Drywall history goes back to World War II, at which time the invention and creation of the world's first commercially viable wallboard was taken seriously.
Sheetrock® brand US Gypsum panels manufactured by USG Corporation finally gained prominence.
Drywall installation for interior wall sheathing revolutionized the building industry.
By being able to finish a wall with a series of panels, drywall not only sped up the building process immensely, but decreased the reliance on a master plasterer – a very specialized, artistic, labor-intensive trade.
Limestone Plaster to Gypsum
Before the 1900’s, a limestone plaster was commonly used. This was an extremely hard material due to the durability of the compound itself as well as the addition of animal hair.
In the early part of the 1900’s, US Gypsum took the place of limestone, though the application was similar. The interior of houses were finished by attaching rows of 1/2” X 2” wood strips called laths. They were cut in lengths to fit on the studs of the new home. These were then nailed on every flat surface besides the floor.
Following behind the lath carpenters were the plasterers who applied the gypsum compound that would form the wall surfaces. A scratch coat was swathed onto the wood laths to form keys, plaster that was squeezed through the openings between the laths. This formed a base for the wall. The second coat was called a brown coat, also a rougher mix which would be gritty enough to hold the finish coat. Finishers pressed the topcoat hard so that it formed a smooth finish, a more appealing wall surface.
On the average, a team of lath and plaster installers could finish a home in about two weeks.
Drywall Makes History
The American home market of World War II required new structures that had to be built quickly and inexpensively. These homes and buildings were required to house the millions of recruits and factory workers needed to mount a full-scale war. Looks and creativity had to be pushed aside for speed.
That’s when a product called Sheetrock®, a brand that we now know as drywall, was drafted along with the fighting men and women. Drywall installation cost a fraction of what it cost for crews to plaster.
As well, drywall installers could finish a home in approximately three days; the same amount of area it took lath and plaster installers two weeks to complete.
Despite the flimsy appearance of the paper-covered gypsum walls, the post-war homebuilders appreciated the inexpensive application and soon drywall was a part of the new housing boom of the era.
Since then, drywall has become the reliable, inexpensive standard of the housing market. Drywall installation and finishing has become a craft in its own right to achieve style, decorative texturing and soundproofing. The drywall installers of today are master craftsmen as well as tradesmen.