What Is the Difference Between Drywall and Plaster?

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Home renovation (Photo: @photovs via Twenty20)
From flooring to paint to appliances, there’s no shortage of choices to make when it comes to working on the interior of your house. One of those choices is what to do with the walls in your home. Two common options for interior walls are drywall and plaster.
Drywall and plaster look fairly similar, which leads to a lot of people confusing the two or thinking they’re the same. In reality, drywall and plaster are very different materials, with different strengths and weaknesses. So, what’s the difference? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the difference between drywall and plaster?

While drywall and plaster look very similar, they’re structurally quite different. Drywall is an actual material to use as a wall. It’s a large piece of sheetrock that you nail or screw to the studs of your home. You can hang drywall in place of wood, and you can paint over it if you would like.
Plaster, on the other hand, is a material that you coat on wood interiors. Rather than being the wall itself, like drywall, plaster is a coating that goes on top of the wall, and adds texture to your home. It has to be applied onto a wall, and requires some expertise.

Which one is cheaper and easier to install?

Drywall is a much more practical material to apply than plaster is. It’s easier to apply, because it requires less artistic and technical expertise, and is nailed on rather than artfully applied. It’s also a much cheaper product to buy, and if you hire someone to do the labor, it’s much more affordable than plaster.
As a result, you’ll often find drywall in more affordable homes, and plaster on more expensive homes. Drywall is a great option for any home, but it’s also cheaper and easier to apply, and that’s reflected in its use.

What are the benefits of each?

Both plaster and drywall have plenty of benefits that make them desirable products for your home. It all depends on what you’re looking for in your house.
Let’s start with plaster. Many people think plaster is prettier than drywall. That’s not to say that drywall is ugly, it’s just simple and plain, whereas plaster is a very nice aesthetic option. Plaster also offers better sound-proofing than drywall, so if you’re trying to limit the noises that enter or exit your home, it’s a really great option.
Drywall, as previously noted, is more affordable. It’s also a lot easier to install, because you basically just order the right size and nail it in. Furthermore, it’s a lot easier to hang items on drywall than plaster, so if you’re going to be putting a lot of art on the walls, drywall is a great option.

Drywall vs. plaster: Which is fancier?

Drywall is a very nice product, but plaster is much fancier. It’s used in more expensive homes, and simply has a fancier aesthetic to it. There’s nothing wrong with drywall, but if you’re looking for the fanciest option, it’s definitely plaster.

Are they both do it yourself projects?

Drywall is a surprisingly easy do-it-yourself project. All you need to do to hang drywall in your home is measure your space, order the right size pieces, and nail them to the studs. And just like that, you’re done.
Plaster is much more difficult, and in general it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Can you apply plaster yourself? Absolutely. But unless you’re a professional, it probably won’t look that great. It’s better to pay someone with proper training to apply plaster for you.