Is it Plaster or Drywall?

modernmissusJanuary 23, 2008


My Husband and I decided to finally remove our horrid sunshine ceiling so we began removing it yesterday. I thought our home had drywall but we are beginning to wonder if its maybe plaster. Does anyone know how you can tell? Its a home that was build in 1950. I posted a picture below. Any input would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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Are you removing the ceiling because of the popcorn? Just wondering why you're not scraping the popcorn vs removing the ceiling.

What you have does look like drywall, but I can't tell what that is in the lower part of the pic. Is it wood?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 12:35PM
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We're not removing the ceiling, we just have alot of patch work to do because we removed the sunshien ceiling. The areas where it was screwed into the ceiling have huge holes like this one. The popcorn part was on the other side of the sunshine ceiling.
I'm just wondering if its perhaps plaster ontop of drywall because that top layer is crumbling/peelng off. So would we have to take that entire layer off?
I don't believe that is wood underneath...its very thin and appears to be drywall in areas its scratched.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 12:41PM
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Looks like two layers of drywall to me. Plaster doesn't have a paper surface like that to it, and I don't see any indication of a hard, troweled surface anywhere.

I would take down at least all the unsound stuff, maybe more it it comes off easy. The real question is what are you going to do once you have it all down. Looks like it might be a candidate for 16" on-center sleepers and a new layer of drywall (if very much of it looks like that). Or, patch in drywall where necessary and then skim coat the entire ceiling.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 4:05PM
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It looks like a skim coat plaster job to me. I owned a house built in 1946 that used plasterboard instead of the wood lathe method used in years back. The plasterboard is similar to drywall, but is treated to hold plaster. Then a thin layer of plaster was applied to the ceiling. The walls are usually thicker. I usually patched it with setting type drywall compound. Setting type compound comes as a powder and is mixed with water. It has varying work times on the outside of the bag. Get the longest work time you can find and the Easy-Sand type. The other type cannot be sanded. It can be found at lowes and HD

I did a web search and drywall came into widespread use in 1952..

The name drywall derives from its replacement of the lath-and-plaster wall-building method, in which wet plaster was spread over small, wooden formers. In 1916, the United States Gypsum Company invented a 4' x 8'ft sheet of gypsum pressed between sheets of extremely strong paper, which they called "Sheetrock." Despite extensive use at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933Â34, it was generally seen as an inferior alternative to lath-and-plaster, and was not quickly adopted. It was adopted during World War II, when the war effort made labor expensive. It was reintroduced in 1952, impelled by the migration to the suburbs of the 1950s and by the cheaper construction methods it allowed.[2]

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 7:21PM
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what is a sunshine ceiling?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 9:46AM
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Sunshine ceiling:

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 12:46PM
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This is what our sunshine ceiling looked like before we tore it down

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 1:29PM
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The hole is definitely plaster. It has been skim coated with joint compound. Hard to tell what the area is between the hole and the popcorn. As a previous poster noted, it looks like wood or paint with a texture of woodgrain.
Removing this will be very unpleasant. If it's only the popcorn you want to remove, it's probably water soluable joint compound.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 6:35PM
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It was common for gypsum wallboard in the 50's to have brown skinned paper different than the grey skinned paper you see today. My vote is that it is wallboard.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 6:45PM
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you are such a funny guy !

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 8:25PM
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Could it possibly be gypsum wall board (which I assume is the same as drywall) with a skim coating of plaster over top of it? Or do you guys think its plaster board with the skim coating on top of it. How can you tell??
Do we have to take the entire skim coating off or would it be ok to just patch it with water soluble joint compound.
I appreciate all your help and input thank you!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 8:36PM
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One of the first uses for gypsum board products was as a backer for 2 coat plaster.
Common backers before that included wood lathe, and then expanded metal.
Both needed 3 coats of plaster to get a finished wall.
Gypsum backer for plaster was often in panels about 48 x 16 inches and 3/8 inch thick.
There was thin brown paper on one side and bare gypsum on the other for the base coat of plaster to adhere to.
The typical build ended up right around 3/4 of an inch, about the same as a 3 coat job (3/8 backer, 1/4 inch base coat, 1/8 inch finish coat).

I just cannot tell from your picture exactly what is there, but it could two different methods (2 coat on gypsum & 1 coat veneer) where someone made a repair.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 7:19PM
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That's hilarious mongoct...........thanks for the laugh!

I'd repair it with drywall compound or as rjoh described.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 11:53AM
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