Drywall Tape Showdown: Paper vs. Mesh!

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 06/07/24 •  8 min read

Drywall tape is used to provide strength to areas where two pieces of drywall meet or where there is a crack in the drywall. It is applied using drywall mud and comes in two main types: paper tape and mesh tape.

Whether you’re making a small drywall repair or taking on a full drywall installation, you’re going to need some sort of drywall tape to help you seal the seams.

Why Choosing the Right Drywall Tape is Important

If you choose the wrong kind of drywall tape for your project, you may run into a variety of issues. For example:

Choosing the right type of drywall tape for your project is important to ensure that your walls and ceilings look great and remain structurally sound for years to come.

Below, I’ll walk you through the differences in each type of tape and the benefits and drawbacks of each to help you choose the right one for your project, but if you’d prefer a nutshell view of the differences, here is a quick comparison table between the two:

Comparison Table: Paper Tape vs Mesh Tape

Paper TapeMesh Tape
CostMuch cheaper than mesh tapeMore expensive than paper tape
Ease of UseNeeds to be embedded in joint compoundSelf-adhering, only needs to be covered with quick-set mud
ApplicationUsed for finishing drywall joints, corners, and buttsUsed for drywall repairs and small wall patches
Moisture ResistanceNot as mold-resistant as mesh tapeMore mold-resistant than paper tape
StrengthBecomes firm after being embedded in mud, good for butt jointsNeeds setting mud for additional strength, not as good for butt joints
CrackingSlightly better at preventing drywall cracksMay crack under the stress of major structural movements
Automatic toolsCan be used with drywall bazooka or drywall banjoNot recommended for use with automatic tools
Inside CornersShould always be used for inside cornersShould never be used for inside corners
Paper Drywall Tape Being Applied.
Paper Drywall Tape is Being Applied.

Drywall Paper Tape

Paper tape has been used for decades for finishing drywall. It is the go-to method for taping and finishing drywall joints in new drywall installations. Paper tape is much cheaper than mesh tape, and it can be used with most types of drywall mud, including all-purpose, lightweight, and quick-set drywall mud. However, it should not be used with topping mud, which does not have as much adhesive properties.

When finishing drywall butt joints, paper tape is the preferred choice over mesh tape. It can be coated with a very thin layer of mud, and unlike mesh tape, it does not show through the mud very easily. This is especially important for butt joints that are slightly raised due to poor framing or improper drywall installation.

Paper tape should always be used when finishing drywall corners. It can be folded in half to form a nice crisp angle that is placed in the corner. That’s something you just can’t do with mesh tape. Paper tape can then be finished using a drywall finishing corner tool. You don’t have to worry about taping corner tools getting caught on paper tape like it can with mesh. And only paper tape can be used with automatic drywall finishing tools such as a drywall bazooka or drywall banjo. For this reason, larger drywall projects almost exclusively use paper tape for taping joints, corners, and butts.

Mesh (Fiberglass) Drywall Tape

Mesh tape is a relatively newer product that was originally met with skepticism but now is generally accepted and even sometimes used by drywall tapers.

Mesh tape is commonly used for drywall repairs and wall patches, especially for occasional DIY’ers. The most obvious benefit of mesh tape is its ease of application. Unlike paper tape, it is self-adhering. This means it can be placed directly on the drywall without using mud. However, it must be covered over with a thin layer of quick-set drywall mud to bed it into place.

When using drywall mesh tape, only quick-set drywall mud should be used for the first coat. While it is possible to use all-purpose drywall mud with mesh tape, it is not a good choice. One reason that quick-set drywall mud is preferred for the bed-in coat with mesh tape is that it hardens quickly, which is essential for bedding in mesh tape. The self-adhesive property of mesh tape should only be counted on for an hour or two. Therefore, quick-set mud ensures that the mesh tape is secured and solid before moving onto further finishing steps.

Mesh tape should never be used when finishing inside drywall corners. It does not crease well, so it is nearly impossible to create sharp, crisp corners when using mesh drywall tape. It also has a tendency to show through the mud when used on corners. Though it can be used on drywall butt joints, it is generally preferable to use paper tape instead, as the fiberglass strands of mesh tape have a tendency

to show through thin coats of mud, making it difficult to hide the tape and not create too high of a mound of mudded drywall.

Mesh tape is made of fiberglass, so it’s more mold-resistant than paper tape, making it a better choice for bathrooms, backsplashes, or any location where moisture is a concern. Additionally, it is the go-to choice for preparing backer board for a tile installation.

Which Drywall Tape Should You Use for Your Project?

When deciding which type of drywall tape to use for your project, there are a few factors to consider, including:

Conclusion: Both are Good, But Not for Every Project

In conclusion, mesh tape can be used in many applications with similar results to that of paper tape but unless moisture is a concern, or your just doing a quick repair, paper tape is often the preferred choice.

When using mesh tape, you should always use quick-set drywall mud for the first coat to set in the mesh. Paper tape should always be used when taping inside corners to ensure crisp 90° angles. Paper tape is slightly better at preventing drywall cracks, and dries slightly harder than mesh tape.

Ultimately, the choice between paper tape and mesh tape will depend on the specifics of your project and personal preference.

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.