The standard drywall panels (also known as sheetrock or wallboard) used in wall construction comes in a variety of sheet sizes and thicknesses for different uses.
Length and Width
The length and width of drywall sheets are usually in multiples of four feet—most commonly, 4-foot x 8-foot, 4-foot x 12-foot, or 4-foot x 16-foot sheets. Building codes have no specific requirements for the width and length of drywall sheets; these are determined by the needs of the needs of the architect, builder, and client.
- 4-foot x 8-foot: The most common size of drywall is 4 feet wide, 8 feet long. Since 1/2-inch thick sheets of 4- x 8-foot drywall tip the scales at 57 pounds, this tends to be the biggest sheet that most DIYers can carry and lift into place. This size allows for either vertical or horizontal installation. Typically 4 x 8-foot panels come bound in pairs--two sheets face to face, with paper strips binding the two sheets. Most people find it extremely difficult to carry these sandwiched panels by themselves. For solo transport, you can pull off the binding paper to separate the panels.
- 4 x 12-foot and 4 x 16-foot: For tall or long walls, drywall is available in lengths of 12 or 16 feet. One advantage of these longer sheets is that you can create a smooth vertical surface to meet higher ceilings, creating a smooth surface that is completely unbroken from floor to ceiling. Sixteen-foot-long drywall, when installed horizontally on a wall, produces fewer butt joints than with 8-foot-long sheets. If you are intending to work with 16-foot lengths of drywall, you need to have several people on hand to help you with the installation.
- 2 x 2-foot: This is not a stock sheet size, but cut-down pieces of drywall are often available at the big-box home improvement stores and especially at smaller local hardware stores. They can be useful for patching jobs or wallboarding small nooks and alcoves.
When wall panels come in lengths and widths other than these multiples of 4 feet, they are usually not drywall panels but are instead cementboard or a drywall alternative, such as DRIcor Smartwall.
While not common on the consumer market, 4.5-foot-wide drywall sheets can be special ordered. They are not stocked in home improvement centers and are rarely used except by professionals.
Building codes do, have some requirements when it comes to the thickness of drywall panels. Common thicknesses are 1/4-inch, 1/2-inch, and 5/8-inch. The thickness required for each application is dictated by the building code.
- 1/4-inch: Not a common thickness, 1/4-inch-thick drywall is used as a skimming (or double-wall) material for placing over an existing surface. An existing textured ceiling, for example, can be covered over with 1/4-inch sheets rather than going through the mess and work of removing a texture. These sheets are also valuable when you need to install drywall on slightly curved surfaces. If the drywall is not quite meeting your curve, you can slightly dampen the drywall to make it more flexible.
- 1/2-inch: Half-inch drywall panels are the standard thickness for interior walls, as well as ceilings. These panels are easy to carry and hang. Even easier are ultra-light 1/2-inch panels, which are 13 pounds lighter than conventional 1/2-inch drywall.
- 5/8-inch: These panels are commonly used for ceilings, or for walls that require a prescribed fire-resistant rating. When installed on ceilings, 5/8-inch-thick panels are more resistant to sagging than 1/2-inch panels. Adding popcorn texture or another type of heavy surfacing material can add to the weight problem, making 5/8-inch a better choice for ceilings. Thicker drywall may be required by code for any wall or ceiling covered with a texture or skim coat where studs or joists are spaced 24 inches on-center rather than 16 inches. This thicker drywall is often called fire-resistant drywall. Common walls between residential living spaces and attached garages, for example, require a fire-resistant construction, as do furnace rooms. This fire resistance can also be achieved by installing multiple layers of thinner drywall panels.
- There are also applications that call for multiple layers of drywall. In townhouses, for example, the shared walls between adjoining units may require double layers of 1/2-inch wallboard to create a very fire-resistant and sound-resistant wall. In ordinary residential construction, doubling up drywall thickness can reduce sound transmission and make for sturdier walls.