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Drywall Thickness Guide: What to Use and Where

Diving into your first DIY drywall project? 

Then step number one is selecting the right size drywall. Although drywall length and width are also important, drywall thickness is the most important measurement to consider. 

Today, I break down drywall thickness in detail so you select the right thickness for your next project.

Different Drywall Thicknesses Explained

pallets of drywall plasterboard

Just like length and width, drywall is sold in standardized thicknesses. Different thicknesses of drywall are better suited to different applications (such as walls versus ceilings). Building code also sometimes requires certain thicknesses.

1/4-Inch Drywall 

1/4-inch drywall is the thinnest available. 

As the thinnest, it’s also the lightest which makes it a great ultralight drywall for projects that require lightweight and flexible panels.

1/4-inch drywall is often mounted over preexisting drywall panels to improve the appearance of old panels. Because of its thinness, you don’t have to remove the old panels before installation. 

Thinner drywall, like 1/4-inch thick panels, is also ideal for curved walls when you need to be able to easily manipulate the drywall sheets. 

3/8-Inch Drywall

3/8-inch drywall is another great choice for curved walls.

It’s also ideal for drywall repairs or replacing old sheets. You can use it on top of preexisting drywall, although it’s usually a little too thick for that.

Instead, 3/8-inch drywall is best for patching holes in drywall and similar repairs. 

1/2-Inch Drywall

1/2-inch drywall is the most common drywall thickness.

You can use this type of drywall for the vast majority of projects, including on walls and ceilings, although it’s a little too thick for most curved walls.

1/2-inch drywall is also available in the widest range of lengths and widths, including both standard and alternative drywall sizes.

This is perhaps the best option for home DIYers because it’s easy to hang on your own (even easier with a partner) and because it doesn’t break the bank.

5/8-Inch Drywall

5/8-inch drywall is quite versatile.

Because of its added strength, it’s a good choice for ceilings to prevent sagging in between ceiling joists. 

The extra thickness also makes it ideal for using on shared interior walls, such as those between separate apartment units.

Most fire-resistant drywall is 5/8-inch thick and is often used in furnace rooms. 

5/8-inch drywall also comes in moisture-resistant panels. 

What Drywall Thickness for Walls?

man using a cordless drill to hang drywall

1/2-inch thick drywall is typically your best bet for interior walls. 

Not only is it sturdy and long-lasting, but it’s also relatively lightweight (especially in standard 4×8-foot sheets).

1/2-inch thick drywall is possible to hang alone, although it’s certainly easier with a partner and/or a drywall lift. 

If weight is a major concern, you can usually get away with thinner drywall, such as 3/8-inch thick drywall or even 1/4-inch thick ultralight drywall. 

Half inch thick drywall has long been the industry standard for drywalling walls and will likely remain that way for decades to come.

What Drywall Thickness for Ceilings?

man installing drywall on the ceiling

5/8-inch thick drywall is the best drywall thickness for ceilings. 

Although you can use any type of drywall for ceilings as long as its installed correctly (even ultralight 1/4-inch thick drywall), a thicker panel is best. 

5/8-inch thick drywall is the sturdiest which prevents sagging between ceiling joists.

This extra strength is important during normal application, but is even more relevant if you add popcorn or another heavy texture to the ceiling panels, further increasing their weight.

If you do need to install thinner panels, such as 1/2-inch, 3/8-inch, or even 1/4-inch panels, make sure that the panels are fastened to ceiling joists or studs once every 12 inches. 

A drywall lift is extremely helpful for hanging drywall on a ceiling, especially as a home DIYer. It’s also much easier if you work with a partner rather than completely solo.

Pros and Cons of Thicker Drywall

Here are the pros and cons of using thicker drywall (5/8-inch over the standard 1/2-inch) for your next project:

Benefits of Thicker Drywall

Here are some benefits of using thicker drywall on your walls and ceilings:

  • Sound Dampening – Thicker drywall improves sound dampening.
  • Improve Insulation – Thicker drywall also improves insulation. 
  • Fire and Moisture Resistance – Special fire-resistant and moisture-resistant drywall panels are typically thicker than your standard 1/2-inch panels.
  • Prevent Ceiling Sagging – Thicker drywall is better for ceilings because it is less prone to sagging than thinner drywall panels. 

Negatives of Thicker Drywall

Here are some negatives of using thicker drywall on your walls and ceilings:

  • Heavier – The thicker the drywall, the heavier each panel. The heavier each panel, the more difficult they are to lift to hang into place. 
  • More Expensive – The cost of each drywall panel typically goes up the thicker the panel gets. 
  • Less Flexible – Thick drywall isn’t suitable for curved walls or other applications where flexibility is required. 

Pros and Cons of Thinner Drywall

Here are the pros and cons of using thinner drywall (1/4-inch or 3/8-inch rather than the standard 1/2-inch) for your next project:

Benefits of Thinner Drywall

Here are some benefits of using thinner drywall for your walls and ceilings:

  • Lighter – Thinner drywall panels are easier to lift and hang into place. 
  • More Affordable – Thinner drywall panels are typically a little less expensive than their thicker counterparts. 
  • More Flexible – For curved walls, a thin drywall panel (like 1/4-inch drywall) is ideal. 
  • Hang on Existing Drywall – You can sometimes hang 1/4-inch thick drywall on top of preexisting drywall without removing it to “repair” damages by covering them up.

Negatives of Thinner Drywall

  • Studs Can Show – Studs and joists often slightly show through thin drywall because it’s so thin.
  • Bad for Ceilings – Thin drywall isn’t as strong as thicker drywall which means it has a tendency to sag and droop when used on ceilings. 
  • Less Sound Dampening – The sound dampening benefits of thick drywall are pretty much out the door when it comes to the thinner version.

What About Fire Resistant Drywall?

drywall panels sitting in a house

Another type of drywall to consider is fire-resistant drywall.

Fire-resistant drywall is available in both 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch thick panels.

Not only is this type of drywall more fire resistant, but it also dampens sounds a bit better than a standard sheet. 

For both of these reasons, fire-resistant drywall is a staple on the shared walls between units in apartment buildings or multi-family homes. It’s also commonly used around furnaces and in the utility rooms of homes. 

Local building codes often require fire-resistant drywall for certain residential and commercial applications. 

Learn more about fire-resistant and other alternative types of drywall here.

How to Determine Thickness of Current Drywall

cutting a hole in drywall to measure thickness

Knowing the thickness of your current drywall is very important when it comes to replacing or repairing a small section.

The best way to determine current drywall thickness is to cut a small inspection hole.

Do this on the damaged panel that needs replacing. I prefer a jab saw, although a reciprocating saw or oscillating tools can also work. You can even use a utility knife, although it’s slightly more difficult. 

Once the hole is cut, use a tape measure to measure the thickness of the panel. Most likely, any wall panels will be 1/2-inch thick while ceilings panels will be either 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch thick. 

Take special care to double check these measurements before repairing the damaged drywall or replacing it with a new panel altogether. 

Drywall Thickness FAQ

sheets of drywall in a home improvement store

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about drywall thickness. 

Q: How thick is standard drywall?

1/2-inch is the standard thickness for drywall. It’s the most commonly used thickness for interior walls.

Q: What is the actual thickness of 1/2-inch drywall? 

Luckily, drywall bought from a reputable manufacturer is almost always the exact thickness it’s listed. So, 1/2-inch panels of drywall are exactly 1/2-inch thick.

Q: How do you determine which drywall thickness you need?

1/2-inch drywall is the best for interior walls. 5/8-inch thick is a good choice for ceilings. Thinner drywall is best for curved walls or when lightweight is of importance. 

Q: Can you use 1/2-inch drywall on a ceiling?

Yes, you can use 1/2-inch drywall on ceilings. However, it’s important to fasten it to the joists roughly every 12 inches. Thicker 5/8-inch drywall only needs to be attached to the joists every 16 inches.

Q: How heavy is a sheet of drywall?

A standard 1/2-inch thick sheet of 4×8-foot drywall weighs around 57 pounds.

Final Thoughts on Drywall Thickness

Understanding the most common drywall thicknesses will help make your DIY project that much easier. 

Just as important as thickness is drywall size. So, make sure to check out our guide to drywall sizes (length and width) before starting your project.

Have more questions? 

Our drywall resources break down everything you need to know about drywall, including how to hang drywall by yourself and how to remove drywall without making a mess.

And, if you can’t find the answer to your question on our site, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. We answer every question left on DIY Painting Tips!