Drywall or Plaster

Drywall or Plaster?

SVG image of a drywall screw gun vs a plaster trowel

Nowadays, most people, don't think twice about whether to use plaster or drywall for interior finishing. Arguably, plaster provides a better finished product however, drywall has taken over as industry standard for interior finishing. Consider a few of the reasons below.

1 - Cost

One of the primary reasons we chose to purchase one product over another is cost. As long as you do not sacrifice too much in the way of quality, cost is very influential to the decision making process. When considering the cost of construction we can generally divide the total into labor and material costs.

When doing drywall, depending on the part of the country, labor accounts for anywhere from 35% to 60% of the total overall cost. However, with the plaster process, labor costs are a much higher percentage of the overall.

When estimating drywall or plaster costs, contractors generally first determine the square footage of the walls and ceilings to be covered with either drywall or plaster. They then take this total square footage number and multiply it by a standard price per square foot. For drywall you can expect to pay approximately $0.80 to $1.30 per square foot for both hanging and taping. Plaster on the other hand can cost upwards of $5.00 per square foot. Please read this related article about the cost of drywall.

2 - Availability of Skilled Plaster Tradesmen

Another factor to consider is the availability of plaster verses drywall. Because of the prevalence of drywall it is not difficult to find a tradesman that can perform high quality drywall installation and finishing. Plaster on the other hand is not so common. If you are fortunate enough to find a tradesman that is experienced in plaster work he is most likely over the age of fifty. There are very few tradesmen that chose to or are privileged to learn plaster. Even if you do find a company that says they can do plaster work you need to verify that they can really do as they say. Make sure they are not just drywall guys that have learned a few plaster techniques and are trying to win your bid so they can get more practice.

3 - Ease of Repair

Both plaster and drywall can be successfully repaired. Considering what is stated above about availability of skilled tradesmen, when you need to hire someone to come patch the holes in your walls you may be faced with the same question of finding a reliable company. It should be mentioned that patching holes in walls to perfectly match the original is no easy task. A skilled plasterer can patch a hole in a plastered wall so that it is just as smooth and flat as the surrounding area. However, some feel that these types of patches may still be visible once painted. This should not be taken as any deficiency on the part of the plasterer. The material itself presents drawbacks when trying to feather it to pre-painted finishes. Drywall, mud on the other hand, blends to the original finish slightly better when working over pre-painted finishes.

Which should I choose?

Most likely you will go with drywall when deciding on new construction or remodel projects. Even if this is a foregone conclusion, it is nice to have good reasons for choosing to do so. There are, of course, more reasons than those mentioned above. Whatever you choose we hope this article helps you approach your decision more informed than previously.

Many commercial applications still require plaster. When trying to smooth over cinder block walls or other brick, cement or stone surfaces, plaster is an excellent choice because of the flexibility of applications. In high moisture situations, plaster can also be a good choice as it is more durable than drywall when exposed to heavy moisture.

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