Drywall vs Plaster



Drywall or Sheetrock

You may be wondering... what is the difference between plaster and drywall?  Drywall is gypsum sheets (sheetrock) screwed or nailed to the studs.  Drywall compound and tape are applied to the seams between the boards, and the compound is coated over the fasteners to cover the heads.  The compound is then allowed to dry and lightly sanded to smooth out the coat.  A second coat of compound may need to be applied to the joints and fasteners to get a smooth finish.  Again this will need to be lightly sanded. A high end drywall finish includes a final skim coat similar to plaster, but most drywall jobs aren’t done at this level.


The gypsum core of drywall is simply covered with a thick paper.  It doesn’t take much force to create a dent in a drywall surface.  Also, with the light sanding of the drywall compound dust is created and can create a mess if not properly prepped and cleaned. 




plasterPlaster is typically applied over a special type of wall board referred to as blue board.  Blue board looks like sheetrock, but it is designed to handle the high degree of moisture in wet plaster, and is engineered to create a tight bond with the plaster compound.  Don’t confuse the blue board with green board... green board is just moisture resistant sheetrock used mainly in bathrooms for drywall projects.  The plaster is then applied over the blue board either in multiple coats with a scratch and then a finish coat or in a single or double veneer coat.  Either way, the plaster covers the entire wall surface.


Plaster has many advantages over drywall.  Once the blue board is fastened to the walls and ceiling dust can be kept to a minimum.  The wet plaster is applied to the blue board and dries to a smooth, hard finish.  The plaster requires no sanding after it dries.  Another advantage is speed.  Some veneer plasters are one step operations.  The plasterer trowels it on and finishes it in one step.  Small plaster jobs can be done in one day.  But for larger jobs the blue board is usually hung in one day and the plaster is finished the next day.  A similar drywall job would last five to six days.  Plaster is much harder than drywall and creates a more durable wall surface.  So if you have children this may be a significant advantage.


recessed windowPlaster’s life span can be measured in centuries as drywall can only be measured in decades or less if it gets wet.  Plaster is also more fire resistant than drywall.  Plaster is a must if you are trying to match a texture or renovating an older or historic home.


Plastering is a more unique trade and requires much more skill than a typical drywall installer... it takes years to perfect the art of plaster finishing.  This means plaster is a little more expensive than drywall, but with the advantages over drywall many more people are turning to plaster for their interior finishing needs.