Ask for PURPLE! The Best Drywall for My New Kitchen.

This post is in partnership with National Gypsum Purple XP! #askforPURPLE

I feel like I tend to think a lot (overthink?) about the materials that go into a given renovation project. At this point, my brain is essentially trained to think about this stuff as I fall asleep every night: I picture a room I’m going to be working on, and then I toggle between combinations of beadboard and shiplap and beaded shiplap and tile and plaster and natural stone until my brain just sort of dissolves into a puddle and I drift off. The options are endless, so this method tends to be effective even when it takes hours to kick in.

One thing I never really thought about until very recently, though? DRYWALL. We all know it, we love it, we live with it, we might have even installed and/or finished it and/or patched it at some point. As a building material, it’s about as ubiquitous as 2x4s and nails…both of which I’m pretty sure I could come up with a few compelling things each to say about, but ask me about drywall? It’s…drywall. It’s what the walls are made of. What else do you want from me?!

Until very recently, a piece of drywall has been a piece of drywall in my mind. Some of it’s grey. Some of it’s green. Some is 3/8″ thick. Some is 1/2″. Some is 5/8″. But really, it’s all pretty much the same. Right? RIGHT???

NOT RIGHT. WRONG. I WAS WRONG. I’m often wrong. It’s one of my many charms.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel down to Charlotte, North Carolina to learn all about drywall with the folks at National Gypsum Company. National Gypsum has a fascinating history: they’ve been producing drywall since 1925, the production of which is still done entirely in North America. As I learned, the United States is naturally rich in gypsum—the main ingredient in drywall—which I suppose is part of why drywall was adopted so quickly and has remained the standard wall and ceiling material in this country for almost a century. At least in the States, it’s almost unimaginable to do any interior renovation or construction project without it.

More or less, here’s what drywall is: a slurry of powdered gypsum, water, and starch, between a couple sheets of paper. The slush dries and hardens and then it’s drywall! After hanging it onto your studs, the seams are taped and “mudded” with joint compound to create a seamless, flat surface that can be painted.

Fun fact: did you know (I did not know) that National Gypsum is one of the biggest recycled paper manufacturers in the country?? The papers that coat the front and the back of drywall have been produced by recycling old magazines and newspapers and cardboards since the 1960s! Before it was cool! I dig that. They’ve never especially made a point of this in marketing their products, but I think it’s so awesome!

Another fun fact: some of the gypsum used in National Gypsum’s drywall is mined from the earth, but a lot of it is actually synthetic gypsum, which is chemically the same compound. The cool thing about synthetic gypsum is that it’s essentially a manufactured by-product of other manufacturing processes, capturing stuff that would otherwise pollute the air and instead turning it into a useful material. What happens is coal-fired power plants work with National Gypsum to enact a flue gas desulfurization process in their coal stacks—basically allowing National Gypsum to clean their emissions before they go up into the air by combining Sulfur Dioxide in the emissions with lime (Calcium Carbonate) which forms pure gypsum through the !!!MAGIC OF CHEMISTRY!!! So that way, the emissions get way cleaner and emerge from the stack mostly as steam, and National Gypsum gets a lot of gypsum to use in drywall that we put in our houses. I just thought that was super cool.

ANYWAY.

Like most renovation-inclined folks, I rely heavily on drywall…so I’m not sure why I never took the time to really consider what type of drywall I was using. I have a lot of gutted spaces in my life right now (let’s think…my kitchen, the room above my kitchen, my 1/2 bath, soon my laundry room, the entirety of Bluestone Cottage—which, yes, is still happening—this other house I started renovating last week, another couple in the pipeline…let’s stop before the panic sets in?), and most of them will need a lot of drywall. And I have to confess something: I’ve pretty much always bought 1/2″ lightweight drywall and never given it another thought. I neither love it nor hate it, but I’ve tried to work around the realities of it by doubling up layers of 1/2″ drywall and skim-coating the whole thing to mimic the look and feel and sound-proofing qualities of plaster, which has been ok. But that’s really because I had no idea there were better products out there that already pretty much do that. WHICH IS SO EXCITING! Those products are called PURPLE XP and they feel so right. Also I really like writing PURPLE in all caps, like I’m screaming about it because I AM.

Taking a step back, let’s think about lightweight drywall for a second. Over the past decade or so, the market has largely dictated a huge rise in the popularity of lightweight drywall—which is a fine product, but also one with better alternatives. As one member of the National Gypsum team put it to me, “the only way to make lightweight gypsum board is to take the gypsum out of it,” which is essentially what all drywall manufacturers have done. Less gypsum, and more…bubbles! Quite literally, in order to make lightweight drywall, the gypsum-water-starch mixture in the core of drywall is cut with soap to create bubbles, which harden to a board filled with tiny air pockets where there would otherwise be gypsum. Of course, this leads to a product that’s less sturdy, less sound-proof, and has lower insulation value than a denser drywall board. Is this what we really want on our walls? I want my walls dense and solid and sturdy! If you really think about it, the only person lightweight drywall benefits is the contractor who buys and hangs it…so if you don’t Ask for Purple, that’s what you’re more than likely to get. It may have to be ordered at your hardware store of choice, but you can also find retailers here. Just ask!

So now that we have that cleared up, what is this magical PURPLE XP?  For starters, it’s what National Gypsum flew my ass down below the Mason-Dixon to discuss. It’s a line of drywall products. There are several different ones, and they each have their own drywall superpower. National Gypsum can probably explain this better than I can, but that’s never stopped me before from trying to stumble my way through talking about things I just learned about with feigned authority. Here goes.

What makes PURPLE XP, well, purple? Dye. Dye and clever marketing. Ha! But it’s the only purple drywall out there, so when you see it (and now that you know about it, I promise you’ll start seeing it!), you’ll know there’s actual awesomeness behind the color. First of all, ALL the PURPLE XP drywall is mold and moisture resistant (XP stands for “extra protection” and don’t ask me why it’s not “EP” because I’m only one person with only so much knowledge). It’s also all Greenguard certified for indoor air quality, which is a huge priority of mine up until the moment I inevitably start spray-painting something inside in the middle of winter and get high off fumes. Anyway, I aspire to high indoor air quality standards, and luckily it’s built-in with PURPLE.

There are four main types of PURPLE XP and they’re all totally cool:

1. PURPLE XP! Here is me in front of an enormous tower of it at the plant. YEAH, I GOT TO GO TO THE PLANT. Jealous?? Thought so. It was awesome. I love a factory tour.

PURPLE XP is basically your all-purpose PURPLE drywall and can be used anywhere, but especially anywhere where mold or moisture are even vague concerns/considerations. As a person with mold allergies who has also torn out my share of moldy drywall, I would absolutely use this in a whole house top to bottom. Except for where I wanted to use…

2. PURPLE Hi-Abuse XP! See that machine up there? I drew a handy arrow pointing toward the important part, which is a super rigid steel-bristled brush with a big weight on top of it, and its whole job is to scratch things really hard over and over again. There are actual machines for this! You go, little scratchy machine.

So on the left you have PURPLE Hi-Abuse XP and on the right you have regular lightweight drywall. Both went through the same test, and you can see that the brush didn’t even get through the PURPLE paper all the way whereas it literally dug through the normal drywall. Nuts! I am clumsy and constantly renovating, so I often accidentally scratch something against the walls when carrying materials around or tools down to the basement. I can totally see how awesome this would be in a space like an entryway or hallway or mudroom that might otherwise get scratched up. Rad.

3. PURPLE Hi-Impact XP. And hey look, it’s Kim! Hello Kim! But the point of this picture is not how adorable Kim is, it’s what she’s checking out, which is a sample of the fiberglass mesh that runs through the entire sheet of Hi-Impact XP drywall. Maybe you have a terrible temper and tend to kick and punch the walls? If so, seek help. But also seek better drywall, in the form of Hi-Impact XP because it is SO STRONG.

It looks like I’m pretending in this picture but I swear it’s real! They let us try this fun thing where we got to hit a hanging Hi-Impact board with this wooden bat, with the goal of making a hole. I have demoed lots of drywall in my life. I have accidentally made holes in drywall in my life. I couldn’t do it! It’s seriously intense.

That being said, it’s still drywall! It’s designed to withstand impacts like errant hockey pucks, the end of a pool cue, some bro’s angry fist, but it hangs just like drywall with regular screws and you can still hammer a picture hook into it and all that stuff.

4. PURPLE Soundbreak XP. The drywall that cannot really be appreciated in photographs but HOLY COW I’m so BEYOND happy to know this exists and to use it. It’s the one I’m most excited about, and makes me want to replace every stitch of inferior drywall in my house with this.

See how that image kind of looks like two sheets of drywall? It’s not—what you’re seeing in the middle there is a thin layer of special super magic stuff that’s designed to absorb and dissipate noise. And it works stunningly well. At the National Gypsum Technology Innovation Center, they have a little closet for demonstration where one side is finished with regular drywall and the other side with Soundbreak, and then they have speakers outside of each respective side that play loud sounds so you can hear the difference on each side. The difference is HUGE!

So, of course this would be great for multi-family buildings, nurseries, home theaters, wherever your teenager holds his jam-seshes with that friend who thinks he’s Led Zeppelin, that kind of thing, but my brain immediately went somewhere else that I find much more exciting. One of the best things about old plaster walls is how well they insulate noise—I really believe that you can often stand in a room and just feel whether it has plaster walls vs. drywall ones, just from how the sound reverberates and travels between rooms. Does this not seem like the PERFECT solution to addressing that difference?? I  have a feeling I’m going to be dealing with a LOT of Soundbreak XP in the future…it makes me want to put up drywall RIGHT THIS INSTANT.

Thinking about my kitchen (well, the room that was once and will someday again be my kitchen…yikes), I think I’m planning for tile around the room from baseboard to about 5′ high, and then drywall above that up to the ceiling, where I’m leaning hard toward beadboard! Since it’s not a space that sees direct water contact (like a shower or something), I’m planning on using PURPLE XP under the tile and Soundbreak above it. Evidently tile + Soundbreak is somewhat pointless because essentially the sound waves don’t penetrate the tile (physics, or something), so that’s why I think mixing products makes sense here. If all goes according to plan, the Soundbreak will make up for the fact that there’s no more plaster left in this shell of a room. Obviously there’s just a littttttle work to do before hanging drywall can happen, but I’ll keep you in the loop on how it goes down!

 


58 Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this very well written and useful article about something I rarely (unless I am in the middle of renovating) think about. I will also be renovating a kitchen soon after I move and now I feel so much more educated about one of the most basic components of such a project – drywall. You really did a good job with this blog post and helped many of us who sometimes question the integrity of the drywall in our own homes,( i.e. soundproofing, mold resistance, and basic sturdiness- like when hanging paintings).

    • Yay! Thank you for saying so! There’s a surprising amount to know, right?? I was worried this post would come off as too product-y but information on this stuff seems pretty scarce so I wanted to share what I learned! It sounds like one of the PURPLE XP products would be a great fit for your kitchen…let me know if I can help answer any questions or I’ll ask the folks at National Gypsum if I don’t know! :)

  2. …plus you made me lol at “…you go, little scratchy machine”!

  3. Well I just loved, loved, loved this post. I never knew anything at all about the different types of plasterboard (so it’s called in Australia) I never thought much of it to be honest. You’ve changed my view. I especially enjoyed the recycling aspect.

    • I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you!

      (The recycling part is super cool, right? They just, like, casually mentioned it toward the end of the trip and I was like “what?! did people even know what recycling WAS in the 1960s??” Also, it was really interesting to see that the plant produces VERY little waste…scraps get used as spacers between piles of boards, and defective sheets and off-cuts and stuff can just get thrown back into the beginning of production and reused that way. It’s quite the operation!)

      • Ok, as a hippie tree hugger, I LOVE THAT. I mean, I’d straight-up market to certain audiences starting with that whole recycle/reuse/low waste aspect. If you have to buy new while building, it’s always nice to feel good about what you’re buying!

  4. Wow, now this is how you do a sponsored post. I usually skip them on other blogs because they just come across so much like an ad, but I read every word, I learned a lot, and I’m intrigued by the product. Nicely done, Daniel!

    • Thank you so much Kate! That means a lot! I really do think these products are great…drywall has so often felt like a compromise but I’m legit excited about PURPLE! I know there’s a lot of product talk in the post but it was all really interesting to me, so I’m glad it was to you too! :) :)

  5. So helpful! We are converting a client’s basement to a ping pong party room and guest quarters. Soundbreak for the ceiling. Love the mildew-mold resistance for the Pacific Northwest too. Thanks for the post.

    • That sounds perfect, yes! How much fun! All the Purple XP products are great in basements (especially if there are any moisture/humidity concerns whatsoever)—maybe also look into the Hi-Abuse one for the walls of the gaming area!

  6. A related product I’ve heard a lot about is Green Glue, which sort of takes the sound vibrations and does something to make them not penetrate the walls. Maybe National Gypsum uses it, or you could in some non-drywall situation? At least you could explain what it is better than I can! Thanks as always for a very informative and entertaining post, Daniel.

    • Interesting, Charlotte! I’d never heard of that! I don’t really know how the two products compare, but I’d guess that Purple XP Soundbreak ends up being less expensive and easier to buy/hang than two layers of drywall plus Green Glue. That sounds like a lot of extra labor and materials when there’s a product that includes it all in one sheet! :)

  7. Here in Brazil we still use bricks on all interior walls. So not a lot of people building their own walls around here! It always seemed kind of weird to me, though, to think of such flimsy, fragile walls as normal drywall ones.

    • Ha! American drywall walls seem like a constant source of fascination for some of the international readers! A regular sheet of drywall IS more rigid and strong than you might be imagining, but definitely not quite like brick walls, ha!

  8. You are a sponge of knowledge. Despite having been there myself, you’ve put this into words that are an INCREDIBLE resource, friend! I’ll forever refer to this article myself, as well as anyone else who happens to strike up a drywall conversation with me – ha! Miss you.

  9. Thinking about this for my basement as well. The surround sound down there could use some containing.

    But, also…getting some guns on you, Daniel!

    • Yes, Soundbreak would would be perfect for that! Let me know if I can help ya get any more information! :)

      (pow, pow! hahaha)

  10. I was wondering if Bluestone Cottage was still happening! Glad to hear it is! Would love an update on it- that house was so cute!!

  11. okay, call me inappropriately forward, (I mean we haven’t met) but I love you.

  12. Inviting you to a plant tour was a very smart move by National Gypsum!! Great product report. Did you have time to notice that Charlotte has an IKEA store?

    • I didn’t see that! National Gypsum kept us pretty busy, although I did have an extra couple of days afterward to explore a little on my own! I ended up driving down to Asheville for Biltmore…and then I got distracted by highway antique malls on the way…and then I got there after the house was closed…so I’ll just have to come back! Luckily we have IKEA up here, too. :)

  13. Daniel, having had a friend in the past who renovates old properties I am familiar with piles of dry walling waiting to be used but I confess I’ve never though that much about it apart from recognising the gypsum label. I swear you are the only person in the universe who can write an article about gypsum which is not only informative but can also make me laugh.

  14. Ok, this was super interesting, and now I am totally sold on this stuff. I am also completely intrigued by the whole recycling aspect of gypsum production. How cool!

    Also, a round of applause for making this topic interesting, because dang! Also also, on a side note, I am always jealous of Kim’s hair. Does her hair ever not look perfect, or is that one of her superpowers?

    • Thanks Lori! :)

      And also, yes, it’s always perfect. She may not be real? Still trying to get to the bottom of it. I’ll report back.

  15. Ok, I know you were paid for this post, but this was seriously such an interesting post and I’m so happy to know this stuff exists/wish I had known this stuff exists before renovating my kitchen which involved replacing plaster with drywall and they DIDN’T use your double-it-up trick and to this day I have gaps around the door frames because the drywall was not the same thickness as the plaster and it makes me sad. I would apologize for the TMI but it’s your blog, so I think it’s probably the exactly right amount of info. Thanks Daniel, this was so great.

    • Haha, TMI is the official language of Manhattan Nest! I welcome it all! I’m glad you liked the post!! :) :)

      (depending on how big the gaps are, sometimes a good skim-coater can subtly build up the drywall around moldings with compound, and/or some Bondo and caulk on the moldings to fill the gap never killed anyone…sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do in these houses!)

  16. Interesting post! We are about to start remodeling our bathroom, including removing the lath and plaster and putting up a tile wainscot, tub/shower surround, and sheetrock above. I’m a little nervous how this will impact the sound in the room (and outside the room – yikes!). Is this purple board ok for wet installations?

    • Sorry if you were waiting for a response!! OK, so yes and no: ALL the PURPLE XP products (including Soundbreak) are suitable for applications like tiled backsplashes and other areas with some moisture. For the actual tub/shower surround where there is DIRECT water contact, it’s more advisable to use a cement backer board like National Gypsum’s PermaBase. Everywhere else, PURPLE XP is a great fit! That being said, I was told that it’s not worth doing Soundbreak behind tile, as the tile has its own acoustic properties (basically that the surface of the tile will deflect sound waves before they would penetrate into the wall). The regular Purple XP would be great for the tiled wainscot outside of the shower, though, and cheaper/easier to work with than doing cementboard under the tiled areas where you don’t really need it. Does that help? I hope I didn’t just make it more confusing!!

      • Oh yeah, that totally helps! I’ve been tempted to do cement board throughout the room and it’s great to know there’s another, more affordable, option.

        Thank you so much for the response!

  17. You’ve really done it now, Daniel. You made me read an entire post about DRYWALL and I found it interesting! Props to you, sir.

  18. You made me enjoy a post about something I am not even remotely interested. You are the best. Also the guys from the PURPLE company for paying you to do it. That is money well spent. Congrats to them too!

  19. Thanks, Daniel for this post. I happen to live just down the road from this place-(can’t believe you were here!) and was curious to see what goes on there. Even more interesting is that our condos have this between the units and it’s amazing how I hear NOTHING of my next door neighbors.

    • Do you have upstairs neighbors? Can you hear them? We did a double layer if drywall with green glue on our walls and ceilings. Can’t hear the people next door at all, but holy COW we can hear our upstairs neighbor.

      • Linda—love that!! We weren’t allowed to take photos at the plant of manufacturing—if you can get yourself a tour of that, it’s super cool! So glad to hear the PURPLE XP is working as advertised for you!

        Jill—let me see if I can get some info from National Gypsum about Purple XP Soundbreak’s performance for ceilings. I know for SURE it’s amazing for walls but maybe there’s something science-y about sound and ceilings that I don’t totally grasp.

  20. You are an AMAZING WRITER! I read the whole post and then went back and read it again to make sure I got all the details. Going to be doing a little basement renovation in our townhouse and I think while we’re at it we might as well put up Purple XP on the wall between our unit and the noisy neighbors next door. For a few extra bucks while we’re at it already it can’t hurt but to muffle some of their rambunctious partying. I think those that come to enjoy our new guest room will really appreciate it. Great job by you and thanks NATIONAL GYPSUM for a great product still made in AMERICA!!

  21. A very interesting post and glad to know of this, should I ever have to redo a wall in my home (or an entire room for that matter) as this stuff is inanimately better than standard drywall in most situations, if not all.

    That said, I have heard some additional info over the years of new developments in materials, such as drywall through my once regular viewing of This Old House on PBS as I had been watching rather religiously since practically the day it first went on the air in 1979 with the Dorchester MA house that the last I know as of the past couple of years is the original kitchen built at that time was still present, burnt orange counters and all!

    Anyway, I know there is cement board for tiling and the green paper drywall for showers, the purple for the rest of the bathroom (or is it blue for high moisture areas?) so there are now other types of drywall, such as this purple you showed here but not known a lot about it otherwise.

    Good job all around with the info on this fine product.

    • There are a lot of products out there—it’s a lot to figure out!! But basically, if you want to make it simple…cementboard for tiling in wet areas (like tub/shower surround—it’s not advisable to use any type of drywall there), PURPLE everywhere else!

      Green we don’t speak of because it isn’t made by National Gypsum :) but it is supposed to be for light moisture areas. PURPLE is better, of course!

  22. How you can make this subject riveting is beyond me, but I greedily gobble up your words like it’s the last meal I will ever have. Just discovered your blog and driving my partner nuts because I’m reading it ALL.

    PLEASE tell me you will have an update on the Bluestone cottage? Thought I was going to cry when I read them all and discovered you left us hanging!!! LOVE your blog and your sassy writing style!

    • Aw, thank you Susan! That’s so very nice!

      YES poor Bluestone—it’s coming back around! Sometimes things just don’t go quite as planned, but at long last it should be the proud new owner of PLUMBING in the next week or so!!

  23. When I finally have the funds to redo my one and only bathroom, I’m going PURPLE! I had already thought about making sure that whatever I used was mold resistant, now I have another option!

  24. Perfect timing on this post! My husband and I gutted our fixer upper and will be measuring for drywall on Wednesday. Any idea what the difference is in price point between this and regular drywall? We’ll need to crunch numbers for a WHOLE HOUSE worth :-X

    • OK, so the best thing to probably do is call your local retailer and ask (also if there’s a contractor discount for big bulk order) because prices may vary regionally so I don’t want to give you the wrong info, but here’s what National Gypsum folks told me…

      To drywall walls and ceiling for a 16’x12’x9′ room, up-charges to go with a PURPLE XP product vs. the comparable regular drywall product would be…
      PURPLE XP: +$50 (seriously, why not!)
      PURPLE XP Hi-Abuse: +$200
      PURPLE XP Hi-Impact: +$300
      PURPLE XP Soundbreak: +$800

      I hope that helps! Let me know if I can help ya get any info. I got the hook-up!

  25. I’m here for the gun show.

  26. Wow. Well, I’m sold.

  27. My husband came home from work & practically my first words to him were, “I just read the MOST INTERESTING THING…about drywall!” He thought I was crazy, but he read it & found it interesting enough that when we were at a wedding the next day, he was telling our table all about National Gypsum & Purple. :)

  28. Thank you so much for this post. I know it’s funny to think how excited we are all getting about drywall, but seriously, I need this knowledge. I live in a stucco house with plaster walls built in 1924, and when we hired a contractor to convert our half bath to a full bath, and rebuild our kitchen/utility room, they used the cheapest drywall they could find. I want to rip it all out now and start over with Purple!

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