Friday, September 29, 2006
Drywall helps home take shape
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
We've been following the progress of one of our projects for several months. It's a house that started as a single-family residence and over time was morphed by several additions and remodels into a fraternity house. We were engaged as the architects to bring it back to its life as a single-family home, and we've been sharing the transformation here in our column.
With the plumbing and electrical wiring placed in the stud walls and an inspection completed, it is time for drywall. This is an exciting step because rooms become rooms as they are encased in drywall, and it's only a matter of time before the finish work can begin. The life and character of this old house that was stripped to the studs are returning!
The material used for drywall is gypsum board panels, often referred to as Sheetrock. Gypsum board is called "drywall" because of its low moisture content. Gypsum board has a core made of (surprise!) gypsum, which is covered in an assortment of materials depending on the location and purpose of the panel.
The most common covering is paper that you can paint or apply wallpaper to for the final decorative finish. You can also get gypsum board with a glass mat finish that is water-resistant, creating an exterior grade gypsum board that can be used as exterior sheathing.
Panels come in the standard size of 4 feet by 8 feet and have various thicknesses and finishes that allow for different applications. Quarter-inch drywall can be scored and used for curved areas, and it can be applied over existing walls or used for repairs. Half-inch drywall is commonly used for walls and ceilings in residential applications. A thicker 5/8 inch drywall provides an even firmer wall and straighter lines than the thinner material.
Drywall generally is screwed to the wood or metal framing of a house. This part of the application goes quite quickly, though it does take muscle to haul and lift the full sheets. After the panels are hung, they must be taped and mudded. This involves applying paper or mesh (the tape) over all joints between the panels and troweling on joint compound (the mud) over the taped seams and all screws. The mud is sanded smooth to create a monolithic appearance for the wall.
This is one of the messiest phases of construction. There is nothing so insidious as drywall dust. Plastic sheeting should be carefully attached to all openings in an effort to contain the dust, and vacuum-like attachments can also help to gather the dust before it has a chance to spread.
Drywall is also available in decorative panels. They come in 5/8-inch thick sheets with a pattern embossed or pressed into them. The most common applications for such decorative panels are on the ceiling or the wainscots for the walls. By using a drywall panel, you are killing two birds with one stone. When painted, the panels mimic the look of wood for a fraction of the cost in materials and labor.
As the drywall is applied, a remodeled home takes its final shape. When this phase is completed, you are ready to move on to installing the finishes that will give your home a personality all its own. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.