What Is A Drywall Really Made Out Of? [Answer Explained]


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Drywall is a construction material that’s used to protect the walls in a building. It has thin, layered panels of gypsum board that is separated by layers of special paper. Each layer of the board is separated by gypsum rock sandwiched between the special paper.

Drywall is easy to install. Although it is naturally fire-resistant, it is not 100% fireproof.

What is the Main Ingredient in Drywall?

The primary ingredient in drywall is gypsum.

Gypsum (or dihydrous calcium sulphate) is a light density rock found in many deposits worldwide.

Gypsum contains two molecules of water (H2O) and one molecule of CaSo4. In its pure form, gypsum is white. But it can be grey, brown, pink or black if it contains impurities.

Gypsum is one of the most widely used minerals today. It is used in a wide variety of applications. For example, gypsum is used as an ingredient in toothpaste. It is also used as a filler in products like paints, drugs and cosmetics.

In agriculture, raw gypsum is used as a fertiliser and soil conditioner. It is also a rich source of calcium, which is used to protect foods like bread.

In films, gypsum is used to create fake snowstorms.

Gypsum that has been crushed into powder, with 75% of its water removed through heating is known as plaster of Paris. If you add water to this powder, you can mould it into any shape you want. For instance, gypsum can be moulded into gypsum board —a material sculptor used to make things like pottery, dishes, bathrooms fixtures, including casts for broken bones.

While gypsum is often mined naturally, up to 20% of it used to manufacture drywall can be generated from waste materials at manufacturing plants and construction sites.

The special paper used to make drywall are of two types — ivory manila face paper and grey back paper. Both are made from recycled newspapers.

Does Drywall Contain Silica?

Drywall joint compounds are made from many ingredients; some of them include talc, calcite, gypsum and silica.

Construction workers are often exposed to high levels of drywall dust when sanding drywall joint compound. In some cases, these specks of dust may contain silica.

Breathing the dust from the drywall joint compound is unhealthy. It can irritate your throat and cause severe breathing difficulties.

If the inhaled dust contains silica, it can cause silicosis. Silicosis is a long-term lung disease that affects people who inhale large amounts of silica dust. But this often happens after many years.

Though silica is naturally found in certain types of stone, sand and clay—like gypsum—breathing the dust from working with these materials can damage the lungs.

Once inhaled and inside the lungs, it causes it to swell. Then, slowly, affected areas in the lungs become hardened and scarred (fibrosis). At this stage, the affected lung areas will stop functioning properly.

While construction and demolition workers are at higher risks of inhaling silica dust, people who work in these industries are also at risk:

  • Stonemasonry and stone cutting—especially those dealing with sandstone
  • Worktop manufacturing and fitting
  • Pottery, ceramics and glass manufacturing
  • Mining and quarrying
  • Sandblasting

What is the Difference Between Sheetrock and Drywall?

There is really no difference between sheetrock and drywall. In fact, most people like to use both terms interchangeably.

Perhaps the only unique difference between them is that sheetrock is a brand of drywall.

Put simply, if drywall is carbohydrate, sheetrock is a type of carbohydrate. Another way to think this is that: all sheetrock is drywall, but not all drywall is sheetrock.

Drywall is mostly made of gypsum (often between 70% to 90%) and 10% paper.

Sheetrock, on the other hand, is a specially designed drywall made solely by the US Gypsum Corporation. It is made using a special formula. Both drywall and sheetrock are used for making walls and ceilings.

Other brands of drywall include natural gypsum, georgia-pacific and certainteed—all contain gypsum.

What is the Difference Between Gypsum Board and Sheetrock?

Nothing much. Both contain gypsum and are used for walls and ceilings.

Gypsum board is also known as plasterboard or drywall. It is made from gypsum and paper and is used for making plaster boards, walls and ceilings. The National Gypsum makes gypsum boards.

Sheetrock is a type of drywall that’s made and designed by the United States Gypsum Corporation (USG Corp.) The USG uses a patented sheetrock formula to make sheetrock. As it stands, the USG is the only company that can make sheetrock drywall. Also, it is the largest manufacturer of gypsum products in North America.

Can Drywall Be Recycled?

Yes, you can recycle drywall.

Drywall contains around 70 to 90% gypsum with makes up the bulk of its weight. If the gypsum in the drywall can be recovered, the majority of the material can be recycled.

Presently, scrap drywall is being recycled in several locations in North America. These materials are used in making new drywall, and, an ingredient in cement manufacturing; as soil enhancers; for producing fertilisers, and as an additive in compost manufacture.

What Are the Symptoms of Silicosis?

The symptoms of silicosis usually take years before they develop. Most times you won’t notice any problems until after you have stopped working with materials the produce silica dust. And even after you’ve stopped working with materials that generate the dust, the symptoms may worsen over time.

There isn’t a fixed period for silicosis to develop. But it usually takes 10 to 20 years after being exposed to silica dust.

Although sometimes it can be less, say, 5 to 10 years. That said, you can still develop silicosis after only a few months of heavy exposure to silica dust.

Main Symptoms

Silicosis main symptoms include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Persistent shortness of breath
  • Weakness and tiredness.

Sadly, if the disease continues to get worse, these symptoms we’ve listed may become more severe too.

For affected persons, simple activities such as walking and climbing stairs may become very difficult so much that they’re confined to their house or bed.

However, if the problem persists further, affected persons can be at serious risk as things may turn fatal. Usually, this may happen if the person’s lungs stop functioning properly or serious complications occur.

Can You Get Sick from Construction Dust?

Yes, you can get sick from inhaling construction dust.

Construction dust is unhealthy for your lungs and could hamper your breathing. As such, regularly breathing construction dust can cause diseases like lung cancer, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and silicosis.

People who can easily get sick from construction dust and have a higher risk of developing these diseases are construction workers. This is because a lot of construction tasks create high levels of dust, including silica dust.

According to Health and Safety Executive, over 500 construction workers are believed to die from silica dust every year.

How Do I Get Rid of Drywall Dust from My House?

Inhaling too much of drywall dust in your house can make you sick, especially when trying to repair your old drywall or install a new one. The dust may contain huge amount of silica, which causes silicosis (swelling of the lungs) and lung cancer.

Because drywall dust is dangerous for your health, it is vital that you get rid of it immediately you finish refurbishing your old drywall or after installing a new one

Here are simple steps on how to get rid of drywall dust from your house:

  • Open your windows and make sure your heating, ventilating and air conditioning units are turned off. Block all air vents (anything that allows air into your house) with plastic sheeting and put on a dust mask.
  • Sweep the bulk of the drywall dust with a broom and collect them in a pail or dirtbag. Don’t worry about the drywall dust you couldn’t collect. Allow them to settle for 15 minutes, then sweep and gather them again.
  • Open a window and put a fan in it—the fan should point towards the outside of the window. Next, sweep again, but this time do it energetically, directing the dust toward the fan as you do. If you have more fans, open more windows and put them in each.
  • Wait another 15 minutes for the dust to float out the window, then vacuum the whole floor.
  • Finally, wipe the entire floor with water and mop or with a wet cloth to remove any dust residue. Do the same for other surfaces near where you’ve vacuumed as well.

References:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/silicosis/

https://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthrisks/hazardous-substances/construction-dust.htm

Silica Dust at a Glance: Answers to 7 FAQ About OSHA’s New Rule

https://www.hunker.com/13416822/the-best-way-to-clean-up-drywall-dust

Joe Taylor

Over 2 decades of remodeling experience, Joe is an expert in home improvement. He is now the Managing Editor of PlumbJoe where he writes guides for homeowners. His hobbies include climbing, running and playing the piano.

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