Drywall history: Is it still OK?

Maybe it surprises you but unlike some sayings, drywall history actually backs to 1888. Back then it was a plasterboard plant in Rochester Kent, United Kingdom. Six years later in 1894, two boy named Augustine Sackett and Fred Kane put layers of plaster within four paper-like plies of wool and invented Sackett Board. 36 by 36 by 14 inch (91.44 cm × 91.44 cm × 0.64 cm) thick sheets with open (untaped) edges.

You may heard the name United States Gypsum Corporation (USG). The first nationwide gypsum company in America. Stablished in 1901 by merging 30 gypsum and plaster companies. After sixteen years from 1894, in 1910, they bought Sackett Plaster Board Company and in 1917 they introduced sheetrock. This is the date that drywall officially introduced as a fireproof wallboard which has easy installation.

Drywall, also known as wallboard or plasterboard (and sheetrock back in 1917) is a gypsum (powdery white or gray sulfate mineral) panel between two paperboards. In compare to other wall materials like plaster or wood, gypsum is much lighter and cheaper. Furthermore gypsum is noncombustible. As a result, it became more and more popular and nowadays more than 20 billion square feet of drywall is manufacturing each year in North America (according to gypsum association).

Drywall had many improvement over the years. Between 1910 and 1930, they removed two middle paper-like layers and made its board edges wrapped. Air entrainment technology made boards lighter and less brittle. Even joint treatment materials and system evolved. Another advantage of drywall is its low cost of repair. In compare with plaster it has its own advantages.

The real growth of drywall sales happened between 1940 and 1960 where after war people wanted a neat, tidy little white-boxed world. Nowadays, USG is the largest gypsum manufacturer in North America and has almost a quarter of wallboard industry's market share. They get gypsum from mines or produce it synthetically from byproduct of coal-fired power plants.

Before drywall ships out to contractors and retailers for construction use, gypsum is mined and manufactured into drywall. And after construction, scraps goes to  landfills. There, gypsum converts to hydrogen sulfide by becoming wet and mixing with other minerals. Hydrogen sulfide is a egg-smelling gas that in high doses are deathly for humans. This gas raise water acidity by dissolving in it and can harm marine and freshwater animals.

However gypsum is ideal for constructing, but it's not a good mineral for health. Workers in gypsum mines must observe their health. Even in open-pit mines with open air it is recommended by Occupational Safety and Health Administration that the density of it must be 15 milligrams per cubic meter during a typical work day. Although the mines that emptied should collapse controlled.

With the aim of preserving the environment, recycling companies try to prevent gypsum scraps to pollute waters and instead of releasing gypsum in environment they do stuff like making agricultural products from it. Big gypsum companies like USG has a recycling system too. However half of their gypsum supply still comes from mining.

With all these interpretations, drywall still is the most popular material for construction and it's significantly fair.  It is the best way to make affordable houses for millions.

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