When renovating or remodeling a bathroom, choosing the right type of drywall is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. The high humidity and potential for moisture in bathrooms means that standard drywall with paper facings is a poor choice – the moisture will cause the paper to deteriorate, leading to mold and mildew growth. Fortunately, there are many types of specialized drywall designed specifically to resist moisture and mold in bathroom environments.
Read on to learn which types stand up best to moisture and how to ensure your new drywall holds up for the long haul.
Drywall Options for Bathrooms
When evaluating drywall for bathroom installation or remodeling, you’ll generally encounter the following types of boards:
Paper-faced drywall comes in two main varieties:
- Regular Drywall – The most common type of drywall has a gypsum core sandwiched between paper facings. The paper provides an ideal food source for mold when exposed to moisture.
- Greenboard – Greenboard has gypsum core with moisture-resistant green paper facing. It provides more protection than regular drywall but less than other options.
In general, paper-faced drywall even with some moisture resistance like greenboard risks mold growth in humid, wet bathrooms. The organic materials in the paper facings promote mold growth when exposed to moisture over time.
Specialty Drywall without Paper Facings
These types of drywall are manufactured without paper coverings to avoid mold risks:
- Fiberglass Drywall – The facings are made from fiberglass instead of paper. This makes the boards highly moisture-resistant and mold-proof.
- Foam Board – Foam boards contain water-repellent polystyrene foam between facers. They stand up well to vapor and moisture.
The downside is that these specialty drywall products tend to be more expensive than traditional paper-faced boards. However, they provide maximum mold resistance and water protection.
Mold-resistant or mold-inhibiting drywall products are infused with additives that help curtail mold growth. They provide good moisture resistance for high humidity bathrooms.
While not as heavy-duty as cement board, they come at a much lower cost. Mold-resistant drywall is a budget-friendly solution for most bathroom areas.
Ultra Moisture-Resistant Drywall
On the higher end of the performance spectrum, purple drywall is highly moisture- and mold-resistant. It contains wax coatings that repel water exceptionally well.
Purple drywall costs significantly more than standard boards but provides maximum protection from moisture damage. For chronically wet, humid bathrooms, it’s worth the extra investment.
Cement board, often known by the brand name Durock, consists of a cement-based core sandwiched between fiberglass facings. While not technically a drywall, it serves a similar function.
Cement board is highly moisture-resistant and the most waterproof choice. It is the recommended material for shower surrounds and other wet areas.
However, it is heavy, difficult to cut, and harder to install than standard drywalls. Cement board is best reserved for direct water contact zones.
Standard drywall sheets are heavy, with 1/2-inch boards weighing around 55-60 lbs. For bathrooms in multi-story dwellings, hauling these dense sheets upstairs can be challenging.
Lightweight drywall weighs approximately 2 lbs. per square foot less than standard drywall. The lighter boards are easier to lift and install, especially on upper floors.
The tradeoff is that lightweight drywall is more prone to dents and damage. But for most bathroom applications, the lighter weight is worth the small sacrifice in durability.
With hard surfaces and tile, bathrooms can be echo-prone noisy spaces. Acoustic drywall contains sound-dampening materials that absorb bathroom echoes and reduce noise.
If you’re renovating a bathroom in a high-traffic area of the home, acoustic drywall helps contain sounds within the room. It provides better sound insulation than conventional drywall.
One downside is that acoustic drywall comes at a higher price point. But the sound control can be worthwhile if noise is a primary concern.
Choosing the Right Drywall for Your Bathroom
With all these bathroom drywall options, how do you select the right product for your project and budget? Here are the key factors to consider:
Assess Moisture and Ventilation
Carefully evaluate the existing moisture levels in your bathroom. Consider:
- Does the bathroom have a shower or tub? Are water splashes frequent?
- Is there adequate ventilation to control humidity?
- Are there any current leaks or signs of prior water damage?
High moisture bathrooms with poor ventilation have a greater need for mold- and water-resistant drywall. For wet zones around showers, only cement board will do.
In bathrooms with average humidity, greenboard or purple board provides sufficient protection. Assess your unique situation.
Location Within Bathroom
The specific location where the drywall is installed impacts the choice:
- Cement board works best for the shower surround and backwalls which see direct water contact.
- For other bathroom walls and ceilings, mold-resistant or purple drywall resists humidity at lower costs.
Match heavy-duty waterproof boards to wet zones only. Use moisture-resistant boards everywhere else.
Specialized drywall comes at a premium:
- Fiberglass drywall can cost 2-3 times more than greenboard.
- Cement board is roughly twice the price of greenboard.
- Acoustic drywall runs $1-$3 more per board than standard drywall.
Consider your budget tradeoffs. Use cement board only where essential. For modest bathrooms, greenboard often suffices if installed properly. Prioritize moisture resistance in key areas if funds are limited.
Storing and Handling Drywall
Once you’ve selected the right drywall, proper storage and handling prevents damage:
- Store boards flat on a smooth surface to prevent sagging or warping.
- Carry drywall vertically whenever possible to avoid cracking and creasing.
- Wear gloves and long sleeves when carrying – drywall edges are sharp and can irritate skin.
Take steps to keep boards protected and undamaged before installation day.
When installing bathroom drywall:
- Use moisture-resistant screws to attach boards to studs or backerboard.
- Seal joints with fiberglass mesh tape and setting-type joint compound.
- Caulk exposed edges with silicone sealant for water protection.
Careful installation practices keep moisture from seeping through joints or openings.
Choosing suitable drywall is critical for any bathroom remodel or renovation. The right drywall resists moisture, humidity, and mold growth that can quickly compromise standard boards.
Assess factors like your specific moisture levels, location, budget and project scope. Match heavy-duty cement board to wet zones. Use moisture-resistant boards like purple or greenboard everywhere else. With the proper drywall installed correctly, your bathroom will stand the test of time.