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Drywall glossary: Important terms to know

Jan 9, 2023

Explore the most common drywall terms and definitions related to drywall materials, tools and installation techniques

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Following the standard approach to constructing interior walls and ceilings, installing drywall represents a key step in moving from the framing, plumbing, wiring and insulating stages of construction to the finishing stages of the project. Drywall installation is the stage in which a residential or commercial building stops looking like a construction site and starts looking more like a livable and functional space.

Before drywall became the widely used product it is today, interior walls and ceilings were made by placing layers of wet plaster over wooden strips (called “laths”). Creating plaster walls required several coats to be applied, with a long drying time prior to final decoration.

Today’s modern drywall — which consists of a gypsum core sandwiched between two layers of paper — simplifies the installation process. Gypsum is inherently fire resistant. And based on the type of drywall, it can also provide resistance to abrasion, impact, mold and mildew, while reducing the transmission of sound and providing enhanced indoor air quality.

The following glossary covers common drywall terms and definitions.

  • Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (AWCI): An organization focused on providing services that enhance the ability of contractors, suppliers and manufacturers to successfully operate their wall and ceiling system businesses.
  • ASTM International: The American Society for Testing and Materials, known as ASTM International, is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world and a trusted source for technical standards for application, testing and products, such as drywall. For drywall, ASTM provides numerous standards, including water resistance (ASTM C1396), control joints (ASTM C840) and fire protection (ASTM E119).
  • Bugle head screw: A screw specifically designed for attaching drywall to either wood or metal framing.
  • Butt joint: The joint formed by the juncture of the non-tapered ends of two drywall panels.
  • Control joint: A designated separation in system materials that accommodates movement of gypsum panel products resulting from positional or dimensional change.
  • Corner bead: An accessory that helps protect outside corners of the drywall against damage. Attached after drywall is hung, before mudding and taping begins.
  • Decoupling: A method of constructing acoustical assemblies where the path of sound transmission through solid material is interrupted by an air space. Examples include the use of staggered studs, two rows of studs or resilient channels to break the sound’s path.
  • Drywall: A paper-covered panel with a gypsum core used as the interior wall and ceiling facing in most homes. Also known as “wallboard” or “gypsum board.”
  • Drywall adhesive: A compound, glue or resin used when applied to framing or laminating one or more layers of drywall.
  • Drywall Finishing Council: An organization committed to improving the quality and standards of the drywall finishing industry.
  • Drywall joint: The joint formed where two drywall panels meet.
  • Drywall nails: A nail that features either flat or a cupped head and a smooth shank or ringed shank for greater holding power, used only for attaching drywall to wood framing.
  • Drywall primer: A coating used to cover the entire finished drywall surface area to minimize the porosity difference between the drywall surface and joint compound prior to painting.
  • Edge: The long edge of a rectangular drywall panel. Typically, the edge is wrapped in paper and can be either tapered, square or beveled.
  • End: The short, cut end, typically with exposed gypsum showing, of a rectangular drywall panel. A rectangular drywall panel consists of two short sides of exposed gypsum - called “ends” - and two longer, paper-wrapped (or bound) sides (called “edges”).
  • Expansion joint: A structural separation between two building elements allowing free movement between the elements.
  • Fastener: Special nails and screws that provide a strong drywall attachment to framing.
  • Fire-rating: The length of time an assembly can withstand fire exposure as determined by standard test method ASTM E119.
  • Glass mat gypsum panel: A moisture, mold and mildew-resistant gypsum board faced with a coated fiberglass mat on the front and back.
  • GridMarX®: Patented installation guide marks printed on the surface of all gypsum board products manufactured by Gold Bond Building Products. Guide marks run along the board lengthwise every 4 inches in both tapers and at 16”, 24” and 32” o.c. to help quickly identify framing for accurate fastener application.
  • Gypsum Association: An organization of North American gypsum producers that provides technical, promotional and statistical information related to the manufacture and use of gypsum products.
  • Gypsum board: The generic name for a family of panel products that consist of a noncombustible core, composed primarily of gypsum, and a paper facer on the front, back and long edges. Also called “drywall” or “wallboard.”
  • Joint: Where two panels of drywall come together. Depending on where they are located, they can be butt joints, tapered joints or corner joints.
  • Joint tape: Paper or mesh tape that conceals and reinforces drywall joints.
  • Joist: A horizontal structural member used in framing to span an open space, often between beams that subsequently transfer loads to columns or loadbearing walls.
  • Parallel application: The installation of gypsum panels on a wall or ceiling with edges oriented parallel to framing members, best utilized to minimize butt joints on long walls
  • Perpendicular application: The installation of gypsum panels on a wall or ceiling with long edges oriented at right angles to framing members.
  • Resilient furring channel: A framing component used on walls and ceilings over the studs or joists providing support for the drywall panel, as a method of decoupling to mitigate sound travel between rooms.
  • Rigid furring channel: A steel hat-shaped framing component used to fur out masonry walls and furred walls and ceilings when mounting drywall panels.
  • Score and snap: To cut face paper surface with a sharp blade and then break back paper on a gypsum board.
  • Sheathing: A special-purpose gypsum panel consisting of a mold, mildew and moisture resistant, noncombustible gypsum core covered by glass-mat facers on both front and back surfaces and long edges. A substrate for exterior cladding materials.
  • Sound damping: The ability of a wall assembly, including the drywall, to reduce sound transmission from one space to another. The viscoelastic layer in Gold Bond® SoundBreak® XP® products provides damping by absorbing and dissipating noise-producing vibrational energy by converting it into negligible heat.
  • Stud: A vertical framing member to which drywall is attached.
  • Tapered edge joint: Where the tapered edges of two drywall panels meet. (The tapered edge of most drywall is about 1/16-inch thinner than the rest of the panel to accommodate finishing compound and tape.)
  • UL (Underwriters’ Laboratories): An independent applied safety science company that tests and certifies products, including drywall, to applicable standards.
  • Wallboard: Another name for “drywall” or “gypsum board.”

Drywall Installation Tools

  • Chalk line: A tool used for making accurate, straight lines for cutting drywall panels.
  • Drywall hammer: A special hammer with a wide, beveled head used in the installation of drywall. Also known as a hatchet.
  • Keyhole saw: A narrow, pointed hand saw used especially for cutting openings in gypsum board for electrical outlets, pipes and ducts. Sometimes called a “drywall saw.”
  • PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): Safety gear worn to provide protection during drywall installation, which can include a dust mask, gloves, ear plugs and safety glasses.
  • Rasp: A coarse file to smooth ragged drywall edge cuts.
  • Screw gun: A power tool used to drive drywall screws through drywall panels into framing with the ability to set the depth of penetration.
  • T-square: A tool used as a guide to help cut drywall to size. Extended to 48 inches, it’s long enough to aid in making an even, straight cut across the entire width of a sheet of drywall.
  • Utility knife: A knife with a small sharp blade, often retractable, used for cutting drywall.
  • Utility saw: A short handsaw with very coarse teeth for cutting drywall for door and window frame openings.


Whether you want to enhance acoustical performance or need additional abrasion, impact or fire resistance, Gold Bond® products deliver with a mark of excellence. The product line includes wall board, ceiling board, sheathing, shaftliner, tile backer, prefinished board and plaster products. For the ultimate protection of your investment, the Gold Bond PURPLE family of products has added mold, mildew and moisture resistance. Plus, you can assemble a wide variety of complete systems with Gold Bond products, including walls, partitions, floors, ceilings and roofs.

Looking for more information? Take your drywall knowledge to the next level and get the job done right with our 5 tips for installing drywall or watch the How-To video below.

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National Gypsum Company is the exclusive service provider for products manufactured by Gold Bond Building Products, LLC, PermaBASE Building Products, LLC and ProForm Finishing Products, LLC.

The color Purple is a registered trademark of Gold Bond Building Products, LLC.