sheetrock-vs-drywall-pic1Sheetrock vs. Drywall, what is the issue. None really, it is mostly a difference in what you call the same product.

Are you involved in a 'Drywall Repair Project'? See the articles 'Drywall Patching', 'Repairing Water Damaged Drywall' and 'Taping and Mudding Drywall' for additional help.

What is Sheetrock?

To clarify, 'Sheetrock' is a brand name, owned by the United States Gypsum company. They have an entire line of products with the 'Sheetrock' designation, such as 'gypsum panels', 'joint compound' and 'joint tape'.

Sheetrock (used as a generic term), wallboard, drywall, plasterboard and sometimes, just plain 'rock', refer to paper faced panels with a gypsum core. In the last several decades, there have been several types and styles developed. Over the years, gypsum panels have replaced 'plaster' to provide smooth surfaces for walls and ceilings in many countries around the world.

So, officially, 'Sheetrock' is a Trade Name for a branded product, gypsum products manufactured by the United States Gypsum Company. What is interesting is that some dictionaries list it as a 'noun' the refers to paper faced gypsum panels. So, the name has been in use so long that some think of 'gypsum panels' as 'sheetrock', no matter what company actually made it.

The History of 'Sheetrock'

Lime based plaster has been around for thousands of years. Some of the famous architecture that we have admired down through the centuries employed various plastering techniques.

The problem with plaster is that when mixed and applied by hand, it is a fairly labor intensive activity. It also requires multiple coats to get the desired finish. Add to that the lengthy drying time that is often involved and you can see the need for a better product.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, several manufacturers started using gypsum to replace lime based plaster. This material was cheaper and easier to deal with.

By the 1930's a paper faced sheet product had been developed that had a gypsum core. This was the forerunner of modern day gypsum panels that come in four foot wide sheets. Most homes in the united states have gypsum panel products fastened to the framing members to create a smooth wall surface. In fact, whether we realize it or not, very few people in this country can get through a day without seeing a wall or ceiling that has been covered by a gypsum panel product or 'sheetrock'.

The United States Gypsum Company has been and industry leader in gypsum based technology throughout the twentieth century and into this century.

Sheetrock vs. Drywall

Paper faced gypsum panels are now manufactured by several manufacturers. Each one has their own trade name for the materials that they produce.

So, what's in a name? If you are just referring to generic gypsum panels, not much. The names we call them tend to be localized, following certain regions in the country. The Midwest leans strongly toward 'Sheetrock', since USG is based in Chicago. Other areas around the country use 'wallboard', 'gyp-board', 'drywall', 'plasterboard', or 'rock' (my personal favorite), No crime using any of them.

Each manufacturer has many proprietary products that have unique features that might be important to us. A visit to each specific website will provide you information on these products.


Call it what you like, 'Sheetrock' or 'Drywall'. The fact is that gypsum based panels hold up the paint in most homes and businesses in the United States and many other countries around the world. It is a great labor saving product.

Drywall sanding screen is a special product that is designed for, well you guessed it, sanding drywall. Your first question will likely be, 'How is it different from sandpaper?'. Put simply, it is truly a screen and the holes allow the dust to fall away without 'loading' up the grit. Another key feature is that it can be flipped over since it has grit on both sides.

There are several related topics that you are likely going to be interested in. See one or all of the articles, 'Patching Drywall', 'Fixing Holes in Drywall', 'Taping and Mudding Drywall', 'Plaster Wall Repairs' and 'Spackling Drywall'.

Many drywall finishing professionals prefer sanding screen to sand paper. However, the consensus is not conclusive, there are a significant number of professionals that also say that sand paper is the better way to go.

For a homeowner with a small drywall patch to deal with it may be a moot point. For small jobs, it does not matter that much whether you use, sanding screen, sandpaper or a sanding sponge. The determining factor is going to be, 'What do you have in your garage or basement?'.

When you have a larger project and need to purchase supplies, you may want to consider your options. The information below covers the way that drywall sanding screen is used, the advantages, drawbacks and instructions on how to use it.

Drywall Sanding Screen Uses

Sanding large areas of drywall that have been recently finished is where drywall sanding screen really shines. It works best on fresh drywall compound that is completely dry. Using it on compound that is not dry will cause it the load and fill the holes, rendering the screen useless.

You can also use sanding screen on a pole sander to prepare for painting. However, paint will fill and load the holes in the sanding screen. When the build up gets to a certain point the screen will not work effectively. Even turning the sheet over will not give you much more sanding power.

Drywall sanding screen does not work well at all on wood or painted surfaces. Paint tends to gum it up quicker than it does sandpaper. For bare wood surfaces it has a tendency to raise the grain and separate the fibers, making for a poor finishing surface.

Drywall Sanding Screen Pros

The main advantage to drywall sanding screen is that, it has holes in it. The holes allow the drywall dust to dissipate and not build up. Clogging of the aggregate on sand paper is the thing that will render it ineffective. Sanding screen allows the dust to fall away and not build up on the abrasive surface.

Another main advantage is that it has grit on both sides. When you where down one side, you can flip it over and continue using it. Effectively, sanding screen will last much longer than sand paper.

This material comes mostly in pre-cut sheets that are made to fit on the head of a sanding pole. This is the common tool used by drywall finishers for sanding duties. Simply loosen the clamps on the head and insert the pre-cut sheet and away you go.

Drywall Sanding Screen Cons

It designed for use on gypsum finishing products. It does a poor job on other surface.

It gums up easily when used on painted surfaces. It will work to prep walls for painting, but you will not get your moneys worth, since the paint will bind it up quickly, making the second side useless.

Where Do You Purchase Sanding Screen?

Drywall sanding screen is usually sold at locations that sell drywall and drywall finishing products.  Big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes will have it. Most hardware stores and some paint stores will also carry it.

It is usually sold in pre-cut sheets that are approximately 4 1/4" x 11 1/4". It can be found in full size sheets that are the same as regular sandpaper, but this is less common.

The sheets are packaged with as few as (1) sheet and as many as (100) sheets. Two to five sheets in a package is the likely amount. For a small repair job, a single sheet will be more than enough.

How to Use Drywall Sanding Screen

Sanding screen is not that hard to use. Most of the time it comes in pre-cut sheets that are attached to a special sanding head. This head is either hand held or attached to a pole that has a pivoting head.

Using the Sanding Head

The sanding block will have a clamp on each side to hold the sanding screen in place. You will notice the sheets are notched at the location for the bolt that holds the clamp in place. There are also notches at the corners where the sheet is intended to fold over the sanding block.

Loosen the clamp on one side and insert the screen into the clamp, centering it on the sanding block. Tighten the wing nut on the clamp and fold the sanding screen back over the face of the sanding block.

Loosen the other clamp and fold the screen over the end of the block. You want to get the screen underneath the clamp and pushed in as far as it can go. Tighten the clamp and you are ready for action.

Using a Sanding Pole

When you have large areas to sand, a sanding pole is the tool of choice. The head pivots allowing you to get into corners and change directions at will. The pole also allows you to reach larger areas from one position. You can also sand normal height ceilings from the floor without using a bench or ladder.

A sanding pole takes a little getting used to. When you try and change directions you may find that the head tends to flip over, sometimes denting or marking the surface you are sanding. Change directions slowly until you get used to the feel of how it pivots, it will save you some touch up.

You don't want to press too hard on the head. Let the sanding screen do its job. The idea is to get the area smooth for painting. If you cut too deeply into the compound you will groove it, or take all of the mud off the tape. When this happens you will have to apply more compound.

If the surface is too uneven, you may have to brush off the high points and skim it with compound another time. Use your hand and a light to see if you are getting the surface prepared properly. If you feel high spots, hit it again with the sanding screen lightly until you get a smooth surface.

You can also check your work with a light. Hold a light at a low angle to the surface that you are sanding to check for shadows. The light will pick up every imperfection in your wall, so only do it if you think you are missing something. If you see obvious flaws with the light you can continue sanding or applying another coat to depressions. Don't look for perfection, you just want it to look smooth when it is painted.

Sanding Screen Warnings

One caution that cannot be overemphasized is not to sand too hard. If you have to sand hard you probably have not properly filled all of the voids with drywall compound.

The danger is that you will sand through the compound and into the tape or paper. When that happens, you need to start over in applying the compound. You will likely be faced with two more coats of compound. You will have to wait for them to dry and your painting project will be further delayed.

So be gentle when you use sanding screen. This counsel is even more important when you are using lightweight compound. This type of compound is softer than the standard stuff, and cuts away quickly when sanded.

Drywall Sanding Screen Summary

In this article we have provided you with an overview of what drywall sanding screen is used for. It is a fairly inexpensive and versatile product that can help you with any drywall or sheetrock project.

There are several related topics that you are likely going to be interested in. See one or all of the articles, 'Patching Drywall', 'Fixing Holes in Drywall', 'Taping and Mudding Drywall', 'Plaster Wall Repairs' and 'Spackling Drywall'.


You also learned where you can purchase sanding screen at and what type of packaging it comes in. If you are doing a small job, you may be able to buy as little as one or two sheets. Normally, sanding screen is used with some special sanding heads. They are not a big investment and they make the job a lot easier.

Finally we talked about how to use drywall sanding screen. There are some cautions and you want to tread lightly with this tool, or you might wind up doing some of your work over again.

We hope your project is going as planned and that the sanding screen meets your expectations.

When we talk about a drywall sanding sponge we could be talking about more than one thing. Originally, a sponge was used to 'wet sand' the drywall.

Water can be added to a standard household sponge and the sponge willl smooth the drywall. Saying that you are sanding is a bit of a misnomer, the sponge actually dissolves the drywall mud. This makes it easy to groove or otherwise remove too much of the finish.

Sponges That Actually Sand

A few years ago, the technology came out that allowed abrasive type sponges to be created. The plastics or polymers used are similar to your plastic pot scrubbers. They are tough and last as long or longer than the equivalent sand paper.

For drywall they are ideal, since drywall compound is fairly soft and it does not wear them down too quickly.

Sanding drywall is a critical step. It does the final smoothing of the surface in preparation for paint. Sanding can range from very light for a good taping job to arduous for a poorly done coating job.

As a rule you use between 100 and 220 grit for sanding drywall. The finer grit is for the last coat. There are a number of types of sanders available, pole sanders, hand sanders, sanding sponges and plain old sanding paper. The idea is to have a fairly large flat sanding block. Avoid using sand paper. You can dig grooves in the mud with your fingers. Do not sand to much mud away. Get it smooth and stop. Use your hand to check for smoothness.

Wet sanding and vacuum sanding are ways to try and minimize the dust. See the article 'Dustless Drywall Sanding' for more information. Wet sanding can work for all but the last or final pass. Wet sanding is a misnomer, what you are doing is actually dissolving the mud and getting it on the rag. Be careful that you don't dissolve too much.

There are sanding heads available with vacuum attachments A lot of fooling around but it does help. Using mud with dustless technology is a good idea, especially for patches. The dust is designed to fall straight to the ground without becoming airborne. It is not completely mess free, but it is a definite improvement.

You want your taping mudding drywall repair to be smooth when it is done. Sand the drywall until you achieve the desired finish and stop. Light weight mud is pretty easy to sand. The danger is cutting away too much. Regular weight mud and setting type mud take a little elbow grease.

Skim coating drywall is an important extra step that can minimize the amount of sanding that needs to be done. It can also help to produce a nicer finish for painting.

As the name implies, skim coating drywall involves a very thin coat of mud. Unlike other coats, where mud needed to be built up, skim coating only fills voids. The idea is to create a perfectly flat surface.

Mix the mud thinner for skim coating. Use a wide knife, like a 10" or 12". Coat the entire area of the seam or patch with mud. Then with a dry knife, drag the area tight with the knife. Very little mud will be left, only what is needed to fill voids and hollow spots. A skim coat will dry very quickly, since there is little build up.

A properly done skim coat will leave you with very little sanding. This is a good trade off for the extra work.

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