Plaster Walls Vs. Drywall

Man plastering a wall

Plaster walls are an older construction technique you find in vintage homes. Plaster has a textured look that some people consider a more upscale and sophisticated look in the home. Drywall, on the other hand, involves the nailing of sheetrock boards to studs, giving the room a smooth, seamless look.

Deciding between plaster and drywall involves understanding the difference between the materials and how they are installed. The finished look should also be taken into consideration in terms of your design plans. Cost, expertise in installation, and time weigh in as important factors to consider when choosing between plaster and drywall.

Differences Between Plaster and Drywall

man mudding a wall

The chief differences between plaster and drywall have to do with their use today, installation, and expense. Drywall is a more common building choice than plaster walls are. It is easier to install drywall, as it requires nails and tape where as plastering is more time consuming and regarded as a craft form.

Drywall installation is not as labor-intensive as plastering. This means that putting up drywall is not as expensive as plaster walls. Plaster walls have a much more durable finish than drywall when it sets up and is a higher quality finish.

About Plaster

Plaster compounds can be purchased pre-mixed or as a dry compound that is prepared with water. Applying plaster is not a simple do-it-yourself project. It involves knowledge in the application technique, which is a skill that a tradesman acquires over years of experience.

A more modern version involves veneer plaster. Veneer plaster is drywall-like gypsum panels that go up like sheetrock drywall panels. They are finished with a multiple-coat veneer plaster that looks like traditional plaster.

About Drywall


Drywall typically comes in wall-size boards made of sheetrock. The thickness of the boards determines the ease of use and level of sound proofing. Sheetrock comes in several thicknesses depending on the type you by (wall, ceiling, fire-resistant, etc.), the most common ones are 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch. You can also get 5/8-inch sheetrock, which adds strength to the wall and deadens sound. 1/2-inch sheetrock is the standard thickness for wall projects and is easier to manipulate during installation.

Most any level of installer can use sheetrock, from professionals to do-it-yourselfers. Sheetrock is cut to length, placed and nailed or screwed into position. A sheetrock hanger is a handy tool that acts as an easel for the drywall board. It has a lever that lifts the sheetrock into place and holds it while the fasteners (i.e. nails or screws) are placed.

Professional installers prefer drywall screws to nails. Nails tend to pop out over time, displaying little bumps along the seam where taped and mudded. Drywall screws hold better and remain in place, even after the wall settles.

Cost Differences

Drywall is generally less expensive than plaster applications. This includes a factoring for labor and set up costs associated with applying plaster as opposed to screwing drywall into place.

The veneer plaster solutions offer a competitive middle ground for individuals who want a plaster finish without the messy application process that comes with traditional plaster. For most areas in a home, a simple drywall solution is both sensible and cost effective.