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What's the Difference: Paper and Fiberglass Mesh Drywall Tape

Photo by: Rodney Diaz
Although various specialty tapes exist, the choice of tape in most drywall installations comes down to two products: paper or fiberglass mesh. Most joints can be taped with either one, but before you start mixing compound, you need to know the important differences between the two.

Paper Drywall Tape

• Because paper tape is nonadhesive, it must be embedded in a layer of joint compound to stick to the drywall surface. This is easy enough to do, but if you’re not careful to cover the entire surface with compound and then to squeeze it out evenly, air bubbles will form under the tape.
 
• Although mesh tape can be used on inside corners, paper is much easier to handle in these locations because of its middle crease.
 
• Paper is not as strong as fiberglass mesh; however, it is nonelastic and will create stronger joints. This is especially important at butt joints, which typically are the weakest areas in a drywall installation.
 
• Paper tape can be used with either drying-type or setting-type compound.
 
Cost: $1.55 per 250-ft. roll

Fiberglass-Mesh Drywall Tape

Creased lightning. Several companies sell applicators for mesh tape that work like packaging-tape dispensers on flat seams and include a wheel that pushes the tape into inside corners for a fast, tight fit. Creased lightning. Several companies sell applicators for mesh tape that work like packaging-tape dispensers on flat seams and include a wheel that pushes the tape into inside corners for a fast, tight fit. Photo by: Linda Ferguson
• Fiberglass-mesh tape is self-adhesive, so it doesn’t need to be embedded in a layer of compound. This speeds up the taping process and ensures that the tape will lie flat on the drywall surface. It also means that you can apply the tape to all seams in a room before putting on the first coat of compound.
 
• Although stronger than paper tape in ultimate load, mesh tape is more elastic, so joints are more likely to develop cracks.
 
• Mesh tape should be covered with setting-type compound, which is stronger than drying type and will compensate for fiberglass mesh’s greater elasticity. After the initial coat, either type of compound can be used.
 
• With patches, where joint strength is not as much of a concern as with a full sheet, mesh tape allows for a faster fix.
 
• Manufacturers approve the use of paper tape for paperless drywall, but mesh tape provides the best protection against mold.
 
• For an inside-corner gap wider than 1/4-in., mesh tape and a layer of compound to fill the gap provide a good substrate for finishing the corner with paper tape. If you’re doing an airtight-drywall installation (see “How to Hang Airtight Drywall,”  FHB #229), however, be sure to fill the gap with canned foam before finishing.
 
Cost: $4.85 per 150-ft. roll
From Fine Homebuilding232 , pp. 36