Building Knowledge

Abuse- vs. impact-resistant gypsum board

Jul 12, 2023

Understand the basics of specifying abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum boards in commercial and residential projects

One of the most common mistakes when selecting abuse- or impact-resistant gypsum boards is grouping the two together in the specification. Writing abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum board in the same paragraph is sure to cause confusion and lead the contractor to choose a product based on its cost, rather than its function.

Learn the differences between abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum board by taking National Gypsum Company’s on-demand continuing education course, “Abuse- and Impact-Resistant Gypsum: Stronger and Safer Walls.” This course is approved by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for one health, safety and welfare (HSW) learning unit credit.

The one-hour course will cover:

  • The definitions of abuse-resistant and impact-resistant products and the differences between these products and standard gypsum boards.
  • ASTM C1629 classification system for abuse-resistant panels and minimum performance requirements to meet the established criteria for each classification level.
  • Explanation of the four ASTM test methodologies that make up ASTM C1629.
  • Performance comparisons between standard, abuse-resistant and impact-resistant gypsum products and specialized applications for each product type will be outlined.

What’s the difference between regular gypsum boards, abuse-resistant gypsum boards and impact-resistant gypsum boards?

Abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum boards weigh more because they have a denser gypsum core than standard gypsum boards.

Architects considering what kind of gypsum board to use should ask who and how many people will be in the room and what kind of activities will take place there?

  • Standard drywall is paper faced and comes in standard ½" and ⅝" Type X for UL designs. It is best used in rooms with low to moderate activity, such as bedrooms, single-occupant offices and libraries.
  • Abuse-resistant drywall comes with either an enhanced paper facer or a fiberglass mat facer to provide resistance to surface-level abrasion and scratching caused by high traffic during standard use and indentations from low-energy or occasional impacts. School corridors exemplify this kind of space: Backpacks graze the walls daily, while occasionally a cart may have a minor collision with the wall.
  • Impact-resistant drywall also comes in paper faced or fiberglass mat faced, has the same physical properties and performance characteristics of abuse-resistant drywall, but adds a layer of mesh inside the panel to resist damage from high-energy or continual impacts that break into the stud cavity. Mailrooms, loading areas, recreation rooms and garages are examples where impact resistance is a must-have.

How is gypsum board tested for abuse and impact resistance?

ASTM C1629, Standard Classification for Abuse-Resistant Nondecorated Interior Gypsum Panel Products and Fiber-Reinforced Cement Panels, includes four test methods to quantify the level of abuse and impact resistance. Each test method classifies the product as a Level I, Level II or Level III.

The four testing methods included in ASTM C1629 are:

  • ASTM D4977 Surface Abrasion: Measures the ability of a wall system to withstand scuffs and abrasion.
  • ASTM D5420 Surface Indentation Resistance: Measures resistance to dents.
  • ASTM E695 Soft Body Impact: Measures resistance to soft body impacts, such as a shoulder pad or volleyball.
  • Annex 1 Hard Body Impact: Measures resistance to penetration by a hard object, such as a baseball bat or boot heel.
ASTM C1629 | Classifications & Performance Requirements
ASTM C1629 | Classifications & Performance Requirements

How do abuse- and impact-resistant products provided by National Gypsum rate on ASTM C1629?

This chart provides a side-by-side comparison of abuse- and impact-resistant products manufactured by Gold Bond Building Products, LLC, an affiliate company of National Gypsum Company.

Abuse Impact Products
Abuse Impact Products
Impact Resistant Products
Impact Resistant Products

Architectural firms specializing in K-12 school design drove the development of abuse- and impact-resistant drywall in the 1990s, mostly out of a desire for less expensive and easier-to-install products than the standard concrete masonry units and oriented strand board.

Top 5 questions about abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum boards

1) Why specify abuse- and impact-resistant products?

Abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum boards cost less than standard concrete masonry units and oriented strand board and can be installed faster. Gypsum products also lend themselves to lighter weight construction and have more decorative finish options. Because of their enhanced performance qualities, these specialty gypsum products are easier and less costly to maintain than standard drywall.

2) How are abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum boards installed?

They are installed the same as standard drywall, and when using abuse- or impact-resistant gypsum boards on the lower portion of the wall, you don’t need to install a control joint between the two. A skim coat may be required for fiberglass-faced products depending on the required level of finish — especially for Level 5.

3) What other properties are important to know about abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum boards?

Fiberglass-faced products can be used for prerock installation. Abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum board products provided by National Gypsum are ⅝" Type X, carry UL GREENGUARD Gold certification and are mold resistant per ASTM D3273.

4) Where do I specify abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum boards?

Specify abuse-resistant gypsum board in the following spaces:

  • Residential: laundry rooms, hallways, and stairwells
  • Institutional: cafeterias, dormitories, day care centers and hospital observation rooms
  • Commercial: corridors, entries, lobbies, public areas and warehouses

Specify impact-resistant gypsum board in the following spaces:

  • Single-family residential: recreation rooms, garages and mud rooms
  • Multifamily residential: maintenance rooms, corridors and stairwells
  • Institutional: gymnasiums, schools and workshops
  • Commercial: mailrooms, loading areas, high-traffic corridors and public areas

Specify impact-resistant gypsum board in stair and elevator shaft enclosures in high-rise buildings of Risk Category III or IV, and all buildings over 420′ must be built with impact-resistant materials.

5) How do I specify these abuse- and impact-resistant gypsum boards?

Make sure to separate impact and abuse products in your specification documents, identify impact and abuse products on the partition schedule and tag to appropriate walls on the plans and specify by ASTM C1629 classification level.

Have additional questions? Contact your National Gypsum construction design manager or reach out to the technical experts on National Gypsum’s Construction Services team at 1-800-NATIONAL®.