What Temperature Can Drywall Withstand? Limitations for Use

Drywall is a walling system widely used in residential homes in the USA. Aside from being cost-effective, this material offers a range of benefits, including soundproofing, fire resistance, and versatility.

While drywall seems weak, this wall material is strong enough to sustain impacts and knocks.

But do you know that most drywalls are fireproof? That they can withstand high temperatures?

If you’re interested to know at what point drywall withstands high or low temperatures, we prepared an informative article to educate you on the capacity & limitations of drywall.

Compositions of Drywall

What is drywall made of anyway? A drywall, known as a gypsum board or plaster wall, is a panel of gypsum pressed between two thick paper sheets.

Its gypsum, without additives, already possesses fire-resistance properties. It is a natural mineral called calcium sulfate. It contains water that is chemically bound to its structure. When exposed to extreme heat levels, the water content on its core vaporizes as steam, creates a cooling effect, absorbs the heat, and slows the temperature rise.

Aside from its chemical structure, the gypsum panel acts as an insulator that prevents heat transfer to the other side of the panel, preventing the spread of fire.

Additionally, fire-rated drywall consists of additives like glass fibers, vermiculite, or perlite that further enhance its fire-resistance capability.

It may take 1 hour to char the paper liner during a fire, but the gypsum will not ignite. Instead, the gypsum will collapse into powder form, preventing larger damage. You will not ignite this material because it is naturally non-combustible.

At What Point Will Drywall Break?

If you are eager to know, here’s a more detailed picture of drywall giving in to the effects of the rise and fall of temperature.

1) Drywall in a Heated Temperature

You will have a hard time igniting drywall, honestly. The temperature needs to reach 1000°F to combust drywall. Even houses could burn at 350°F. But drywall would remain standing before it reaches 120 to 150 °F. At this point, the drywall will show signs of warping, cracking, and producing holes. At over 180°F, its surface deteriorates. The paper sheets will blister or bubble. The gypsum core will disintegrate with prolonged exposure, causing it to collapse and fall apart.

Here are the fire ratings for different types of drywall.

  • A ½-inch thick fire-rated drywall may last 30 minutes before it chars.
  • A Type X ⅝ inch drywall could last up to 1 hour before the paper burns.
  • ¾-inch fire-rated drywall could last up to two hours before crumbling to pieces.

Even the thirty-minute fire rating could give people enough time to evacuate a house catching fire.

2) Drywall in the Cold Temperature

So what about cold temperatures?

Cold temperatures can also damage drywall. Although it can tolerate coldness with short-term exposures, prolonged exposure can brittle the drywall.

At 32°F or 0°C, the water inside the gypsum core may contract or crack. The board may lose flexibility when subjected to stresses while the gypsum contracts, making it more vulnerable and brittle.

Aside from that, cold weather builds up moisture and condensation that affects the structure of the drywall. When warm, humid air passes through the cold surface of the drywall, it creates condensation. The drywall catches and builds up the moisture, leading to swelling, mold growth, warping, softening, and eventually bubbling or cracking on the surface of the drywall.

Also, inadequate insulation could develop stress on the area during constant temperature changes, where you can see fractures on the surface.

What’s the Ideal Temperature for Drywall?

Drywall does not require a temperature because they are mostly produced to adapt to ambient temperature. However, we can recommend maintaining the standard temperature range for drywalls, which is between 50 to 95°F.

In most cases, drywall performs better when the temperature is consistent and stable.

Factors that Affect Drywall Tolerance to Temperature

If you still wonder why drywall reacts to temperature changes, here are the factors that affect the tolerance of drywall.

1) Type

The type of drywall affects the tolerance of drywall to temperature. The different types of drywall have various levels of resistance to changing heat and cold temperatures. Their levels vary because of the applied protection and materials included in their composition.

For example, ordinary drywall has less resistance to heat compared to fire-resistant drywall. Or a green board drywall will have more protection against moisture than a regular drywall type. Again, their protection varies depending on how they are engineered.

2) Thickness and density

A thicker drywall has a higher thermal mass, which can absorb and store more energy. With higher thermal mass, the drywall slowly reacts to sudden temperature changes. This help stabilizes indoor temperatures and reduces their impact.

Meanwhile, using higher-density drywall means the panel core is packed more solidly than those gypsum with lower density. This type of drywall has more efficient insulation, which resists heat transfer better.

3) Insulation

Aside from the drywall itself, external factors such as insulation can affect drywall tolerance to temperature changes. Proper insulation protects your drywall from heat, makes the building more energy efficient, and controls moisture better.

4) Humidity

Drywall is highly affected by moisture as it is a moisture-absorbing material. The relative changing of humidity levels can change the dimensions of drywall. Drywall can expand and contract to humidity fluctuations. It affects its structural integrity and develops molds and mildew growth on the surface.

5) Treatments Applied

Various treatments like sealants, joint compounds, and paint provide more protection for the drywall in temperature changes.

Wall Options for High Temperature

If you understand these limitations of drywall for use by now, here are our recommended options for your wall before installing.

1) Use fire-resistant or moisture-resistant drywall.

Fire-resistant and moisture-resistant drywalls have significant uses at home. Refer to the building code for proper use in the building. High-risk areas such as furnaces, kitchens, or fireplaces need the properties of a fire-resistant drywall.

For highly humid areas such as the basement or crawl spaces, use green board drywall.

2) Try cement board instead.

If budget is not an issue, use cement board instead. It is moisture-resistant and more durable. However, it is more expensive and heavier than drywall. But when it comes to workability, drywall is much easier to handle. For functionality, drywalls are better for indoor wall applications while cement board works better as exterior cladding. If you want a better wall that can withstand sudden temperature changes, use a fiber cement board. You can use it both for interior and exterior applications.

3) Add thermal barriers and insulation.

These additional measures make your drywall more efficient at elevated temperatures. In most regions in the USA, building, and energy codes enforce the use of thermal barriers and insulation for promoting energy efficiency and thermal performance.

Best Maintenance and Temperature Control Management Practices for Drywall

In these solutions, we recommend the best practices before, during, or after the installation of drywall

1) Drywall acclimation

Drywall acclimation is the process of exposing the panel to varied conditions in temperature and humidity levels before installation. To acclimate the drywall panels, unpack them 24 hours before installation and leave them in the room where you will install the boards. You can let them sit there for up to several days before installation. In this stage, provide proper ventilation so the panel can exchange moisture and temperature with the environment.

2) Sealing air

Air sealing is a crucial step in installing drywall. The process prevents air leakage that causes heat loss in cold weather and heat gain during hot weather. Also, it helps maintain indoor and drywall temperatures.

Here’s how you can seal the air and keep your drywall efficient from temperature and moister level changes:

  • Seal gaps with caulking or sealants.
  • Apply caulking or weatherstripping around doors or windows.
  • Apply sheathing or house wrap to the exterior framing before installing the drywall panels.
  • Pay attention to the seams and ensure to apply the joint compound properly.

3) Heating and cooling systems

Heating and cooling systems inside the home are integral in controlling and stabilizing the temperature of your drywall. You have to control the temperature to protect the drywall’s structural integrity and prevent the effects of sudden temperature changes. To stabilize drywall keep your HVAC systems at standard temperature range.

4) Humidifying systems

Humidifiers control humidity levels and prolong the life of your drywall. Having a moisture control system at home prevents the build-up of moisture and drying of drywall during changes in seasons.

5) Adequate ventilation

Adequate ventilation aids in controlling temperature and humidity levels for drywall. Also, it prevents the growth of mold and mildew. You can either make a habit of using natural ventilation by opening doors and windows at home. You can use exhaust fans, air ducts, and registers.

6) Periodical inspection

Allot a budget for annual drywall inspection. This measure will help you assess the condition of your drywall and insulation systems. These inspections help you identify possible damages in your drywall, moisture intrusion, assess insulation performance, and recommend repairs or maintenance needed.

To Wrap it Up

Drywall are durable and dependable walling systems. With its many benefits, such as fire resistance, soundproofing, versatility, cost-effectiveness, and ease of access, we cannot think of anything better than to use drywall. It is less hassle to install, especially for residential homes.

However, the use of this wall system comes with limitations for use. After reading this article, you have better information on the best practices and solutions to handle drywall better.

Most of these solutions are available at home. Utilize your home and living systems. Control the moisture level at your home. These measures can help you maintain the integrity and stabilize the environment of your drywall and adapt to temperature and moisture changes.