job.

 

Plaster is applied quite differently. Generally, this is set over a type of wallboard called blue board. This is similar to sheetrock at first glance, but it is specially formulated to handle high amounts of moisture in wet plaster, so it bonds tightly with the plaster. As a result, you have a finish that covers the entire wall surface, sometimes with multiple coats.

 

Quality

 

In this area, most people are going to recommend plaster due to quite a few traits. For one thing, plaster is by nature a more durable finish than drywall, even high-level drywall finishes. In addition, plaster outperforms drywall in a number of key areas, including insulation, soundproofing, and fireproofing. One additional point in plaster’s favor is that by nature, mold can’t grow in plaster. By comparison, a leak behind your drywall can potentially lead to mold and mildew. Plaster also has a more appealing appearance in terms of aesthetics. 

 

plaster vs drywall

Photo By Tuzemka

Time To Install


Drywall wins out in this area. With drywall, you’re essentially hanging sheets in place then applying coats of compound. This is a lot easier to implement than the artisan process of putting on plaster by hand. As a result, if you are in a tight time crunch in terms of construction and finishing, you may want to opt for drywall for most rooms. However, you may want to start early with plastering one or two spaces that you know are going to get a lot of heavy foot traffic. 

 

Upkeep

 

Both drywall and plaster need some form of maintenance in order to retain their qualities. By and large, drywall is far easier to keep up with. Because it’s simpler to put together, it’s not going to be as expensive or time-consuming for you to find a craftsman to work on it. In addition, it’s even possible for you to do some DIY work if you are so inclined. 

 

Cost

 

Of course, we can’t ignore the cost factor. In many cases, plaster is considered the high-end option, which means a lot of the benefits that we’ve discussed so far, but also a higher price. This is partially due to materials, but also due to labor costs. Applying plaster is generally a more time-intensive, and therefore more expensive, process than lifting and screwing in drywall sheets. As a result, if you have a large residential property or commercial property, you may want to prioritize what areas need the best finish. 

 

There is one potential area of compromise on the table: veneer plaster. This serves as a nice middle-ground for those that are interested in a plaster finish without paying as much in labor costs. However, you can still get a perfectly nice finish with drywall, especially at the higher finish levels.

 

plaster vs drywall

Photo By Robert Kneschke

 

Swapping Finishes

 

As an addendum to this conversation, we should talk about the cost to replace plaster with drywall. For one reason or another, one of the benefits that support plaster vs drywall may not be as important as time goes on, or vice versa. There is the option to switch one finish for another, but this presents a notable cost. On average, you can expect to pay $1.60 to $3.80 per square foot. This accounts for demolition and disposal, as you can’t simply cover over plaster. You would need to remove it, then add drywall on. As a result, you want to weigh the plaster vs drywall question heavily before making a commitment. 

 

There is one exception here, and that’s if you live in a house that already has plaster, perhaps an older home. In this case, it’s going to be more cost-effective for you to maintain the plaster you already have than try to convert to drywall and move forward with that.

 

So, should you use plaster over drywall? This is ultimately a question that’s going to vary based on the types of clients you have and what they ultimately request in terms of jobs. Ideally, though, you’re going to want to offer a mix of both services if possible. This opens up your business to the largest client base possible.

 

However, this opens up some unique caveats as well. When it comes to plasterboard vs. drywall, there may be different materials, equipment, and other considerations you need to add on in order to effectively cover both areas. This puts your business in a bit of a unique situation. How do you find out whether or not the money you get from the extra work will make up for these additional costs of integration? That’s accomplished through project management software like eSub. Have a full picture of your company’s costs both financially and in terms of man-hours.

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