What is the Difference Between Drywall and Blueboard?

When it comes to building materials there are some items that I have always noticed Clients seem to refer to one when possibly actually referring to another.

One classic example of this is gutters and downspouts.

I have had many occasions in the past when Clients were discussing their downspouts and while doing so kept calling them their gutters.

Another example is when someone asks us to “plaster” a hole in one of their walls, when technically they would like the hole fixed with some type of material, while saying “plaster”, they may actually mean spackle or joint compound.

In this same category of Contractor lingo confusion is ‘drywall’ and ‘blueboard’.

These two materials are quite different from one another, though as in the above examples, many folks often interchange them.

Drywall is a type of wallboard that is covered in paper and then after being hung is meant to have its joints “taped” and then properly covered with joint compound, the fasteners of the drywall should be covered with joint compound as well.

Blueboard on the other hand is a type of wallboard that is more absorbent than drywall and specifically designed to bond with a veneer plaster.

In New England, drywall is most often used in commercial settings.

Drywall has a rougher appearance to it and is typically not able to achieve as smooth a finish as its plastered cousin.

Drywall also takes a number of days to truly have an install complete, as there are a number of steps of sanding and re-application of joint compound prior to the finished joint compound application being considered “finished”.

Drywall typically provides better insulating qualities than blueboard, whereas blueboard is a better barrier for sound than drywall.

Drywall is definitely the more cost-efficient option of the two as well as less labor intensive overall to work through.

The plastered finish that goes on blueboard is viewed as much more of a “high end” finish than drywall.

After hanging blueboard, it can conceivably be prepped (seams taped & initial coat of plaster) and completely plastered the same day it is put up.

Unlike drywall, one does not have to wait a day in between steps, however once plastered, prepping and finish painting should not occur until at least one to two weeks after the plastering has been done.

This waiting period allows the plaster to properly cure after it has been applied.

Blueboard & plaster is especially popular in residential settings in New England.

In some areas of the country, folks have not even heard of blueboard and plaster (which many in New England may find this difficult to believe).

Where aesthetics may be critical, blueboard is certainly the superior choice.

Though at a much heftier price tag, the finishes that can be achieved with a correctly done plaster wall over the blueboard, strongly overshadow anything that can be done with drywall.

Although very different, it is not unusual for a Contractor to hear a Client referring to drywall as blueboard or blueboard as drywall.

It is important when having a conversation about a project with a Client that Contractors ask clarifying questions to make sure that they understand specifically what their Clients are referring to.

Similar to as frustrating as it may be for a Contractor to hear a Client call a downspout a “gutter”, having potentially teaching moments like these can be surprising opportunities for Contractors to tactfully show their industry expertise by guiding folks through actual correct terminology.

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