What is Gypsum Plaster- Types, Use, Pros & Cons

What is Gypsum Plaster- Types, Use, Pros & Cons

The word gypsum came from the Greek word gypsos which means ‘chalk’ or ‘plaster’. The gypsum found in the quarries of the Montmartre district of Paris was processed and brunt gypsum used for various purposes, which earned hemihydrate gypsum the name of plaster of Paris.

The gypsum is a very soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4.2H2O) and, it is often found in nature as flattened and often twinned crystals and transparent cleavable masses are known as selenite. It is very chalk-like and light in weight.

What is Gypsum Plaster- Types, Use, Pros & Cons
Gypsum Plaster

Gypsum has five verities mainly called Alabaster, Selenite, Satinspar, Gypsite, and Rock gypsum. Out of these only two, Rock gypsum and Alabaster are of the most significant from an economic point of view and are most widely mined and used. But all kinds are chemically alike and exhibit the same properties.

Gypsum as a construction material is used in the built environment as rock ashlars or mortars from prehistoric times.

It is a particularly useful processed material right now. It is commonly known for being a material that is widely used in building construction.

Plaster is a protective and decorative coating of walls inside and outside of buildings. Also used to coat ceilings and for molding and casting decorative elements in buildings and structures.

The plaster is produced as a dry powder and is mixed with water to form a stiff but workable paste immediately before it is applied to the surface, where it then sets and hardens.

What is Gypsum Plaster?

Gypsum plaster is white cementing material, which is produced by partial or complete dehydration of the mineral gypsum, generally with special retarders or hardeners added.

It is applied in a plastic state (with water) to the surface, where it sets and hardens by chemical recombination of the gypsum with water. It can be applied over the brick, block, or concrete surface to form a smooth surface.

Gypsum Plaster
Gypsum Plaster

The core ingredient of all gypsum plasters is gypsum rock–hydrous calcium sulfate–which has a water content of about 20% in chemical combination. During processing, about 3/4 of this chemically combined water is removed from the gypsum rock employing a controlled heating process called calcination.

When water is added at the time of application, the material sets and hardens, returning to its original chemical composition.

Gypsum Rock to Gypsum Plaster:

What is gypsum plaster
Gypsum Rock to Gypsum Plaster

By drying off some of the chemically combined water from the Gypsum rock, it is converted into gypsum plaster.

First, the gypsum rock is ground and crushed in the mill to start the process. After that gypsum is heated up on a flat metal plate above a kiln. Heating the gypsum at 120°C for one-hour results in a hemihydrate (CaSO4.1⁄2H2O) – with three-quarters of the water removed.

This Gypsum hemihydrate is known as Plaster of Paris.

Prolonged heating for over several hours results in the creation of anhydrite with practically none of the chemically combined water left.

Anhydrite sets more slowly and is a somewhat stronger plaster than hemihydrate, but it is with the downside of added production cost.

In practice, a simple production system would most probably give a mixture of the hemihydrate and anhydrite phases.

Most of the industrially produced commercial plaster today is Plaster of Paris. Gypsum plaster sets by chemically combining with water, where it forms solid calcium sulphate dihydrate.

Properties of Gypsum Plaster:

As the production methods vary the properties of the gypsum plaster also vary. The general properties of gypsum plaster are as described below;

  1. The gypsum plaster is very light-weight compared to conventional cement plaster and therefore the usage of gypsum plaster for plastering the wall and ceiling surface does not increase the structural load on the building.
  2. As the Gypsum plaster produces much less heat than compare to cement plaster it does not shrink during drying and hardening processes which cement plasters are prone to.
  3. The gypsum plaster produces very few cracks compared to the typical cement plaster.
  4. The gypsum plaster displays excellent adhesion to the fibrous materials.
  5. The Gypsum is a non-combustible mineral and contains high content (nearly 50%) of crystal water. In the incident of fire, it behaves like a barrier and protects the blockwork, concrete, and steel under the plaster.
  6. Gypsum plaster prevents rusting of metal fittings such as pipes and increases the durability of it.
  7. The gypsum plaster is slightly soluble in water and can dissolve at the rate of 2gm/liter.
  8. As the Gypsum has low thermal conductivity it ensures low consumption of energy and enables power saving.
  9. Practically, the gypsum plaster is not at all affected by bacteria.
  10. The tensile and flexural strength of gypsum plaster is relatively high.
  11. The gypsum plaster is very malleable when mixed with water can be mold in whichever shapes desired. It is most suitable for aesthetic work in the building.
  12. After the plaster is properly set and with the plaster backing and backgrounds dry, the gypsum plaster can be painted with any type of paint except cement paint. It is mentioned in ‘SP 62: S & T 1997’, (Handbook on Building Construction Practices Excluding Electrical Work).

Specifications of Gypsum Plaster:

Color of the surface after drying of plaster: White

Setting Time of plaster: 25-30 Minutes

Area covered by plaster (considering 12mm thickness): 21 sq. per 25 kg Bag

Compressive Strength of plaster: 60-70 kg/cm2

Shelf Life of plaster: 4 Months

Package size of one bag: 25 kg per bag

Types of Gypsum Plaster:

Based on the quantity of heat applied during the manufacturing process the type of Gypsum plasters are as written below:

  1. Anhydrite gypsum plaster: this type of plaster is manufactured by heating gypsum to 1700C.
  2. Hemihydrate gypsum plaster: this type of plaster is produced when the gypsum is heated to more than 1700 C.

Based on the type of application of the Gypsum plasters, they can be classified as written below:

  1. Casting Gypsum Plasters
  2. Undercoat Gypsum Plasters
  3. Finish Gypsum Plasters
  4. One Coat Gypsum Plasters
  5. Machine applied Gypsum Plasters

Application/ Use of Gypsum Plaster:

Formerly, a 6 mm coat of gypsum plaster also called POP punning is typically applied on the top of cement plaster to give a smooth finish to it before painting. The two stage plastering process involves various elements like sand, cement, and water that has to be mixed onsite and applied on the surface as cement plaster was done to get a smooth and even finish.

This process is now slowly being replaced by the direct application of a single coat of gypsum plaster on the surface. In this process, the gypsum plaster which is made from readymade POP powder mixed with water is applied directly to the wall surface.

Below is the procedure for application of the gypsum plaster on the internal walls;

  1. Surface Preparation and Ground Work before applying gypsum plaster:

The wall surface should be prepared properly before applying the gypsum plaster, below points should be considered,

  • A day before the application of Chicken mesh, the joints between beam and brickwork should be filled with the non-shrink mortar.
  • At the joint of brickwork and RCC, Chicken mesh should be fixed snugly. Also, make sure that there is an overlap of at least 100 mm on both sides.
  • Concrete and brick surfaces have to be properly cured before applying the gypsum plaster over them. All the Brickwork surfaces have to be cured properly for at least 7 days before application of plaster.
  • RCC surface should be checked for any defects such as honeycombing. If required, Dressing has to be done before application of plaster material over the surface.
  • All the holes and cracks existing on the surface of the brick wall should be repaired before the application of plaster.
  • The concrete surface should be raked to create better bonding between gypsum plaster and the concrete surface. Alternatively, bonding agents (such as Bond-it by Saint Gobain) can also be applied to enhance bonding between gypsum plaster and the concrete surface.
  • It should be ensured that all the electrical conduits and plumbing lines are placed inside the brickwork (If they are to be concealed).
  • The RCC surfaces should be free from shuttering oil, loose materials, or any other agents before plastering starts.
  • The dissimilar expansion and contraction of RCC and brick/stone masonry can cause stresses and at times separation of plaster and the surface beneath. To reduce cracks, it should be made sure that the chicken mesh (usually 20 gauge) is installed at brick and RCC interfaces, around the door frames, around the window frames, and opening for electrical & plumbing lines.
  • The verticality of the wall surface should be checked using the plumb level and undulations should be removed, if any.
  • 10 minutes before the plaster application, clean water should be applied on both brick and RCC surfaces to control the suction.
  1. Application of Gypsum Plaster on the Walls

The Gypsum Plasters can be applied directly to the surface of brick walls, concrete blocks, or RCC. The procedure for application of plaster on the surface is described below;

  • The Gypsum Plaster comes in ready-mix bags generally. Directly pour the powder into a dry vessel and mix it with water. The mixture should be stirred for at least 2-3 minutes.
  • The thickness of plaster that needs to be applied on the wall should not be more than 13 mm.
  • The Gypsum plaster should be applied to a solid surface with firm pressure.
  • Further flattening should be carried out as the plaster stiffens. When the plaster is sufficiently firm, the surface should be scoured with sponge float and water as required.
  • The surface should be troweled progressively to get a smooth matt finish.
  • The finished plastered surface should be protected from continuous exposure to moisture or water. The prolonged or repeated exposure to moisture or water may cause a loss of strength and/or adhesion to the plaster.
  • The painting work of the surface should only be carried out once the surface has become completely dry.
  1. Thickness Recommended when applying Gypsum Plaster

The Gypsum Plasters can be applied in a thickness of 6mm to 20mm. A minimum thickness of 6 mm is recommended for gypsum plaster to avoid cracks and debonding.

If more than 20 mm thick of plaster built-up is to be required for a wall, then it is recommended to go first with a dash coat of cement and sand plaster for a thickness of 8-12 mm and then finish with the gypsum plaster for the remaining thickness (which is to not be less than 6mm).

  1. Recommended Finish for Gypsum Plaster

Gypsum Plaster should be finished to a decent degree of smoothness before getting to paint. The surface should be usually sandpapered (and not with emery paper) to give it an additional smoother finish.

All the horizontal lines and surfaces should be measured and tested with a level. All the corners have to be checked to see if they are smoothly finished and are at the right angle.

Top Gypsum Plaster Brands Available in India:

  • Gyproc One Coat Elite from Saint Gobain
  • MagicPlast from Magicrete
  • Diamond Plaster
  • Stucko from Shubham Plaster
  • JK Gypgold from JK Lakshmi Cement

Storage of Gypsum Plaster at Site:

Following cares should be taken when storing the gypsum plaster at the site;

  • As the exposure to moisture reduces the setting time and strength of gypsum plaster, the plaster bags should be stored properly where there is no possibility of it coming in contact with water or moisture.
  • At the site, the gypsum plaster bags have to be stored on an elevated platform made of either brick and timber or concrete.
  • The gypsum plaster bags should be kept at least some certain distance away from the walls so that there is no chance of water or moisture reaching the bags.
  • The minimum shelf life of Gypsum Plaster is in between 3 to 4 months from the date of manufacture. But if properly stored it can be extended.
  • The shelf life of gypsum plaster can be increased by another 6 months. If it is stored properly under suitable conditions of temperature and humidity.

Advantages of Gypsum Plaster:

The gypsum plaster has existed from historic times in various forms. It has been used in many ancient structures.

Nowadays more and more builders and contractors have been using it in construction due to its superior finish and time-saving attributes.

Following are the advantages of using gypsum plaster in the structure;

  1. Ease of Application (Workability): Gypsum plaster is very easy to apply and level on the surface. It can be directly applied over the brick wall or ceiling without any separate finish, which makes it very workable and easy to apply.
  2. No Shrinkage Cracks: The heat produced in the gypsum-water reaction is less as compared to the reaction of cement with water, as such the shrinkage cracks in the gypsum plaster are fewer as compared to traditional cement plaster.
  3. Quick Setting Time: The gypsum plaster sets within 25-30 minutes which are very quick compared to other plasters. Before painting the surface, it has to be dried up. In the case of gypsum plaster, the painting could be started 72 hours after the application.
  4. No curing time required: The gypsum plaster does not require any curing like traditional cement plaster, which in turn saves water and time during the construction work.
  5. High Productivity: It reduces the time of application and setting considerably when compared to the conventional cement plaster.
  6. High Performance: The gypsum plaster is very durable and lightweight which reduces the dead load on the structure and depart excellent high strength after drying. The gypsum plaster exhibits impact-resistant behavior.
  7. Smooth Finish: Due to the ease of application and leveling of the gypsum plaster, the walls come out perfectly lined, leveled, and smooth. Perfect right angles can be achieved in the corners.
  8. Reduced Supervision: For traditional cement plasters, where cement and sand have to be properly proportioned careful quality checking is needed. So skillful supervision is required. While the application of gypsum plaster does not require the same amount of quality checks thus supervision efforts are reduced.
  9. Readily available raw materials: Gypsum is a readily available raw material, while for traditional cement plaster natural sand, (which is one of the raw materials needed) may not be available or hard to obtain on-site.
  10. Fire-resistant: The gypsum plaster is highly fire-resistant which is safer.
  11. Low thermal conductivity: As gypsum has low thermal conductivity. It saves electrical cost for heating and cooling rooms in a building in winter and summer respectively. Thus gypsum has good insulation properties.
  12. Decorative application: The gypsum plaster can be easily molded into different shapes, so it is very easy to use for decorative purposes as well.
  13. It is a green material.

Disadvantages of Gypsum Plaster:

The disadvantages of gypsum plaster are as enlisted below;

  1. Since the gypsum plaster retains the dampness from the outside, it cannot be used for the outside walls of the building.
  2. The gypsum plaster also cannot be done in areas that are always damp such as bathrooms, W/C, and chokdi or wash area, etc.
  3. For the same thickness of plaster, the gypsum plaster cost more than the traditional cement mortar plaster (cement and sand). Though, in areas where natural/river sand is hard to come by for construction, cement mortar plastering would require a 6 mm gypsum layer on top to finish it making cement plaster more costly.
  4. The gypsum plaster cannot be stored for more than 3 months even in a dry place and conditions, otherwise, it deteriorates.


The gypsum is a very soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4:2H2O). Gypsum plaster is white cementing material, which is produced by partial or complete dehydration of the mineral gypsum, generally with special retarders or hardeners added.

The gypsum plaster is a green material that is very easy to use and gives a very smooth finish to the surface after drying.it can be used directly on any type of surface such as a brick wall, R.C.C., etc.

With fire resistance, low thermal conductivity, and very few shrinking cracks after drying the gypsum plaster is a popular choice as a plastering material. With its malleability, it can mold in any shape and gives a good aesthetic appearance to the building.

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