A Guide To Drywall Sizes

Drywall comes in many different sizes. Learn how to choose the right panel for your next project.

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Which size drywall works best?

Most people probably picture the standard 4x8 panel when they think of drywall, even though it's by no means the only size or type of drywall available today. Panels come in a wide variety lengths, widths and thicknesses. There are also "special use" panels, including moisture/mold-resistant, fire-resistant, and impact or abuse-resistant. Which size drywall you choose to hang can make a big difference in the final appearance and lasting quality of a finished wall assembly. Let me show you what works best for me.

Side profile of sheets of drywall showing their thickness
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Drywall thickness

Panels are available in four thicknesses—5/8-in., 1/2-in., 3/8-in., and 1/4-in. (above are all 5/8-in.). Each size has specific applications and framing requirement. The 3/8-in. and 1/4-in. panels are only available in shorter lengths. Regular 1/2-in. drywall was the most commonly used drywall in new residential construction and remodeling, but lightweight drywall is rapidly replacing this heavier drywall.  

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Why use lightweight drywall?

Hanging drywall is hard work, in large part because it is heavy!  A sheet of regular 1/2-in. drywall weights about 60 pounds. The new lightweight drywall weighs about 41 pounds. A drywall hanger can hang an average of 60 4x8 sheets a day. If the hanger is installing regular drywall, that adds up to about nine tons a week. Installing lightweight drywall will reduce that amount down to six tons. That's still a lot, but having to lift three tons less every week will increase production and decrease the risk of injury.

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Lightweight drywall pros and cons

The new lightweight drywall looks the same as regular drywall; the screw spacing is the same; the paper face is the same, and it scores and cuts the same. The drywall supply yards are big fans of lightweight drywall, because it doesn't sag as much when forking it around, and the lighter weight causes less wear and tear on their delivery trucks. And of course, it's lighter!

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Why use different lengths?

Most 5/8-in. and 1/2-in. panels are available up to 16 feet long. Longer lengths help eliminate or reduce the number of butted seams, or butt joints. A butted seam is created when the ends of the panels are butted together. Butted seams are unavoidable when the wall or ceiling is longer than the available length of drywall. It’s always best to avoid butted seams because, unlike the sides of panels, the ends are not tapered, so hiding a butted seam is more difficult for the taper.

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Why use 54-in. drywall?

Again, the less seams/joints the better. When hanging drywall on walls that intersect 8-ft. (or lower) ceilings, two 4-ft.-wide panels of drywall hung horizontally results in just one seam running the length of the wall. But more and more homes are being constructed with 9-ft. ceiling heights, which means that 4-ft.-wide drywall creates two horizontal seams on each wall. The best way to avoid the extra seam is to use 54-in.-wide panels. These wider panels are available in regular drywall as well as moisture, mold and fire-resistant panels.