Concrete Wall Vs. Drywall: 7 Deciding Factors

You might assume that a concrete wall and drywall have a lot in common, but in reality, they have many more differences than similarities.

When comparing a concrete wall with drywall, several factors set them apart.

Drywall is made from gypsum and paper, and concrete walls are a mixture of water, Portland cement, and an aggregate. Drywall is used for interior partitions, while concrete walls are ideal for load-bearing projects like foundations and exterior walls. Drywall isn’t as strong and durable as concrete, and it’s less resistant to moisture, mold, weather, fire, and pests. 

Read on to learn about drywall and concrete walls, how to tell them apart, and their similarities and differences.

Concrete Wall Vs. Drywall: What Sets Them Apart?

For a quick overview, check out the chart below. Read on for a more detailed explanation of these two types of walls and how they differ from each other.

CharacteristicDrywallConcrete Wall
Common ApplicationsInterior partitions; non-load-bearing wallsExterior walls, foundations, driveways, patios, and other projects meant to be permanent
Ease Of InstallationEasy and straightforward; can be a DIY projectUsually requires professional installation
Strength And DurabilityModerately durable, but not very strong; cannot be used as a load-bearing wallExtremely strong and durable; ideal for load-bearing walls
CompositionGypsum between two thick sheets of paperA mixture of water, Portland cement, and an aggregate
Resistance To Moisture, Weather, Fire, Mold, And PestsModerately resistantExtremely resistant
AppearanceLight and clean; can be easily painted over or wallpaperedDark and heavy; can be painted or tiled over
CostTypically inexpensiveModerately expensive, depending on the size of the wall and other factors

Drywall 

Drywall goes by many different names: sheetrock, wallboard, gypsum board, and plasterboard are just a few.

It consists of gypsum, a powdery gray mineral that comes in the form of plaster, which is sandwiched between two thick paper boards.

The gypsum dries and hardens between the sheets of paper, and it doesn’t require wet mortar for installation. Drywall uses wood frames or studs as supports. You’ll most frequently see drywall used for interior walls and partitions. 

One of the nice things about drywall is that it’s pretty easy to install, even for beginners. However, it typically requires at least two people for installation.

You can find all of the tools and supplies necessary for drywall installation at your local hardware store or online.

The basics of the drywall installation process are to measure the wall, build the supports, cut out the spaces where piping and outlets will go, and place the sheetrock.

In comparison to concrete, plaster, and plywood, drywall tends to be much cheaper. It’s also very easy to take down, replace, and repair.

Drywall is fire-resistant and provides some insulation on its own, but you can increase its insulating capabilities by adding insulating material to it. It has a smooth finish that’s easy to paint or wallpaper over.

Although it’s not as durable as other materials, drywall is very lightweight. It’s important to note that it’s not structurally sound or load-bearing.

Concrete Wall

A concrete wall may be made of concrete blocks that are piled and bonded together with wet mortar, or it may be a traditional concrete wall that is poured into wooden forms until it has hardened.

Traditional concrete walls also have rebar inside to strengthen them.

Concrete, in general, is a compound material made of a mixture of water, Portland cement, and an aggregate. The aggregate is usually gravel, fine rocks, or sand. 

Unlike drywall, concrete walls do not need wall studs and aren’t often used for interior walls.

Since concrete walls are basically permanent, they’re more often used for exterior walls, foundations, driveways, patios, walkways, and other projects meant to last long-term.

Another way concrete differs from drywall is that it’s not often installed as a DIY project. The process is expensive and requires attention to detail, so it’s often handled by a professional construction team.

Concrete walls are extremely solid, strong, secure, and durable. They can handle quite a bit of weight.

They’re fireproof, weather-resistant, and somewhat soundproof, and concrete can retain heat, so it requires adequate air conditioning and insulation.

How To Determine Whether A Wall Is Drywall Or Concrete

If you’re unsure whether a wall is made of drywall or concrete, there are a couple of easy ways to figure it out.

First, knock on the wall and listen to the sound that the knocking creates. A hollow sound indicates drywall, while a more solid sound means the wall is made of concrete.

Here is a quick video demonstrating the sounds drywall and concrete make when you knock on them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-nUPz1Ndws

You can also drill into the wall to figure out whether it is drywall or concrete. With drywall, the drill will go through a couple of inches of material and then reach a hollow part of the wall.

Similarities Between Concrete Walls And Drywall

There aren’t too many similarities between concrete walls and drywall. Both are common building materials, and in many cases, both are used when a house or other structure is being constructed.

Concrete walls are typically used for foundations and exterior walls, while drywall is employed for interior partitions.

Differences Between Concrete Walls And Drywall

There are many areas that set concrete walls and drywall apart. 

1. Ease Of Installation

Drywall is much easier to handle and install than concrete.

Many homeowners undertake drywall installation as a DIY project, but concrete usually requires professional installation.

2. Strength And Durability

Concrete is much stronger than drywall, which is why it’s often used for exterior walls, foundations, and load-bearing partitions. It’s dense, solid, and structurally sound, so it can bear quite a bit of weight. 

Drywall, on the other hand, cracks and breaks easily under pressure. It can’t be used for load-bearing walls and is not structurally sound.

3. Composition

Drywall is primarily made from gypsum and thick sheets of paper. It sometimes includes other fibers like fiberglass as well.

Meanwhile, concrete is made from water, Portland cement, and some type of aggregate, such as gravel or sand.

4. Resistance To Weather And Moisture

Concrete is very moisture-resistant and can stand up to inclement weather.

Drywall is not moisture-resistant and should not be used for exterior walls as it will not be able to handle weather changes.

5. Resistance To Fire

Drywall is somewhat fire-resistant, but in comparison to concrete, it’s much less capable of withstanding combustion.

This is because it’s nearly impossible to get concrete to catch on fire.

6. Resistance To Mold And Pests

Concrete is much more resistant to mold and pests than drywall; however, drywall is somewhat resistant to these issues.

7. Appearance

Generally, drywall looks a lot nicer than concrete walls, and it’s a lot easier to wallpaper or paint over. It can be installed with different finishes to yield a desired interior design look. This is one of the reasons why it’s much preferred for interior walls.

While concrete can be painted or tiled over, it doesn’t have the same light, clean look as drywall.


Concrete Wall Vs. Drywall: Which Is Better?

The main question when deciding between a concrete wall or drywall is whether you’re constructing an interior or exterior wall.

Drywall is best for interior walls; it has a clean, customizable look and is very cost-effective.

A concrete wall is an ideal choice for exterior walls and load-bearing walls, as it’s much stronger and more durable. It’s also highly resistant to moisture, fire, mold, pests, and weather.


Conclusion

A concrete wall is very different from drywall, starting with its formulation. Drywall is made from gypsum sandwiched between thick paper boards, and concrete walls are made from an aggregate mixed with water and Portland cement.

You’ll most often see drywall used for non-load-bearing interior partitions. Meanwhile, concrete walls are perfect for foundations, exterior walls, patios, and driveways.

Concrete walls are extremely strong and durable in comparison to drywall. They’re also highly resistant to moisture, mold, fire, pests, and weather changes.