Exploring Wallboard For Your Bathroom Remodel

Written by bprescottJanuary 30, 2012
bathroom with wallboard walls

Discovering the Many Faces of Wallboard

Gypsum wallboard is the mainstay of the construction industry. Most walls and ceilings are now constructed with this inexpensive and durable product. Through the years, special-purpose wallboard panels like green board and cement board have been developed to overcome wallboard’s primary enemy: moisture.

Wallboard is one of the popular choices for a surface material of your new bathroom. It is also the preferred base for many other types of covering, ranging from wallpaper to paneling and wainscoting. In Table 5-1 you find a rundown of the basic types of wallboard and their characteristics.

Table 5-1 Wallboard and Its Uses

Name            Thickness            Size            Use

Standard wallboard

1/4 inch

4 x 8 feet

Wall, ceilings in dry areas

 

3/8 inch

4 x 12 feet

Wall, ceilings in dry areas

 

1/2 inch

4 x 12 feet

Wall, ceilings in dry areas

 

5/8 inch

4 x 12 feet

Wall, ceilings in dry areas

 

3/4 inch

4 x 12 feet

Wall, ceilings in dry areas

Foil-backed

3/8 inch

4 x 8 feet

Wall, ceilings where vapor barrier is needed

 

1/2 inch

4 x 12 feet

Wall, ceilings where vapor barrier is needed

 

5/8 inch

4 x 12 feet

Wall, ceilings where vapor barrier is needed

Green board

1/2 inch

4 x 8 feet

Walls in high-moisture area

 

5/8 inch

4 x 12 feet

Walls in high-moisture area

Cement board

1/2 inch

32 inches x 5 feet

Walls, wet areas, tile underlayment

 

1/2 inch

36 inches x 5 feet

Walls, wet areas, tile underlayment

 

5/16 inch

48 inches x 48 inches

Floors, underlayment

Note: The 1/4- and 3/8-inch drywall is primarily used for lamination. It may be used to create curved surfaces and installed over old plaster. Several layers may be glued together so the top layer hides the fasteners.

Standard wallboard

Unless you live in a house constructed before the 1950s, you’re surrounded by wallboard panels, also called drywall. The panels have a gypsum plaster core covered by a paper facing. The joints between the panels are concealed with fiberglass or paper tape embedded in wallboard compound. After the wallboard is painted, the paper facing absorbs some of the paint and dries to a smooth surface.

The panels come in 1/4-, 3/8-, 1/2-, 5/8-, and 3/4-inch thicknesses. Standard panels are 4 feet wide and come in lengths of 8 or 12 feet. Most home centers and lumberyards carry 4-x-8-foot sheets in 3/8-, 1/2-, and 5/8-inch thicknesses. You’ll also find some 12-foot-long sheets.

Foil-backed wallboard

Standard wallboard with an aluminum foil backing is a material that serves as a vapor barrier, which can be an effective solution to preventing condensation. Exterior walls, especially those in high-moisture areas such as a bathroom, must contain a vapor barrier to prevent condensation from forming in the wall cavity. This type of drywall should not be installed over an existing vapor barrier.

Green board

The gypsum plaster core of standard wallboard will absorb water and begin to separate from the paper face if exposed to excessive moisture. The paper covering will also mildew if exposed to dampness for extended periods of time. To help prevent this problem, moisture-resistant wallboard, called green board because- duh- it’s green, was developed. It’s designed to be installed in high-moisture areas, such as a bathroom, and is the preferred substrate or base for tile in high-moisture areas. But it’s not waterproof, so we don’t recommend it as a base for tile around tubs and in shower stalls.

Don’t install tile over green board that is applied over a vapor barrier. Use cement backerboard instead.

Cement board

To overcome the shortcomings of wallboard, manufacturers developed a 1/2-inch-thick board that has a cement-based core rather than plaster. Cement board, also called backerboard, is water resistant and is the ideal backing for tile in wet areas such as the bathtub surround and shower stall.

Cement board is available in 1/2-inch and 5/16-inch thickness. The /2 inch-thick board is used as a backer for tile and is available in sheets that range from 32 to 48 inches wide and 3 to 8 feet long. The thinner 5/16-inch board is used for floor underlayment and is available in the same sizes. Manufacturers’ specifications and sizes do vary, so check with your lumberyard to find out what sizes they stock.

 

From ‘Bathroom Remodeling For Dummies’
Copyright © 2003 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

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