Are My Walls Drywall or Plaster? [6 Ways To Find Out]

When buying a new house, it’s important to know what type of surface you have, especially if you’re planning on renovating it. Sometimes it’s hard to know what surface was installed before, especially when Plaster or Drywall was used. So, how do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference might help you save a lot of money and time, but also, some areas of your house might have special insulation, and if you decide only to renovate a part of it, you might end up with a big problem later down the road. 

What Does A Drywall Look Like?

Before diving in, we must first know what both options are and look like. So, let’s first start with Drywall, as this is also the most commonly used type in today’s modern houses. 

Drywall can be bought in almost any color, but it’s essentially made of high-quality calcium sulfate or gypsum. If your wall has gypsum, it’s most likely Drywall. Secondly, it will have two sheets of sandwiches in between the gypsum. This material is what serves as a protective barrier for the interior sides of ceilings and walls. 

Another thing you’ll noticeable aspect of Drywall is that the gypsum is mixed with finer glass, plasticizer and paper fiber, and a special foaming agent. This foaming agent is included to reduce mold growth and spread, flammability and to increase water absorption capacity.

Any wall with water absorption capacity and beam concealment features is most likely Drywall. It can be used for walls, ceilings, and even wrap columns. Today’s new feature, most modern drywalls, have advanced insulation properties to keep excess sound in. The insulation properties. Also, retain heat in rooms and keep cold air out.

So, in a nutshell, if your wall has gypsum deposits, is insulated, and has water-resistant properties, it’s definitely not plaster but Drywall. It’s also important to note that Drywall does not insulate enough by itself, so you need proper insulation.

What Does A Plaster Look Like?

To know what plaster looks like, you should examine the composition material. Unlike drywalls that are coated with gypsum and sold as sheets, plaster is sold as dry powder. This powder is what is mixed with water before it’s used. Plasters are mostly made with a hit of materials like gypsum or cement mixed with water or sand. 

Plaster is a material mostly used for coating, protecting, and decorating walls and ceilings, but it can also be used to decorate corbels and cornices.

Plaster has smooth and hard surfaces with no edges across the surface. If you knock on the surface with your knuckles or hard tool, you’ll hear a hard thud sound like the sound you hear when you knock on a door.

How Do You Know If Your Wall Is Drywall or Plaster?

Here are some tips to help you tell whether you have plaster or Drywall in your home. Note that these tips should not be taken in isolation, but a combination of two or more tips will help you know which one you have in your home or office.

Tip 1 – Age of your home

One of the easiest ways to know whether your home has Drywall or plaster is to find out when the home was built. Plasters were the first material of choice for decades until the late 1945s. Despite the invention of the Drywall in 1916, many builders did not accept the material as a viable option. This gradually changed during the 1960s, when many builders and remodelers started using drywalls.

If your home was built in the 1940s, it’s definitely plaster. It might be plaster or Drywall if it was built between the 50s and 60s. Any time after the 60s is most likely Drywall.

Tip 2 – Look for cracks

Another way to know whether you have Drywall or plaster is to look for cracks. Cracks are relatively easy to spot if you look closely. If you find cracks, you have a plaster wall because drywalls don’t crack (that much); if they do due to the wrong installation, the cracks are much smaller. Cracks on drywalls are commonly found around the sealed joint areas.

Plasters, however, have web-like cracks in all directions and flaking paints. Flaking paint is common if the coat is oil paint or latex paint over oil paint. 

Tip 3 – Pushpin Test

If the first two tips don’t give you convincing results, it’s time to do a pushpin test. This test is done using a pushpin. Just take a pushpin and places the tip on the wall, then apply pressure to force it with your thumb. If the pin goes through the wall easily, it’s Drywall; if it doesn’t or the pin bends, it’s plaster.

Drywalls are softer than plaster, so a pin will penetrate easily, while plaster will remain firm unless you strike the surface with a hammer. Even if you use a nail, you will find it difficult to drive it into the plaster with a hammer. 

Tip 4 – Knock the wall

Knocking is another option. Place your knuckle on the surface and keep knocking as you move sideways. Listen intently. If it’s Drywall, you will hear a hollow sound until you reach the stud, turning into a dense sound, that is, if you’ve installed your Drywall correctly, meaning it ends on a stud. If it’s plaster, the sound will not change but remain a thick sound all through.

Tip 5 – Look behind the wall

Another way to know is to look behind the. To do this, disconnect the switch plate or socket to check the wall cross-section. If it’s plaster, you will not see any paper in sight; instead, you will see seeped laths or keys. However, you will find paper layers coated with gypsum if it’s Drywall. Furthermore, electric wires behind drywalls are covered by an electric box, unlike loose wires you find behind plaster.

Tip 6 – Check the Attic/Basement

The last tip is to check your attic or basement to get a clear view of the back of the wall. Loose wires characterize plaster walls with similar-sized wooden strips. If it’s Drywall, you will find vertically arranged studs placed side by side. The wood spacing for the studs is the reason why some parts produce hollow sounds when you knock the surface while the other parts produce dense sounds.

There are a few other tips you can use to tell if you have plaster or Drywall, but these six tips are some of the easiest ways to find out. Some remodelers also advise the homeowner to look for dust and debris on the floor close to the wall from time to time. Drywalls often produce particles after a long time, while plaster does not.

Is Plaster Better Than Drywall?

It depends on your preference, but in terms of durability, plaster wins it. By nature, plaster has a much longer shelf life than Drywall and offers a better finish. The cost per inch of plaster may be a little above Drywall, but it remains the economical choice for an entire house. Furthermore, the plaster will still fair better once it begins to wear out than Drywall. The only area where Drywall outperforms plaster is in the area of ease of installation. It will also cost less if you cover only a limited space, but plaster remains the best choice for large spaces.

Are Plaster Walls Stronger Than Drywall?

Yes, plaster walls are stronger than drywalls for several reasons. Plaster is harder and far more durable than Drywall because of the type of materials used. Plaster walls have harder surfaces, can withstand pressure, and handle hits far better than drywalls. Moreover, plaster has more insulation and better soundproof and fireproof properties.

In addition, mold doesn’t grow in plaster and is water resistant, unlike drywalls that are susceptible to leaks and mold growth. Lastly, plaster is more appealing and can hold more weight than Drywall.


Can You Put Drywall Over Plaster?

Yes, you can. If the plaster in your home has lost its appeal and looks worse for wear, it will cost you a huge sum to reface it again. Covering it with Drywall is a clever way to improve its appearance. Drywall, however, will need a strong substrate, so you will need to fasten the loose plaster to the wood strips behind the plaster screws. 

The screw fitting will firm up the plaster and prevent it from cracking or chirping. Scrape off any crumbled plaster from the lath and refill hollow crevices to cover them up. Once you have stabilized the plaster, it will form a base for the new Drywall to rest on.

Covering old plaster with Drywall remains a cost-effective way to remodel your home and give it a facelift. Once you complete the finishing, the Drywall will remain in place for many years/

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