Sheetrock vs Drywall: What’s the Difference? (Which is Better?)
Sheetrock and drywall are two widely used building materials, and often individuals wonder which of the two is superior.
I’ve worked with both materials, and I’ll compare them using a few key metrics to determine which is more versatile, affordable, durable, etc.
Ready for this sheetrock vs drywall comparison? Let’s dig in!
In This Article:
Differences Between Sheetrock and Drywall
What Is Sheetrock?
Sometimes people speak of Sheetrock and drywall as if they’re two different materials, when in reality Sheetrock is a kind of drywall.
Sheetrock is a branded product that’s manufactured by the US Gypsum company, a company that specializes in making gypsum wallboard and related products.
Like generic brand drywall, Sheetrock is used mainly to construct walls and ceilings, though it can be used to make other things as well.
Sheetrock has been on the market since the early 20th century, and in 2017 Sheetrock celebrated its 100th anniversary. But the product we know as Sheetrock didn’t always have this name; the name was the idea of D.L. Hunter, a USG salesman who thought the name would make the gypsum wall board more appealing—he was right.
For decades, USG has been the top manufacturer of gypsum wallboard, cement board, and related products, and these days the Sheetrock brand is synonymous with construction and the building industry.
What Is Drywall?
Drywall is a kind of board that’s made from gypsum plaster, wood pulp, or another material, just like Sheetrock.
There’s a lot of water in gypsum, but it’s in crystalline form, which means gypsum is dry overall. But it’s this composition that makes gypsum fire-resistant.
Therefore, when drywall gets hot, the crystallized water begins to destabilize and eventually evaporates (after the water has exceeded the boiling point). Evaporation keeps the drywall cool and protects whatever is behind it.
Usually, gypsum is blended with starch, paper pulp, a thickening agent, and water until a thick paste is formed. Then this paste is spread on 3/8-inch or 3/4-inch manila paper. Afterward, another sheet of paper is added on top to sandwich the paste.
Then this gypsum-paper sandwich is put in an oven and heated at over 500°F before being cut into sheets, usually 4×8’, 4×10’, and 4×12’ long.
There are several kinds of drywall, and I’ll discuss a few of the special kinds in one of the following sections.
Benefits of Sheetrock vs Drywall
Affordability of Sheetrock vs Drywall
Regular drywall and Sheetrock cost about the same. But special drywalls, which I’ll discuss later, tend to cost more than Sheetrock.
To give you an idea of how much Sheetrock and regular drywall cost, consider that a 4’x8’ panel is usually $15. That said, you can find panels in that size for as low as $12 and as high as $20.
Based on this math, both regular drywall and Sheetrock cost between $0.40 and $0.65 per square foot.
As far as specially designed drywalls go, green board costs between $14 and $18 per panel; blue board between $12 and $15; purple drywall between $15 and $60; foil-backed drywall between $20 and $25, and paperless between $25 and $35.
Fire-resistant, soundproof, and lead-lined drywalls are also more expensive, costing $22, $30, and $500 respectively.
Soundproof drywall, popular in both homes and businesses, costs between $40 and $55 per panel.
Ease of Use
Both professionals and amateur drywall installers agree that putting up drywall isn’t all that difficult.
That said, if you have to install a whole home’s worth or several large room’s worth of drywall, it’s best to get professionals to take care of this, as they’ll have the tools, skills, and know-how needed to get a large job completed quickly.
But if you only have to put up a small amount, you can do this on your own, even if you’ve never done it before.
Hanging the drywall is pretty straightforward; it’s finishing that’s difficult. When you put drywall up on your own, this means you’re in charge of the taping and mudding, and both processes require skills that are sharpened over time.
That said, even if you’re not well versed in either taping or mudding, the worst thing that can happen is you apply too much mud to a joint, in which case you’d just have to spend more time sanding in between coats.
In the end, if you’re patient, determined, and possessing the right materials and tools, you can install both Sheetrock and regular drywall on your own, even if you have little to no experience doing so.
Versatility of Sheetrock vs Drywall
Regular drywall and Sheetrock are both versatile. You can use either to construct interior walls and ceilings, as well as for constructing fireplaces, headboards, tables, slopes for windows and doors, niches for heaters and air-conditioners, cabinets, shelving, and arches.
And since there are many kinds of drywall, you can use different drywalls throughout your property.
For example, if you need certain rooms soundproofed, opt for soundproof drywall that’ll prevent noise from coming in and going out.
And if you’re worried about your finished basement getting ravaged by dripping pipes or a leak in the foundation, choose green board drywall (otherwise known as moisture-resistant drywall).
Drywall’s versatility is a key reason why it’s been used in both residential and commercial properties for decades.
Types of Drywall and Sheetrock
Otherwise known as sag-resistant drywall, ceiling drywall is a kind of drywall that’s specifically designed for ceilings. It’s lighter and less dense than regular drywall, and it’s made this way so it doesn’t sag over time.
However, you could use regular drywall for a ceiling; there’s just a chance that it’ll be too heavy and eventually sag.
But sometimes thick ceiling drywall is purposefully installed, such as when a room is being soundproofed. In this case, usually 5/8-inch drywall is installed.
This is done more in commercial properties more than residential ones, as the latter properties don’t often require that level of soundproofing.
Fire-Resistant Drywall (Type X)
There’s fire-resistant drywall and fire-resistant Sheetrock, and both are installed in garages, attics, basements, and other areas that are more prone to catching fire. Both materials are also used around stairs for the same reason.
Both materials are designed to retard flames and reduce the spread of smoke. Fire-resistant drywall, otherwise known as Type X drywall, is able to retard flames and reduce the spread of smoke because it’s thicker and usually contains components, like glass, which help slow flames.
If you can’t find thick fire-resistant panels, you can double-up a few thinner boards to achieve a barrier that’s just as thick and effective; this is totally safe.
And if you want to ensure this safety-enhancing drywall is put up properly, it’s best to let the pros take care of installation.
Check out this video for more help understanding the different types of drywall!
Moisture Resistant Drywall (Green Board)
Moisture-resistant drywall is another sought-after kind of drywall. Otherwise known as green board, it’s often used in areas where there’s a lot of airborne moisture or water is used frequently, like basements, attics, laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and porches.
The paper that this drywall utilizes is coated in a special wax that repels liquids. That said, it’s important to remember this drywall is moisture-resistant—not waterproof. Therefore, it too would be destroyed, either immediately or over time, if it were to face a sudden deluge.
Along with being moisture-resistant, this is also mold-resistant drywall. Mold and moisture go hand in hand, so if your drywall resists what mold needs to thrive, you won’t have to worry about it being overrun by the harmful growth.
Acoustic drywall and Sheetrock are even more noise-reducing than regular soundproof drywall and Sheetrock, which is why these materials are often used in the construction of theaters, home offices, and music studios.
The reason why they’re able to dampen sound as well as they do is because they’re made with a viscoelastic polymer inner layer, something regular soundproof drywall and Sheetrock don’t possess.
But these materials cost a pretty penny—sometimes even double what their regular counterparts cost.
And since these are materials that are designed and purchased to serve a special purpose, it’s best to have a professional install them so they’re totally effective and able to provide what you paid for.
White board is another name for a regular drywall. This is the drywall that’s used in most homes nowadays.
The panels are typically 4’x8’ and usually weigh about 50 pounds.
While you can outfit your whole home with this kind of drywall, there are spots where it’s better to go with special drywall.
White board is the most basic and most affordable version of drywall, so if you want to be economic when hanging drywall, opt for this kind.
Blue board is drywall that’s constructed with special paper on the outside. This paper is incredibly smooth and makes applying plaster a lot easier.
This kind of drywall is often used in high-end homes, as it prevents seams and makes interior walls and ceilings look more uniform.
Purple board is a product that’s manufactured by National Gypsum. It’s marketed as being more mold- and mildew-resistant than traditional green board, and it’s installed in all the places individuals normally put green board.
High-end purple board is even soundproof, combining many desirable qualities in one material.
VOC-absorbing drywall hit the market many years ago, and this drywall combats the harmful components that are used in paints, varnishes, polyurethanes, carpeting, and other household products.
Essentially, this drywall absorbs VOCs that are in the air and pretty much deactivates them, improving air quality as a result.
Because of what it can do, this drywall is used in eco-friendly homes and traditional homes alike.
While this drywall does do a lot to remove airborne VOCs and other harmful particles, you’ll still need to operate an air purifier or two in your home to ensure clear air and good circulation.
Foil-backed drywall is usually used in colder climates because it provides extra moisture- and condensation-resistance. But because this is such a niche drywall, it’s more expensive than most of the others discussed in this post, and often getting your hands on this material is challenging.
Paperless drywall is another solution for combating excess moisture and humidity. However, this drywall cannot be exposed to water directly, otherwise it’ll weaken or deteriorate completely. As its name implies, this kind of drywall doesn’t include any paper.
Abuse-resistant drywall is designed to be extra durable and long-lasting. This is another drywall that contains glass fibers, and these (in combination with the gypsum) make the drywall stronger.
This is a good drywall to use in areas where people lean on or bump up against the drywall often.
Of course you can still put holes in this drywall, but it’s not as susceptible to denting and scratching like other drywalls are.
Other Top-Rated Drywall Brands
US Gypsum, the company that invented and manufactures Sheetrock, is a top manufacturer of gypsum board, and they compete with the following companies, all of which manufacture different kinds of drywall:
- Martin Marietta
- Eagle Materials
- National Gypsum
- Saint Gobain
- Georgia-Pacific LLC
- Etex Group
- Holcim Ltd.
Is drywall the same as Sheetrock?
Sheetrock is a specific brand of drywall. Other drywalls may resemble Sheetrock in numerous ways, but Sheetrock’s makeup is what sets it apart from the rest. This product is only manufactured by US Gypsum, as they hold the trademark.
How much does drywall cost?
Generally speaking, a regular 4’x8’ drywall panel, the most common kind, costs between $12 and $20. Some kinds of drywall are a little cheaper, and others cost several hundred dollars more. The price of drywall is determined by its components as well as the demand for it.
How thick is drywall?
Most drywall is a 1/2-inch thick. However, drywall that’s soundproof, like acoustic drywall, is generally thicker. The thickness of drywall in part determines its durability. You can buy drywall panels that are thick already or combine several thin panels to ensure thickness.
What is level 5 drywall?
Level-five drywall is drywall that’s close to being finished. Specifically, the drywall has been taped, coated twice, and lightly sanded. All it needs is a final skim coat. After the skim coat is applied, the drywall is put under a bright light so any imperfections can be identified and removed.
Final Thoughts on Sheetrock vs Drywall
In the end, you can’t go wrong with either drywall or Sheetrock.
That said, there are times when using a special kind of drywall is best, and it may be that there isn’t a version of Sheetrock suitable.
There’s moisture- and fire-resistant Sheetrock, and there’s Sheetrock that’s designed for soundproofing. But if you want a paperless or foil-backed solution, you won’t find either adorning the Sheetrock trademark.