Drywall is one of the most common materials used in construction today. Walls are typically covered with drywall, making it one of the most common materials in a home.
Here’s how drywall stacks up on the life-cycle test:
- Where does drywall come from? Drywall, often referred to as gypsum board, is the traditional wall finish for interior walls and ceilings. This rigid panel consists of an inner core of gypsum plaster, wrapped with paper. Verdict: Fair.
- What are the by-products of producing drywall? The gypsum is mined and creates some substantial environmental impact. Verdict: Bad.
- How is drywall delivered and installed? Formed into wide boards, drywall lends itself to leftover pieces created in the course of installation. (Up to 17% of drywall is wasted during construction.) Because it generally comes in 4-foot widths, designing (or having your architect design) rooms to be some module of 4 feet reduces waste. Drywall cannot be left unfinished; it’s typically painted. Use a zero-VOC or low-VOC paint to reduce the release of chemicals. Verdict: Good.
- How is drywall maintained and operated? Drywall is easily patched and repainted. Verdict: Good.
- How healthy is drywall? Drywall is a relatively healthy material, especially when a healthy paint is used to finish it. Verdict: Good.
- What do we do with drywall after we’re done with it? Drywall is easily damaged in the demolition process, making it difficult to recycle into a reusable form. Scrap pieces of drywall can be recycled if separated from the other construction waste. Verdict: Fair.
Given the impact of gypsum mining, using recycled-content drywall is a great idea. Several manufacturers offer recycled-content drywall paper as well.