How Much Does Drywall Cost?
Fresh, beautifully finished drywall is a blank canvas for a homeowner’s creativity and personality. It’s generally affordable, but there are many components that make up the final cost.
- Typical Range: $12 to $90 per 4-foot-by-8-foot panel for materials
- National Average: $15 per 4-foot-by-8-foot panel
Glancing around a home, visitors take in the artwork, photographs, furniture, and even the paint color. The finish on the walls and ceilings underneath the paint doesn’t necessarily draw the eye—unless it’s cracked, slumped, or poorly patched. Drywall is the foundation of most modern walls and ceilings and the replacement product of choice for many older homes. A well-installed smooth or textured surface lets the furnishings and decor in any home shine.
Choosing a qualified contractor or learning how to hang drywall yourself begins with an understanding of the different types of drywall available, the many factors that affect the overall cost of drywall, and the supplies needed to install it. Some costs are obvious, such as the ones for panels, screws, tape, mud, and joint compound, but other components, such as demolition, transportation, permits, and even the volume of sandpaper you’ll need to get the job done well, might escape notice. In addition, there are several types of drywall available that can provide soundproofing, waterproofing, and fire resistance, along with more basic styles that support tile or shiplap walls. A variety of finishes can complement the style of the home and reduce the cost overall. To make these decisions easier, it’s a good idea to calculate the cost of drywall panels and installation.
How to Calculate Drywall Cost
Calculating the overall cost of installing drywall in a home is a straightforward formula, but it does include a number of variables and decisions on the part of the homeowner.
- Measure the square footage (width times height) of the area that needs to be drywalled, then divide by 32 (if you’re using 4-by-8-foot sheets) or by 48 (if you’re using 4-by-12-foot sheets) to determine how many panels of drywall you’ll need to purchase.
- Add the cost of a half gallon of ready-mix compound per 100 square feet.
- Add the cost of 40 feet of drywall tape per 100 square feet.
- Add the cost of drywall screws: You’ll need 3 pounds of drywall screws to cover approximately 1,000 feet.
On average, it will cost between $200 and $300 to drywall a 12-foot-by-12-foot room if you DIY. There are, of course, additional factors in calculating the overall material costs, including the number of odd cuts that create additional waste, corners, and the type and thickness of the panels themselves, but this formula should provide a good estimate of how much material you’ll need to get started.
Factors in Calculating Drywall Cost
While the math of calculating drywall cost is relatively easy to do, there are significant variables in the figured cost of hanging drywall in any given space. Because drywall is used in so many different areas of the home, there are varieties in the shape, thickness, and additional materials incorporated into the panels that create a wide cost range. In addition, regional considerations, including local construction booms, weather and transportation concerns, and even the season, can affect local pricing to make it vastly different from the national average drywall cost. There are some concrete factors, however, that are determined by the homeowner and provide an opportunity to save a little money.
- Panel size. Drywall panels come in standard sizes of 4 feet by 8 feet or 4 feet by 12 feet. Depending on the size and dimensions of the room, one panel size may be more efficient for your space and create less waste than the other. While 4-by-12-foot sheets are a bit more expensive, you may need fewer sheets overall if your ceilings are high, saving money along with time needed for cutting and taping.
- Drywall thickness. Drywall is available in three thicknesses: ½ inch, ⅝ inch, and ¾ inch, with cost increasing with thickness. Choosing the correct thickness for your project will lower the overall cost.
- Additional features. Drywall panels are available with water resistance, waterproofing, soundproofing, with and without paper—there is a type of drywall for almost every application, and the costs vary significantly based on which additional features are required.
Additional Costs and Considerations
Having established the cost of the drywall materials needed for a project, homeowners may think they know how much they’re budgeting and are ready to head to the home supply store to get started—but there are other cost considerations to factor in first.
Professional Hanging and Installation
Depending on the application of the drywall, hiring a qualified professional drywall hanger may be the best bet. Hanging and finishing drywall are two separate costs: The average cost to hang drywall is $1.00 to $1.50 per square foot. The cost of finishing the drywall (including taping and joint compound) can range from $1.25 to $3.00 per square foot, depending on whether you’re looking for just tape and joint compound on the seams or fully compounded walls suitable for gloss paint, which works out to be approximately $30 to $60 per panel.
Surprisingly, it can be more expensive per square foot to drywall a small room than a larger one. Covering a larger area provides more opportunities to use full sheets or scraps to fill interrupted walls, so the overall cost drops. It is least expensive when homeowners decide that hanging drywall in the entire house at once is the best plan. But the cost isn’t only dependent on the total area mathematically: The number of cuts, fitting, and level of finish will also play into the total. Use (and therefore cost) of finishing materials will increase with a higher number of corners and specialized cuts, as corners require a special bead to be tidy. In addition, some drywall contractors may charge a minimum service fee, which could exceed the actual cost of installing drywall in a small space, so bundling several rooms into one project may help you save overall.
Texture and Type
Drywall finishing is rated from level 0 to level 5.
- Level 0. A level 0 finish job means the drywall is screwed into the studs: No mudding or taping has been done.
- Level 1. Level 1 includes mudding and taping the seams.
- Level 2. Level 2 adds a skim coat of joint compound.
- Level 3. Level 3 adds a complete coat of joint compound and sanding.
- Level 4. Level 4 results in drywall that is smoothed, sanded, and primed, but it may have surface imperfections.
- Level 5. A level 5 drywall finish includes a full, smooth coat of joint compound over the entire wall along with primer that has been sanded. The drywall is ready for even glossy paint, as there are almost no imperfections.
Each degree of finish adds to the total cost of installation. If the homeowner prefers a hand- or spray-finished texture, such as rosebud, swirl, skip trowel, or orange peel, these can be added prior to a level 5 finish, which can reduce overall finish costs. These textures will add to the finishing cost, as they add to material and labor costs.
For new walls, or walls on the exterior of the home that have been fully removed prior to the new drywall being added, homeowners need to include the cost of materials and installation of insulation to maintain the energy efficiency of the building. Batt insulation is most common, but there are other options, ranging from $0.10 to $30 per square foot.
Old Drywall Removal
A cost that many homeowners forget to include is the demolition cost of walls that are being removed and replaced. While some popular home shows make this part of the job seem like a fun, stress-reducing exercise that employs the strength of a hammer, in real renovation scenarios, it’s critical to be careful: Damaging electrical outlets, wiring, plumbing, and other home system components in the wall will add significantly to the overall cost. For a non-load- bearing wall, demolition runs about $700, on average, but for load-bearing walls that require the rerouting of systems, it can cost as much as $3,000.
Demolition or Remodeling Permits
Do you need a permit to add or replace drywall? In the case of a simple replacement to clean up a damaged wall, probably not. If your drywall project involves plumbing, electrical work, or a load-bearing wall, or if you are planning to change the location of a wall, it’s important to check with the local government to see if a permit and inspection are required.
Any homeowner living in an older house has learned to ask the asbestos question before disturbing existing materials—if this is your first time removing old walls, now is the time to start asking this question. Asbestos can be present in older plaster walls, tile, and tile adhesive, especially in those built before 1980, and can cause serious illness and lung damage if released into the air and inhaled. When working on an older building, it’s key to assess the likelihood that asbestos is present, test for it, and have it removed (at a cost of $1,200 to $2,900) before proceeding.
Drywall Cost Types
Drywall is a catchall term that many people use to describe any wallboard product. However, as drywall has become the standard product for wall and ceiling installations, additional styles and formulations have been developed to meet the needs of different purposes and spaces. Each additional component adds to the cost per panel, but it’s important to choose the best panel for the space in which it will be installed.
Regular drywall, which is gypsum board sandwiched between two paper layers for stability, is the least expensive option, and is fine for most bedroom, living room, and dining room walls where moisture resistance is not a key concern. The price per panel will vary based on the panel size and thickness, but it ranges from $12 to $25.
Green board drywall adds an extra layer of green material on the outside surfaces of the board, making it water-resistant. Ideal for areas in the home where moisture may be a concern, but not for walls that need to be completely waterproof, green board is often used in a kitchen or where it will be covered with tiles and grout. Green board comes in a standard 4-by-8-foot size, and costs range from $14 to $18 per panel.
Blue board drywall uses a different kind of paper to sandwich the gypsum. The blue paper has a smoother finish that holds finish plaster on top, allowing the installer to build a perfectly smooth, seam-free finish. It should not be used with mud, tape, and joint compound. Prices range from $12 to $15 per panel.
While green board drywall has some moisture resistance, purple drywall offers superior moisture and mold resistance, making it even more effective in situations where dampness, moisture, and water contact may be factors. It can be used in all wall and ceiling applications, but it’s especially effective in moist conditions. Some purple board includes soundproofing and additional fire resistance, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re purchasing. Cost ranges from $15 to $60 per panel.
Paperless drywall is a newer addition to the drywall range. Covered with fiberglass instead of paper, this option protects the gypsum core from rot, moisture, and mildew and makes the board less likely to break and dent. It retains the texture of the fiberglass on the outside, so it may require additional joint compound to achieve a smooth finish. There are paperless versions of the different variations of drywall, so costs will likely be at the higher end of each range.
Type X is fire-resistant drywall. All gypsum board is by nature somewhat resistant to fire, but Type X features a denser pack of gypsum and noncombustible fibers. It is heavier and harder to cut. It comes in ⅝-, ½-, and ¾-inch thicknesses, but the ¾-inch size can be difficult to find. To achieve Type X certification, a ⅝-inch board has to meet a one-hour fire-resistance rating, and a ½-inch board must meet a ¾-hour rating. Type X can be layered for additional resistance, which also adds soundproofing. Ideal for garages and basements, along with applications in buildings that must meet certain building codes, Type X ranges from $20 to $30 per panel.
While the density of all drywall panels offers some soundproofing, choosing a board designed to be soundproof adds an extra layer of defense against noisy neighbors, televisions, construction work-related sounds, and more. Soundproof drywall, which is often used in music rooms, between apartments, and in other places where noise is a problem or silence is required, is a laminated drywall that includes wood fibers, gypsum, and other polymers to reduce sound transfer. It is a dense product that can be difficult to work with, but it achieves a quieter atmosphere. The cost per panel ranges from $40 to $55.
Do I Need Drywall?
If you’re considering a remodel or removing or adding walls to your home, the options can seem overwhelming. For those living in older homes, the first instinct may be toward plaster, as it is a traditional and attractive finish. Modern drywall, however, is significantly less labor-intensive to install (it can even be a DIY project, saving on labor costs) and is generally easier to maintain. It can even add energy efficiency to your home. These are just a few of the many reasons why drywall may be a better choice for your home.
Easy Installation and Building
Drywall is relatively easy to install. The boards are cut, then screwed into wall studs. Tape and joint compound are applied over seams and screws, then sanded. While it takes practice and skill to get the taping just right, it can potentially be a DIY project. Plaster, on the other hand, requires specialized building experience to attach the wood laths to the studs. Then layer after layer of plaster must be applied to the lath and finished. Labor costs alone can be more than three times than those to install drywall. While plaster can be a great option for a single wall repair if the other walls remain intact, drywall is the easier path to take for larger or whole-room projects, and once painted, most people won’t know the difference.
The layers of paper, gypsum, and other fibers give drywall outstanding energy efficiency. When used in the walls of homes and apartments, it can keep interiors cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and thus help keep energy bills down.
Gypsum is naturally fire-resistant, which can help prevent fire from spreading from room to room. In addition, the insulation properties of drywall can keep the heat from spreading through the walls. Drywall can keep fires from spreading and buy occupants valuable time to get out, get help, and extinguish the fire before it damages more of the home’s structure.
The many varieties of drywall offer benefits for different applications: Whether you are looking for waterproofing, soundproofing, fireproofing, or dent resistance, there are choices that make it easy to pick the right drywall for each installation. In addition, a skilled contractor can add hand finishes or spray finishes to the drywall, allowing homeowners to choose distinctive textures and finishes for a truly custom product.
Installing, maintaining, and repairing drywall are some of the most affordable jobs that can be done on the home. The ability to replace or repair small sections without extensive finish work keeps the maintenance costs down, and the costs of drywall materials themselves are on par with, or less than, the costs of plaster and other options. The installation costs can be minimal for a DIYer, and even hiring a professional to do the job is generally more affordable than the cost of the more labor-intensive plaster workers.
Drywall Cost: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
For most handy homeowners, figuring out how to hang drywall is a task that can be done to completion: Measuring, cutting, and screwing the boards into the wall isn’t intrinsically difficult for most handy homeowners. However, figuring out how to install drywall effectively is a different challenge. Taping looks simple on television, but determining how much mud to scoop onto a trowel and achieving the exact correct wrist angle to smooth it down, leaving just enough on the wall to seal the tape but not so much that it never dries, is a skill developed through years of experience. This is also true for smoothing a coat of joint compound across a wall without leaving seams and ridges. A professional will help make the process more efficient, which will result in a more polished product. While small repairs can probably be completed by a homeowner, larger-scale work should probably be left to a professional (of course, this depends on your comfort level with drywall installation). Drywall panels are heavy; especially true for ceiling installations, special equipment may be necessary to support the materials aloft. With the money saved by avoiding repeated trips to the home center for more mud, different trowels, better tape, and extra panels to replace miscuts, hiring a professional to complete the installation may be less expensive than the DIY approach.
How to Save Money on Drywall Cost
While drywall is an affordable option to finish walls and ceilings, the cost is not insignificant. Because there are so many choices in terms of type of board, installation options, and finishes, there are some ways the savvy homeowner can bring the overall cost down.
- Budget and estimate carefully from the beginning: buying all the supplies at once may earn you a discount, and hiring electricians or plumbers ahead of time can be less expensive than an emergency call.
- Purchase supplies from a drywall supplier instead of a big-box store. They know their products, can help you estimate better, and will often reduce the price for a bulk order. In addition, this approach means you’ll likely spend less on impulse purchases at a home center.
- Remove the existing wall surface yourself to save money on demolition if you are confident that your walls do not involve asbestos or lead paint. Do this carefully and slowly, with awareness of electrical and plumbing components that may be behind the walls.
- Choose a textured finish over a smooth one. There are several levels of finish, and a perfectly smooth finish is more expensive than a mildly textured one.
- Ask the contractor about taping options. Standard seaming tape is less expensive than self-adhesive tape, but the seaming tape can require more layers of compound, which can ramp up the cost.
Questions to Ask About Drywall Cost
If you’re planning to hire a contractor to install your drywall, look for someone who specializes in drywall. They will be able to provide more accurate estimates and will help you avoid the markup a general contractor can add to a smaller project. As with any contractor, you’ll want to make sure you have a written contract and ask some questions to help keep the cost as close to your budget as possible.
- Does your estimate include the costs of transportation, demolition and preparation, materials, cleanup, and removal of dust and debris?
- What are my options for the type of drywall, and how do they affect the cost?
- What is your timeline for the process? Can I get that in writing?
- Can I see samples of the options for finish texture?
- What deposit do you require?
- Who will be working with you, and are they also licensed and insured?
- What warranty do you provide against seam cracks and slumps?
- What is the payment schedule?
There are so many components to the cost of drywall that it can become overwhelming. The answers to these frequently asked questions should help you zero in on how to best plan your project.
Q. Why is drywall good for your house?
Drywall is an affordable, energy-efficient option for your walls and ceilings that provides natural fire resistance and soundproofing. It’s easy to customize for the location in your home and to have the style and texture you want. Drywall is easily painted and repainted without a lot of prep work, or it can be used as a strong foundation for tile or shiplap walls.
Q. How large of a gap should be between sheets of drywall?
Drywall panels should never be snugged up against each other. Like all other porous building materials, they need space to expand and contract with heat and cold and to accommodate shifts and settling of the structure. A standard ⅛-inch gap between panels will be hidden from view by tape and mud but will reduce buckling and cracking after the job is done.
Q. How long does drywall last?
Drywall walls and ceilings last between 30 and 70 years. A quality installation with offset seams and good taping sets up a long-lasting job. House settling can occasionally cause cracking. Water leaks, damage, or excessive holes from wall hangings can weaken the structure of the board itself and of taped and mudded joints. Prompt repair of this kind of damage along with any cracks will extend the life of the wall.