In the hyped-up world of new prod-ucts, wallboard is as exciting as tap water. But just as it’s impossible to go more than a few days without H2O, builders would be lost without the interior panels that likely can be found in every home built or renovated in this country. If you ask the Hyattsville, Md.–based Gypsum Association why drywall is so important to the construction industry, it will produce a long list of the product’s advantages, such as fire resistance, sound attenuation, durability, economy, and versatility. The average builder or architect will tell you, however, that the attributes that matter most to them are the low cost and ease of installation.

But, there are others who know there’s a lot more to drywall these days. Just as water is no longer simply water—witness the breadth of brands, types, and even flavors—drywall is no longer just drywall. In recent years, manufacturers have been busy developing a wide range of products that seemingly can do everything short of taking out the trash.

Some products resist mold, fire, noise, and moisture. There are large sizes for tall walls, and abuse-resistant products for multifamily applications or for heavy-traffic areas in custom homes. Want a product made with recycled content? You can get that, too. Frankly speaking, drywall would be popular without all these fixings, but the industry says it’s a way to keep drywall fresh and innovative. It also helps builders and even home buyers solve everyday problems.

The award for perhaps the most ingenious wallboard introduction in recent memory goes to Valley Forge, Pa.–based CertainTeed for its AirRenew, a product that reduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) circulating indoors. “Traditionally, increasing ventilation has been the most common remedy for improving indoor air quality—now AirRenew offers a new, cutting-edge solution,” says John Donaldson, president of CertainTeed Gypsum.

AirRenew actively helps clean the air by capturing “formaldehyde and other aldehydes and converting them into inert compounds that safely remain within the board,” the company says in a release announcing the product. For good measure, AirRenew uses something called M2Tech technology to offer moisture and mold protection.

“Replacing carpeting, cabinets, shelving, or furniture in a renovation project often introduces new sources of VOCs into indoor environments well after initial construction,” Donaldson explains. “AirRenew is a good choice for buildings with stringent air quality requirements, such as hospitals, schools, and office buildings, because it will help improve the interior environment for its occupants.”

Manufacturers are also introducing more products that claim to inhibit mold growth. Charlotte, N.C.–based National Gypsum earlier this year introduced e2XP Interior Extreme, a fiberglass-faced mold- and moisture-resistant gypsum panel.

Jay Watt, director of sales and marketing for National Gypsum, says, “There are certain extreme applications in which paper-faced products aren’t an option, which is why we’ve added e2XP Interior Extreme to our expanding portfolio of extended exposure products.” It can be used as a “pre-rock gypsum panel in areas with the potential to be exposed to the elements during the early stages of construction,” Watt continues. The panels can be used for the interior side of exterior walls, particularly around doors and windows where moisture intrusion can be a concern.

But gypsum innovation doesn’t only benefit home buyers. Recently, Chicago-based USG Corp. launched the Sheetrock UltraLight product line, which it says is up to 30 percent lighter than the competition.

“Sheetrock UltraLight Panels are the most significant breakthrough in wallboard technology, helping drywall installers increase productivity and leave them feeling less fatigued at the end of each day,” Chris Baker, wallboard product manager at USG, says. “This product helps contractors stay on schedule because they can potentially complete more jobs in the same time compared to using standard wallboard.” Proprietary formulations and nanotechnology mean the boards have a higher strength-to-weight ratio and improved sag resistance.

And manufacturers are working on more products that have not been fully developed. Sunnyvale, Calif.–based Serious Materials, for example, is still working on a wallboard product, EcoRock, that requires 80 percent less energy to produce. The product is being tested on the West Coast.

In the meantime, the wealth of offerings already on the market is more than adequate to solve the usual problems of noise, moisture, and mold.

Light Weight: The manufacturer’s Sheetrock UltraLight panels are up to 30 percent lighter than the competition, allowing builders to install the sheets easier and faster. It’s produced from what the company calls “proprietary formulations and processes” and features nanotechnology that results in a product with a higher strength-to-weight ratio and improved sag resistance. Panels come in standard 8-, 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-foot lengths and in 48- and 54-inch widths. USG Corp. 800-874-4968.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Charlotte, NC.