Drywall 101

Should I use fiberglass mesh tape or paper tape?

When most people think of tape they think of scotch or masking tape. This type of tape serves to hold two pieces of paper together. Drywall tape serves a similar purpose in that it adds strength to the seams of gypsum panels of drywall. Drywall tape is used when finishing drywall joints to provide a strong bond where the two pieces of drywall meet. If there are slight movements due to settling, drywall tape will help to avoid excessive cracking. Traditionally paper tape is used when finishing drywall. In the late 1980's and early 1990's drywall supply shops began providing self adhesive fiberglass mesh tape as an alternative to paper tape. Should you use mesh or paper?

Paper Drywall Tape

Traditionally paper tape is used when finishing drywall joints. Most drywall tradesmen will say that paper tape is stronger than mesh drywall tape. Paper tape is better at preventing cracking along drywall seams. Paper tape folds easily and therefore is easily applied to corners to allow for crisp inside 90° corners. Paper tape can be applied with all purpose drywall compounds. It can also be used with quick-setting or hot mud.

Mesh Drywall Tape

Fiberglass mesh drywall tape can be likened to the rebar reinforcement placed in concrete slabs to increase the overall strength of the finished product. Fiberglass mesh tape is applied before drywall mud is applied to the seam where two panels of gypsum drywall board meet. Drywall mesh tape is sticky on one side to allow adhesion even before drywall mud is applied. Most drywall tradesmen will say that mesh tape is not as strong as paper tape and some refuse to use it altogether.

Some tradesmen have had success using mesh tape when used in conjunction with quick-setting drywall compound or hot mud. The mesh tape is bedded-in with a thin layer of quick-setting drywall mud and then feathered out with all purpose or lightweight all purpose drywall compounds. Most manufacturers recommend using quick-setting compound with mesh tape rather than all purpose pre-mixed mud. Fiberglass mesh tape can be used effectively when patching small holes where there is no consideration of structural movement in the underlying material. Very few if any tradesmen will use mesh tape in the corners because it does not fold well.

In summary, mesh tape can be used in many applications with similar results to that of paper tape. When using mesh tape, you should always use quick setting drywall mud for the first bed-in coat. Paper tape should always be used when taping inside corners to ensure crisp 90° angles.

See also:

How to tape drywall seams

Which type of mud should I use?

Why do drywall seams crack?