Drywall or Plaster?
Nowadays most people, builders included, don't even begin to address this question. Drywall is by far the industry standard for new construction. Some people still prefer the finished product of plaster walls. For many reasons plaster provides a more desirable finished product. That is not to say that drywall is sub-par or of lower quality. In fact, the advantages of using drywall far outweigh those of plaster. Consider a few.
One of the most influential reasons we chose to purchase one product over another is cost. We feel that as long as we are not sacrificing too much in quality we will go with a less expensive item. When considering the cost of construction we can divide the total into labor and material costs.
With the drywall process, labor accounts for anywhere from 35% to 60% of the total overall cost, depending on location. The material cost does not vary much as to location because of the prevalence of big box stores such as "The Home Depot®" and "Lowes®". With the plaster process, however, labor is a much higher percentage of the overall cost.
When estimating drywall or plaster costs, a contractor will first determine the square footage of the walls and ceilings to be covered with either drywall or plaster. For drywall you can expect to pay approximately \$0.80 to \$1.30 per square foot. Plaster on the other hand can cost much more, upwards of \$5.00 per square foot.
Access to good plasterers
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 approaching sixty. There are very few new tradesmen that are learning plaster techniques. Even if you do find a company that says they can do plaster work you may need to ensure 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 some more practice.
Ease of patching holes in the future
Both plaster and drywall can be successfully patched if for some reason you have to cut holes in your walls. Considering what is stated above about availability of 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 so that they are completely inconspicuous 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, many contractors have claimed 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.