Choosing Between Drywall or Plaster

Drywall 101
First Published:
January 12, 2012
Last updated:
May 03, 2024

Drywall or Plaster?

Most people, don't even think twice about whether to use plaster or drywall for interior finishing. Arguably, plaster creates a more durable product. However, drywall has taken over as the industry standard for interior finishing. Consider a few of the reasons below.

SVG image of a drywall screw gun vs a plaster trowel

1 - Cost

Cost is a strong incentive to determine the success of a given product and since plaster is more expensive than drywall, drywall has become more popular. When considering the cost of construction we can divide the total into labor and material costs. Drywall labor accounts for anywhere from 35% to 60% of the total overall cost. However, plaster labor costs are a much higher percentage of the total. They can be anywhere from 70% - 90% of the total.

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 $1.00 to $1.50 per square foot for both hanging and taping. Plaster on the other hand can cost upwards of $5.50 per square foot. For more information on how to estimate drywall costs you can check out this article.

2 - Availability of Skilled Plaster Tradesmen

As drywall has slowly taken over as the industry standard it is becoming more difficult to find skilled Plasterers. If you are fortunate enough to find a tradesman that is experienced in plaster work he is most likely over the age of fifty which is not a bad thing but just emphasizes that fewer young people are learning to plaster these days. Even if you do find a company that claims to do plaster work you should verify that they can do as they say. Ask for examples of their work. Call references to see what type of reputation they have with plaster. 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 the 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 is no easy task. A skilled Plasterer can patch a hole in a plaster 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 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 so, it is nice to have thoroughly investigated the choices available. 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 is an excellent choice since it is more durable than drywall.

Weight of Drywall

What is Drywall

What is Plaster