Tuesday, April 10, 2012

dry construction

Gypsum drywall must be one of the most under-appreciated inventions of the modern world. First developed in the 1890s at the New York Coal Tar Chemical Company by Augustine Sackett and Fred Kane, drywall replaced the more labor-intensive process of carefully placing several layers of plaster over lath. Lath and plaster construction is not just laborious, it's wet, heavy and time consuming. By comparison, gypsum drywall is lightweight, installs quickly and requires less specialized labor.

The first installation of drywall at tin box today spurred this meditation on its myriad benefits...

Drywall is a generic term for wall boards with a layer of hemi-hydrate gypsum plaster (the same material as Plaster of Paris) wrapped in a sheet of (recycled) paper. The board is dimensionally stable (so it won't warp) and is fastened to the steel studs with self-tapping bugle-head screws. Large flat areas go up very quickly, and the board is easily cut to fit in place. In the photo at left, you can see the wood blocking in the kitchen wall which we've installed to give our cabinetmaker a solid member to brace the pantries and wall cabinets. The insulation suppresses the sound transmission through the walls. We're using 5/8" thick drywall, which is much better at reducing sound transmission than the 1/2" thick board that a lot of developers and contractors use as a cost-saving measure.

There are two kinds of wall board used in wet areas. The green board is a kind of drywall that can be used as a backer board for tile in areas that are humid, but not subject to drenching. We're using green board in places like the half bath (left) that will have tile or will have to deal with humidity, but that don't have streams of water hitting them.

In the showers and around the bathtubs, we need to use a cementitious backer board for the tile. This material is designed for wet locations, and resists mold growth. We're using Durock, which is made by USG (the G once stood for gypsum), the company that purchased Sackett's company in 1909.

Our drywall is made by Lafarge in their north Florida plant. From a sustainability standpoint, this is great: the drywall is made 325 miles from our house (well within the 500 mile radius prescribed by LEED to earn credit as a local material). Lafarge's drywall is also made from 99% recycled material, which is terrific.

1 comment:

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