What is the Difference Between Sheetrock and Drywall?

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The terms Sheetrock and drywall are often used interchangeably, so many people ignore the difference between them. However, in construction projects, small differences between materials can determine major differences in project outcomes.

Durability, energy efficiency, safety, and more can be affected. We explain the differences between Sheetrock and drywall, from definitions and origins to types, installation, and benefits.

What is Drywall?

Drywall is often called wallboard, plasterboard, gypsum panel, or gypsum board. It is a sandwich-type panel made of gypsum pressed between two thick sheets usually made of paper.

In order to improve its quality and resistance to fire, mildew, and other unfavorable circumstances, the gypsum is often mixed with paper or fiberglass fiber, plasticizers, foaming agents, and/or other additives.

how to remove drywall
Photo credit: Jo Naylor on Flickr / CC-BY

What is ​Sheetrock?

Sheetrock is a drywall brand registered as a trademark by the U.S. Gypsum Company. It is to drywall what Ford is for the automotive industry. It uses the same main components as drywall, but different additives.

These vary according to formulas subject to patents and are meant to improve quality and durability of any home or commercial space.

Perhaps the best way to understand the connection between Sheetrock and drywall is to look at their history.

Sheetrock vs Drywall

Sheetrock and Drywall are the same thing. To be clear, sheetrock is a brand of drywall. All sheetrock is a form of drywall, but not all drywall is made under the brand name of Sheetrock.

Sheetrock and drywall are much different than plaster, though:

  • ​Compared to the traditional lath and plaster method that takes up to one week, installing drywall and, implicitly, Sheetrock, takes only a couple of days.
  • ​The drywall sheets can be used for a variety of purposes such as soundproofing, improved fire-resistance, and moisture resistance.  

Unfortunately, both drywall and Sheetrock are vulnerable to water damage. When exposed to water, they develop unsightly wicking, the plaster in them softens, and the paper supports mold growth. Their use also involves considerable waste, sometimes exceeding 17%.

Home undergoing renovation

Unlike Sheetrock, some drywall varieties can pose significant health risks. They contain and release sulfur gases, known to have a foul odor, a negative impact on human health, and the ability to corrode metal.

This means anyone planning a construction project that involves drywall should carefully read labels and investigate manufacturer practices. Chances are the USG Company will stand out among other drywall manufacturers, as they seem to have a reliable quality control system in place, their products being among the safest and best rated on the market.

​Plasterboard History

Plasterboard history can be traced back to 1884 when Fred Kane and Augustine Sackett invented it. The first plant opened in Rochester, Kent, UK, in 1888, and used two layer plaster within four wool-felt paper plies. The sheets measured 36″ × 36″ × 1/4″ and had untaped, open edges.

In 1910, U.S. Gypsum Company took over Sackett Plaster Board Company. By 1917, the company developed its own product, called Sheetrock. From 1910 to 1930, plasterboard evolved, manufacturers traded open edges for wrapped ones, and gave up the inner wool felt layers.

Sheetrock evolved with it, relying on new solutions to improve fire resistance, ease of installation, and weight, and to be less brittle. Soon, rock lath, also known as gypsum, became the substrate of choice for plaster.

​Instead of traditional wood and metal lath, drywall manufacturers began using a compressed gypsum plasterboard panel. This was often grooved and punched in order to allow the wet plaster to penetrate into its surface.

They began impregnating the paper they used for facing the panels with gypsum crystals, to make sure it would bond with the plaster layer.

Their efforts to improve their products lead to a diversification of the offer. Now, there are several types of drywall available on the market. U.S. Gypsum Company managed to keep up, currently offering several types of Sheetrock.

Types of Drywall

Drywall is available in several thicknesses. The most common are 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch. It helps to use thicker sheets when there are large gaps between the studs or the joists. Thinner sheets work best for small, even surfaces.

As far as the edges are concerned, there are two types of drywall, namely square-edged and taper-edged. The former is better for walls and ceilings that undergo plastering, while the latter is an excellent choice for finishing walls, as it allows easier filling of the gaps and joints.

Man standing in front of a white wall

When it comes to properties, drywall can be categorized as follows:

Moisture-resistant Drywall

The core contains waterproofing materials but remains breathable, allowing the surface the drywall sheet is applied on to breathe through the wall’s surface. This variety is a great option for areas with high humidity, like kitchens and bathrooms.

Fire-resistant Drywall

Less likely to catch fire, it is perfect for garages, ceilings, some corridors, and stairwells.

Abuse-resistant Drywall

It relies on a polystyrene layer bonded to its non-decorative side to provide greater heat insulation than regular sheets. It is a great choice for garages.

Soundproof Drywall

With better soundproofing qualities than regular sheets, it is perfect for apartments and condos’ walls and ceilings.

Foil-backed Drywall

It has a moisture-resistant paper on the decorative side and a silver layer on the non-decorative side. It is suitable for cold climates and dry environments.

Types of Sheetrock

The Sheetrock brand comprises similar product categories:

  • Regular
  • Fire-resistant
  • ​Mold resistant
  • Plaster base
  • Abuse-resistant panels
  • Liner panels
  • Manufactured housing panels.

These categories only show that Sheetrock is one of the most popular and comprehensive drywall brands, promising to meet all needs and expectations.

For every Sheetrock product, there is a corresponding drywall variety. It is up to the user to choose the suitable variety for each project and follow the installation steps, which are the same for both drywall and Sheetrock.

​How to Install Drywall and Sheetrock

As mentioned above, the installation steps are basically the same for both drywall and Sheetrock. The few and small differences between them are detailed below.

1. Product Selection

No matter if using drywall or Sheetrock, the first step of the project is selecting the right material. This means looking at properties and dimensions. Let’s see what it involves for both drywall and Sheetrock.

  • ​Drywall offers more options in terms of both properties and dimensions. However, the selection process is more complicated and takes longer. It means visiting several websites, comparing products, prices, and manufacturers.
  • ​Sheetrock does not come with so many options but is still able to meet most needs. Moreover, all products are in one place, provided by the same reputable manufacturer, whose website offers useful tools to help users calculate the quantities they need.  

2. Surface Preparation

This step involves removing any old drywall, screws, and nails from the wall and any area, surrounding walls and pocket doorsperforming any repairs and spackling if necessary, and applying a primer. While working with drywall requires further research regarding compatible repair materials and primers, the USG Company website offers all solutions necessary for completing a Sheetrock installation project. 

3. Measurement and Cutting

This step is completely the same for both drywall and Sheetrock. The secret to obtaining satisfactory results is to start the measurements from one corner and calculate and cut the sheets in such a way as to make sure no piece remains unsupported.

You can score it just like you would when cutting vinyl siding for your home.

how to measure and cut drywall and sheetrock
Photo credit: velacreations on Flickr / CC-BY

4. Mounting

There is no difference between using drywall and using Sheetrock at this stage. The process is the same, no matter if the preferred method is gluing, nailing, screwing, usage of various sockets, or combinations of any of these. The secret is to start from the center and continue outwards, without overdoing it with the screws or nails.

5. Mudding, Cleaning and Finishing

This step is the same for both drywall and Sheetrock. However, the latter has the upper hand, relying on dedicated products and saving users the time and effort they would need to research other products.

Once this step is performed and the mud dries, it is safe to continue with surface priming and coating. It is easy to see that, as far as the installation process is concerned, Sheetrock is preferable to other drywall brands.

The necessary materials can be bought from the same supplier without worrying about compatibility issues. Otherwise, the steps are the same for both materials, and they even involve using the same tools:

  • Measuring tape
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Screw dimpler
  • Level
  • Tape for the edges
  • Mud
  • Mud topcoat
  • Razor knife
  • Putty knife
  • Mud tray
  • Pole sander
  • Medium grit sandpaper

Even the strengths and weaknesses of the two materials are the same.

Conclusion

If you are planning a construction project involving drywall, remember that Sheetrock is only one of the product lines available on the market. Indeed, it is one of the oldest and most popular drywall brands, with one of the widest offers, and a fair quality/price ratio. However, you may be able to find similar or even better products out there.

Before settling for Sheetrock products, you owe it to your project and your budget to look up other options as well. You should not compare an entire industry with one of the product lines in it, but rather compare product lines from the same industry, to get a clear idea of their value and competitiveness.

Thus, instead of drawing a Sheetrock vs. drywall comparison, consider comparing Sheetrock with Gold Bond or ToughRock.