Drywall comes in a variety of thickness measurements, some of which are more suitable for different purposes than others. Most manufacturers use a couple of standard sizes and as long as you make sure you’re using the same thickness, you’re not going to run into any issues, but it’s quite important to understand the different sizes available and what they’re best used for.
Different Thicknesses of Drywall
It’s really not super important in a lot of situations to know the thickness of the sheetrock you’ll be using apart from making sure that it’s all of the same size. That said, overly thick sheets can have a negative impact on the amount of floor space available in a room and thin ones are prone to being easily damaged.
1/4 inch sheets are the cheapest, but it’s actually a bit too thin for most applications that have you laying things right over the framing of the home. In some cases, it can be used to make repairs to a thicker sheet but for the most parts, it’s used for cosmetic applications which require some degree of curvature.
3/8 inch sheets are more common, and it was commonly used for walls up until a couple of decades ago. While it’s no longer the standard thickness, it can still be used there. Primarily what it’s useful for is repairing damage in older homes, although some insist on using it in newer construction.
½ inch sheets are the most common and the gold standard of modern construction and are commonly used in walls in many homes. It has sufficient strength to hold up against light impacts while remaining light enough to be maneuvered by a single person in most instances.
Because of its common usage, ½ drywall is available in a variety of types we’ll talk about in a moment. This lends it to being the most versatile type of sheetrock for specialized usage.
5/8 inch sheets are most commonly used in garages and ceilings. For ceilings, in particular, it’s worth the added difficulty of handling, as the heavier board will prevent sagging that might happen with thinner sheets. They can be quite a bit heavier than you’d think, and it will generally require another person if you’re working with anything bigger than half of a standard sheet.
5/8 inch sheets are the only thickness which is commonly available in a fire resistant form, which has its own specialized applications.
The sizing of your sheetrock is crucial to your project. The differing thicknesses also offer differing levels of insulation and protection from sounds, moisture, and fire. Sized appropriately, you can make a world of difference in the functionality of a room.
Different Varieties of Drywall
In addition to coming In different sizes, you’ll find that drywall also comes in a bunch of different varieties. While this can all seem a bit confusing for someone new to indoor construction, it’s actually quite simple and the applications of the different types are obvious.
Sizing Drywall For Your Project
For most interior projects, an in-depth understanding of drywall thicknesses and varieties beyond the absolute basics isn’t really necessary no matter what the experts will tell you. All you’ll need to do is ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Is my home old enough to be using 3/8 inch panels?
- Is this room going to be wet?
- Is the replacement sheet or repair going to be on the roof?
If your home is old enough to use 3/8 inch panels, you may wish to go with the same thickness. In cases beyond a patch job, however, you may want to consider just upgrading to ½ inch panels. The loss of floor space between the two is pretty negligible but the additional insulation and strength can be very valuable.
If the room is going to be wet, use a moisture resistant variety of drywall. As usual, ½” for the walls and 5/8 inches for the roof. It will cost you a little bit more, but you’ll inevitably have to repair standard sheets much sooner. Don’t pinch pennies to lose dollars, use moisture resistant drywall in any room that will have high humidity or frequent use of water.
For ceilings, go with 5/8” even if the original ceiling was thinner. Some contractors will try to skimp on labor and materials by using a thinner material, but even ½ inch sheets will give you more trouble than you’ll ever get from using the right materials. In many cases, this can be cosmetic, but in others, you’ll end up having to re-do the sheet anyways.
Use moisture-resistant 5/8 inch in bathrooms and kitchens, otherwise spring for fire-retardant drywall. Hopefully, you’ll never have to test out the capabilities, but even a short delay in flames reaching through the ceiling can prevent a lot of damage and give you extra time to get out of the house in the event of the worst case scenario.
Ceiling repairs will always be more expensive, both in materials and labor. Consider renting or purchasing a lift if you can’t get a couple of friends to help out, but you’d be surprised what the offer of a couple of beers and some food will get your friends to help with if you don’t
It really is that simple to pick things out. Don’t let contractors and an abundance of information mess with you too much.
Figuring Out What You Already Have
It’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into before you attempt any repair. In some cases, you’ll find that the entire process is quite simple but it can be a fairly involved process if you have to deal with fancy finishes on the already present walls you don’t want to damage.
If you’re looking to repair or replace a damaged panel and you’re not sure of the thickness, grab a tape measure or ruler and just measure it wherever the hole may be. Frankly, even if it’s just a dent you’re probably going to be fine just knocking a small chunk out of the damaged area to measure the thickness.
If you really want to just figure it out for the fun of it, there’s a simple way to do things that you might not have thought about. Find an electrical outlet on the same wall, remove the cover, and measure the drywall. In almost one hundred percent of cases, there will be bare sheetrock to be measured under there.
If you’re squeamish about getting shocked you might want to turn the circuit breaker off first, but as long as you don’t jam a screwdriver in the socket or start digging around the hook-up wires you’ll be fine.
From there you’ll be able to extrapolate the thickness of the walls throughout your home. It should, in general, be the same throughout, even if the home was built by a shady contractor who used subpar materials.
- Determining the type is pretty much unnecessary, you now have the information to know which type you should be placing. Remember: ceilings should be fire resistant in most rooms and water resistant drywall should be used in any place where you’re likely to run into frequent use of water.
As long as you keep that in mind and know the thickness of the sheet you plan on using, you’re good to go when it comes to getting down to the hardware store and selecting the drywall you need.
Inevitably, contractors will try to complicate manners for the layman but armed with the proper knowledge you’ll be able to make an informed choice as to which variety of drywall you plan on using. The truth is this: it’s not that complicated.
If you still feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and ask yourself the three questions above. As long as you can answer those, you’ll be able to take your home into the hands that care about it the most… your own.