What’s the difference between plasterboard and plaster?

Jun 13, 2022

When undertaking any major home renovation project, it’s likely that you’ll be faced with the decision of what building material to use to line your home’s interior walls. Plasterboard and plaster are two of the most common materials used today. However, terms plasterboard and plaster are often used interchangeably by many home remodelling blogs. Even though there are a number of similarities between the two building materials they are two distinct products. There are many differences between the two ranging from their origins, mixture, installation methods, costs, features, and many more. In this post we’ll explore the differences between these two products so you can decide which one would best suit your needs.


To understand their differences better, let’s start with their similarities first. Both plasterboard and plaster are used for walls and ceilings for protection and decorative purposes. They are used in homes, offices, and other commercial spaces. They are also smoothened and coated with paint for the finishing process. And both can be done by a professional or DIY.

Now, let’s talk about their differences.

Old style lathe and plaster was the common wall construction material in Australia until the emergence of plasterboard sheets.


Plastering is an ancient building technique dating back to the 8th millennium BC and originated from the first cities in Mesopotamia. The earliest form is clay plaster which is a mixture of clay, sand, and water. People used mud to plaster their huts made of wood and straw to make them more durable.

Aside from providing protection, plaster was also used for decorative and artistic expressions because of its elasticity. It was in the 1830s that plaster of Paris was first imported to Australia from England and was used in buildings and houses for decorative purposes.

While plasterboard is a more modern method used for wall or masonry protection. It was developed as a result of the need for more affordable and easier installation. It replaced the scrim and sarking method which was widely used during the 19th to the 20th century in Australia.


Plaster has gone through several changes to improve its composition for better flexibility and for safety concerns as well.  Nowadays, it contains a mixture of either lime, cement, or gypsum.  Plaster is also used for art, fire protection, funeral processes, 3D printing, statues, and as well as in medicine for orthopedic casts, dental impressions, etc.

Plasterboard is thick panel sheets that are fastened on frames of either wood or steel. These sheets consist of gypsum plaster compressed between paper layers. These days, they are widely used in homes, offices, and other commercial spaces since they are more affordable and can be installed within a matter of days.

drywall aka plasterboard sheets
Plasterboard sheets make it easy to quickly construct an interior wall

Installation methods

Application of plaster on walls involves mixing the plaster, water, and sometimes incorporating additives to strengthen the plaster. When the mixture consistency is achieved it is hand trowelled onto the wall by a skilled plasterer. Normally, 2-3 coats of plaster is applied followed by a final skim coat to smoothen the surface in preparation for painting. This process can be completed within 2-3 days or more depending on the size of the room.

Plasterboard installation requires measuring and cutting sheets of plasterboard to size. Fastening the sheets to the wall frame using plasterboard screws or nails. Once the sheets have been secured the joints and add screws are covered with a joint compound and joint tape. Multiple coats are applied over the joins to achieve a gradual transition between the two sheets of plasterboard making it impossible for the naked eye to detect giving the appearance of one seamless wall or ceiling surface.  

Plasterboard sheets are quicker and cheaper to install. For most uses this is the the preferable building material used to line interior walls in Australia. However those seeking a higher end more durable finish may opt for a solid plaster finish.

Labour cost

Plasterboard is more affordable than plaster. It typically costs between $20 to $70 per square metre or while plaster can be up to $90 per square metre. The exact amount the project will cost will vary depending upon the type of products used, the size of the job, and complexity of the job.

Choose the right material for your needs

Even though the terms plasterboard and plaster are used interchangeably they actually refer to two different methods of constructing interior walls in buildings. Both plasterboard and plaster can provide beautifully constructed seamless walls. Plaster involves applying a paste like mixture and allowing it to dry into a durable hard surface, whereas plasterboard involves attaching sheets to a timber or metal frame and applying joint compound over the seams to achieve a smooth flat finish. Which ever option you choose you’ll need the assistance of a skilled plasterer to perform the installation.

If your property is based in the Liverpool area in south west Sydney then you’ve come to the right place. At South West Sydney Plasterer we perform all kinds of plastering work from installations in new homes to renovations and repair work like repairing storm water damaged ceilings repairs in Liverpool and Sydney’s south west suburbs. Contact us today for a obligation free quote on your plastering project.

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