Are my apartment walls concrete? How to tell if there’s concrete behind drywall?
Homeowners install drywall for several reasons. Drywall provides support for ceiling pieces. It is also used to create a tight and fitted corner in concrete walls.
Walls are built using structural materials like steel, concrete, masonry or wood. Homeowners often apply drywall to concrete walls for a more refined look. But this hides the real wall, making it difficult to tell if it’s concrete that’s behind the drywall.
That said, there are ways to find out if there is concrete behind the drywall or not.
- Assuming there is no drywall, knock on the wall’s surface. If the wall feels as hard as concrete then it probably is.
- If there’s drywall in place, grab a drill, attach a small drill bit and drill a hole somewhere that’s unnoticeable. If the drill doesn’t go further than an inch or two, the wall is concrete.
- Alternatively, you can get a small concrete grinder or flap disc and attach it to a custom drill bit. Use this to polish the wall to expose the embedded aggregate in concrete. Concrete aggregates include crushed gravel and sand.
Plaster Wall & Drywall: Differences (4 Ways To Tell)
Can’t figure out if you have a drywall or plaster wall? If you didn’t build or renovate the house or apartment, chances are you don’t know what kind of walls were used. There are four ways you can find out whether the apartment has drywall or a plaster wall:
- Remove an electrical socket
- Do a hardness test
- Check for cracks
- Find out the age of the home
1. Remove The Electrical Socket
If there are any electrical sockets on the wall, pick one and remove it using a screwdriver. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to cut a cross-section of the wall through the hole for cut for the socket or switch.
If you see a layer of paper on either side of broken gypsum, it’s drywall. Drywall contains gypsum — a soft white or grey mineral material that’s made up of hydrated calcium sulphate. Also known as gypsum board, drywall is often made with paper fibre and other additives so that when you cut a hole through it, most of the crumbs that fall out contain paper.
For plaster, however, it’s different. Plaster walls do not contain paper on either side of the wall material. Usually, what you will find is rock-hard plaster over wood laths.
Wood lath or slat are thin, narrow strips of straight-grained wood, which are often used under roofs and tiles, including walls. They are used together with plaster to finish mainly interior dividing walls and ceilings.
With a flashlight, you’ll be able to see the first coat of plaster that’s sandwiched between the lath.
2. Do A Hardness Test
Performing a hardness test is another way to check if you have drywall or a plaster wall. It’s simple to do. Get a thumbtack or drawing pin and push it into the wall. If it’s drywall, the pin will be swallowed after applying thumb pressure —the drywall is relatively soft. If it’s plaster, however, a thumb pressure won’t be enough to push the pin in, unless you hammer it. Plaster walls are much harder than drywall.
Alternatively, you can use a nail if you don’t have a thumbtack. Since drywall is soft, driving a nail into it is easy. Plaster walls, on the other hand, will resist the nail—yes, they’re quite hard. Most times, these walls will try to bounce any nail you hammer on them. When you finally cut through them, the hole created by the nail is quite larger than the nail itself. Nails driven into plaster walls are often loose and risk falling out.
3. Check For Cracks
Another way to check if your room or apartment has drywall or plaster wall is to look for cracks. As plaster walls get older, cracks are often formed on them. These cracks look like spider web lines that hang from your ceilings and walls. However, on drywalls, cracks are hardly formed. If there are any, it’s usually formed in areas like patched holes or where seams were done using joint compound.
Plaster walls are no longer popular and have been phased out. The ones you’ll likely find are in homes built during the world war period. As a result, most of them are old and would likely have cracks on their surface —this is how to identify a plaster wall.
4. Find Out The Age Of The Home
Plaster walls were very popular before World War II. Although at the time, drywall existed. But plaster walls were more common. Then people preferred it as a sound insulator. It was both hard and sturdy.
Drywall wasn’t popular then as it is now until after 1960. So most houses built before this time used plaster walls.
If your home was built before World War II, it is very likely the walls are plaster. However, if it was built between 1945 and 1960, it could be either of them (plaster or drywall). If the house was built after 1960, chances are the walls are drywall.
Recently, many homeowners are renovating their walls and using drywall. Because drywall is cheap and easy to install, most homeowners now prefer it to the more expensive and labour intensive plaster. Though it isn’t a great choice for insulating sound like plaster, drywall is a more energy-efficient option.
Advantages Of Drywalls
- It is cheap
- It doesn’t require any hard labour
- It takes lesser time to install
- It is more energy efficient
Disadvantages Of Drywalls
- Because it has thinner layers than plaster walls, they’re not effective for reducing noise
- Not all drywall is not water-resistant. Some absorb water easily which promotes mould growth
- The surface of drywall is prone to damage if it is not plastered
- It is not as flexible as plaster
Advantages Of Plaster Walls
- Plaster gives walls a more stylish and refined look
- It is more sound resistant than drywall
Disadvantages of Plaster Walls
- It is difficult to insulate compared to drywall which has a variety of options
- It is more expensive than drywall
- It is difficult to install — requires skilled hands and special training
Are Plaster Walls Stronger Than Drywalls?
Plaster walls are often thicker than most drywall sheets. Unlike drywall, it’s difficult to hang anything over plaster walls or drive anything through them.
Plaster walls are also heavier than drywall sheets because they are thicker
Why Do You Plaster Walls?
Plaster wall finishes generally last longer than paint jobs and wallpaper do. Plus, it is a “healthy interior material”, says Foster Reeve, whose company, Foster Reeve, does plaster wall finishes.
Plaster also offers a variety of new finishes and applications. Some like Tadelakt from Morocco are thicker and more water-resistant than a standard plaster finish.
How To Clean Plaster Walls
Clean plaster walls without damaging them by using the following tips:
- Dip a soft cloth in warm water and then thoroughly squeeze it out
- Apply a small amount of soap on the clothe and work it up until it forms lather
- Rub the plaster wall with the soapy cloth in a circular motion
- Dip the clothing in warm water to rinse and dry it
- Wipe off any soapy residue of the plaster wall using a dry soft cloth.
- You can repeat the processes on other parts of the wall.