The history of drywalls and sheetrock: When was drywall invented? ANSWERED

Some homeowners prefer to install a large rigid sheet over their cement wall and like to decorate it in a different fashion. Drywalls are also known as wallboard or plasterboard and they are made of plywood, wood pulp, gypsum, and similar materials.


Often two paperboards hold the gypsum mixture in-between as a sandwich filling and plasterboards are made. They are much cheaper and lighter and hence many building constructors use them. They are fire-resistant too.

The history of drywalls- In Europe: when invented

Augustine Sackett and Fred Kane who were graduates from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York invented a new type of building material in 1894. They named it as Sackett Board after their name. This board was constructed using layering plaster. They used four plies of wool felt paper and filled them with this layering plaster.

The historic event which bolstered the growth of this technology was the acquisition of Sackett Plaster Board Company by the United States Gypsum Corporation (USGC) in 1910.

The history of drywalls – In the U.S.A: when invented

The USGC was the first company that invented drywall in 1916 in the U.S.A. They were primarily invented to protect homes from household fires caused due to gas leakage and electrical failures. Buildings that use drywall can be erected much faster than the regular brick and mortar ones. The construction workers need not wait for the wall to dry up after plastering.

The chemical formula for gypsum is calcium sulfate dihydrate. They are very popular for constructing false ceilings to hang chandeliers and other decorative lightings. The plaster is mixed with fiber made of paper, cardboard, glass wool, and similar materials. Additives like plasticizers and foaming agents are added to reduce water absorption. Pesticides are added to this mixture to reduce the growth of molds and mildew.

In 1936 drywalls made by USGC were trademarked as ROCKLATH.

After the drywalls were released by USG, the rage of buying them didn’t pick up. But the generation of baby boomers gave positive thrust to its sale. Between 1946 and 1960, in the US more than 21 million homes were built to accommodate young families. People after the world-war II were looking for cheaper options, and homes built with drywalls started becoming popular.

Other popular usages of drywall

The homeowners in the U.S were tired of spending thousands of dollars in repairing roofs and sidings. The drywall repair contractors turned out to be angels for those homeowners as at a very low cost they repaired corners, walls, and ceilings to their initial condition. The onlookers could not even tell the difference. This further boosted the sale of drywall materials.

USGC believes that there is at least 350 years’ worth of gypsum available in the depths of mother Earth. There are eight gypsum manufacturers in North America and USGC is the largest amongst them. In the U.S states like California, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas are the biggest manufacturers of gypsum.

There are environmental hazards associated with gypsum and the workers working in gypsum quarries inhale the gypsum dust. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is truly worried about that.

The advantages of drywall

Drywalls are installed on the raw cemented walls which have not been plastered with plaster. Many homeowners prefer to install drywalls as they are available with high sound-suppressing capabilities. Hence, if someone is planning to build a music studio or is planning to do heavy gaming often goes for acoustic drywalls.

Drywalls also are extremely good insulators. Hence if you are looking at your inflated electricity bills, you can think about getting drywalls for your home too. Drywalls are even constructed using a mixture of Portland cement and asbestos fiber. They are mixed with water and then pressed into a board to convert them into asbestos-cement boards. However, over the years, since asbestos was declared as a known substance to cause cancer, many home builders started avoiding drywall sheets made of asbestos.

All types of drywall can be cured with water-repellant mixtures, pest repellant substances to make them more robust and useful for long-term usage. Beautiful-looking wallpapers can cover these drywalls and you can have beautiful designs on your walls.

The drawback of drywalls

When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the entire city was flooded. Homes built with drywalls had to be bulldozed before the new buildings could be erected. Molds were formed within the walls and hence it was risky to keep them as is.

Steve Mouzon, the architect who helped in rebuilding the city after the hurricane talked about the flipside of using drywalls. A museum on Moss Street survived the devastation of the hurricane and was unscathed. That was because it was built in an old-fashioned way using cement, sand, stone chips, and other traditional building materials. This building did not have any drywalls and hence was safe.

Apart from impacting the health of the workers working in gypsum mines, gypsum also causes serious environmental hazards. After gypsum is mixed with other additives and drywalls are manufactured as we discussed above, they are shipped out to contractors and retailers. They use them in their construction projects and once the construction work is completed, the scraps are sent to landfills. There gypsum becomes wet and mixes with other chemicals and organic materials. Then hydrogen sulfide is formed which gives the smell of rotten eggs.

If hydrogen sulfide gets mixed with water, it will be unsafe for drinking and will impact marine life badly. Even the air pollution caused by gypsum is increasing by the day. However, if the companies become responsible, this pollution can be stopped.

For example, USGC recycles most of the gypsum and converts them into agricultural products. These soil additives are good for crops like tomatoes. Other companies too can use this kind of technology and instead of dumping gypsum scraps in landfills, can convert them into something useful and environment-friendly.


Drywalls acquired many names over the last few decades like gypsum board, sheetrock, custard board, buster board, gypsum panel, etc. They are lesser expensive than traditional plasters on the walls. Due to their fire resistance properties, many homeowners prefer them. They might have poor resistance to natural calamities; however, their ease-to-use will keep them popular in the years to come. 


The (Surprisingly Interesting) History of Drywall