My Experience with Dry Wall

As I mentioned in my previous post and the about Dennis section, I have been working as a general contractor for a very long time.  Throughout that time, I have always had my boss convince the homeowners they were interested in either drywall or plaster walls. Since I discussed plaster walls with my readers last week, we will be diving into the more common and more economical option of drywall.

Drywall Basics

Depending on who is selling you the product, they may call drywall dozens of different names in an attempt to upcharge you. If that is the case, just know that drywall, wallboard, gypsum board, and sheet rock are all essentially the same thing – a sheet of material coated with a heavy piece of paper on both sides. The benefit of this construction, is the ease of application, you don’t have to worry about drywall cracking or developing a textured appearance over time like you will with plaster walls.  Additionally, it is cheap and lightweight!

Dry Wall Panels

Dry wall is always purchased in pre-cut panels but can always be slit down to size depending on the area of your walls, and whether you are looking to install all new walls fresh in a home, or replace a single broken panel. We had a piece of drywall cave in because the dog slid on the wooden floor and his snout broke through the wall!  In our case we just needed to replace a single 8 foot panel that was about 4 feet in width… the wife also thought it was a good idea to repaint the whole hall way, but we’ll get into that next time.

Drywall panels are usually about 1/2 inch in thickness and can vary in the length and width depending on where you buy it.  The one thing, I will note is it dry wall is generally prone to water-logging and becoming moist. After all, it is just a bunch of rocks coated between two thick pieces of paper. If you’re looking for something more water resistant, I would recommend checking out cement board, but in my experience we never installed that in new homes unless a homeowner specifically requested that.

Applying Drywall Panels

After you’ve went out and measured the area you are looking to repair or replace, you should have a good idea on how many panels and their measurements that you’ll need for your project.

Wooden Studs

Assuming that you have the materials, you’ll need to pound those bad boys up. I would recommend using building nails or screws if you are working with wooden studs, which is ultimately the most common building material in the United States.  The wooden studs you’re working on should be free of nails from the existing material, and have enough surface area to support the installation of the new dry wall. If this is not the case, make sure you remove an non-critical nail in the wood stud so when the new sheet of drywall is hung and nailed to the wall it will lay flat.

Metal Studs

I’ve only really run into this in a single home, and to be honest I was a bit confused. For the most part steel studs in the walls are significantly more expensive than their wooden counterpart. And when I worked on this home, it was a newer development where I was subcontracted to install the basement drywall. The homeowner in this instance wanted to make sure that the structure in the basement wouldn’t warp and would be more resistant to fire damage. When working with metal studs it’s pretty simple to just make sure that you use screws that are compatible with the metal beams.

Drywall Finishes

I’m hoping that all my readers were able to install drywall with relative ease considering it was as simple as screwing in a piece of gypsum board (same thing as dry wall!).  In any event, the overall wood finish will be the most critical part of the installation because that is what the homeowner will be left with and have to life with.

Textured Drywall

If you decide to go with textured drywall, I have always been the most pleased with a fine texture that was sprayed on using paint. This gives just a subtle enough appearance to look textured but not jump out as flashy or fancy.

Smooth Drywall

This is the most common form of dry wall, where the gypsum board is just coated with a thicker paper. This paper will be primed and painted to the homeowners taste. In my experience, when they pick out a color to be applied right when the home is built, you will get a call back within the first year to repaint it because the color wasn’t what they thought it would be.

Anyways, that’s what I have for drywall and plaster walls.  I’ve enjoyed installing both in my days as a subcontractor because these were simple jobs


My Experience With Plaster Walls

When I was first starting out my career over 4 decades ago, the first type of work that I got into was dry wall and plastering walls. I remember my boss at the time wouldn’t let me install any of the product, I just had to move the materials from one builder to the next.  My boss would later teach me the basics to install drywall and re-plaster walls.  Now I know that many homeowners (myself included) do not like plaster walls, but back in my youth every home had them.

Plaster Walls as a Skillset

This is a random textured drywall wall. It has slight depressions that were added to an even surface

Textured Dry Wall Close up

When working with plaster the goal is to create one of two appearances. The first is an easy and smooth surface that will look like drywall (we will go into the benefits later). This smooth surface took a great deal of time, skill, and patience. In fact, if you younger internet readers have ever seen someone smoothing out concrete, it was a similar process with plaster. The second appearance that is usually desired in larger more elegant houses is a textured appearance. Depending on the texture, different approaches can be done to create this appearance. If you were looking for a repeating pattern, then we can have a custom pattern made, and then pressed against a smooth plaster surface. The more expensive version, and to be honest it is definitely worth it if you have the money, is to have a design created in plaster at the interface where the ceiling or floor meet the vertical wall.

I first learned how to install plaster walls when I was 24 years old.  Plaster was all the rage back then, but in the years leading up to my retirement, I was working more with drywall more than anything.


Plaster Composition

Plaster has a similar construction to concrete but is primarily made up of gypsum and lime, but sets as hard as concrete.


Benefits of Plaster Walls (A Bulleted List with Comments)

  1. Sound Resistant – Plaster is like concrete, it is thick and it is hard for sound to travel through it
  2. Luxurious Feel – Plaster walls can be completed with a smooth finish, textured finish, or a decorative finish
  3. Permanence – Plaster walls are thick and set after they dry which means they will be less prone to damages from a heavy impact.


My Experience with Repairing Plaster Walls

Contractor smoothing out plaster defects

Plaster / Drywall contractor repairing some small defects

As I mentioned above, there are several benefits of installing plaster walls, but there are also several things that you have to watch out for as well.  When I was younger, I started working to repair existing drywall because the homeowner already knew there were defects and anything I did would make it better. I also had to worry less about making mistakes because they are easier to cover-up on a repair job.

Uneven Plaster Walls

Unevenness is the best problem to have with plaster if you ask me. In this case, the material could have been laid on too thick, or could have set slightly as the house settled. In any event, this can be fixed by applying another thin coating to even out the walls.  Do not get this confused with sagging.

Sagging Plaster Walls

If you see your walls sagging, or essentially folding over or bubbling on itself, that is most likely due to the plaster becoming detached. Some homes settle and this can happen relatively quickly, other it happens because of the slope of the wall or ceiling.  The easiest way to fix this is to very gently push the plaster up without forcing it. This may take several attempts and many days for the sag or bubble to disperse.  If this method does not work well for you, it’s probably because the plaster is detached from the wall and will not ever be fixed.  I know a few companies in the Milwaukee area if you are interested in hiring a Wisconsin crew. I also know that many of the readers are from all over and may not even speak English.  So if you’d like to reach out to the company where I worked as a contractor I’ll give you their phone number.

Cracks in Plaster Walls

When the plaster sags for a long time or too much it can crack. It can also crack when it detaches from the wall.  This is the most severe form of plaster repair, and can be caused by a plumbing issue. If this is indeed a small crack caused by sagging or the house settling, then it should be very easy to fix within an hour or two by filling in the crack COMPLETELY. Do not just fill the exterior crack to make it look nice because it will return very soon. Be sure to push the plaster all the way through the crack in your wall so it fills in everything.

Plaster Walls vs Dry Wall

Well, it looks like I’ve written quite a bit about plaster walls, and will not be able to finish writing about drywall yet. So I guess for tomorrows project I can write about what these younger and lazier homeowners are using now-a-days.  But I can’t really blame them, it is faster and cheaper to use dry wall. And if you are only looking for a smooth surface, it is by far the best.

See you later,