The Difference Between Mesh and Paper Drywall Tape

While it largely depends on personal preference, here are some factors to consider when deciding which tape to use.

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Chances are you’ve seen paper and fiberglass mesh drywall tape on the shelves of your local home improvement store. What’s the difference? To help you choose the better tape for your application, we’ll look at three factors: adhesion, strength/flexibility and moisture resistance.

Adhesion

Mesh drywall tape has a tacky backing, allowing it to stick to the wall on its own. Paper tape needs to be embedded in a layer of joint compound. This makes mesh tape easier for the average DIYer to install on a flat length of wall.

Most paper tape also comes with a factory crease in the center. This allows the installer to fold the tape in half, forming a right angle that makes it extremely easy to cover inside or outside corners.

It’s possible to fold mesh tape, but it’s easy to get off center if done by hand. To apply mesh tape on corners, use a specialty mesh tape corner applicator and hit it with setting compound immediately. Of course, metal-reinforced paper tape makes for an even easier installation process and a resilient corner!

Strength and Flexibility

Hold both kinds of tape in your hand and you might think they bend the same. But the paper tape firms up dramatically after being embedded in mud, a little like papier-mâché.

This added strength makes paper tape an especially good choice for butt joints. If you prefer mesh tape, skip the standard joint compound and use a setting mud, which dries firmer and provides additional strength.

Moisture Concerns

Mesh tape, being fiberglass, is more mold-resistant than paper tape. For this reason, it’s a good choice for bathrooms, backsplashes and any location that might be exposed to water.

Also, don’t forget to use an approved fiberglass tape when preparing backer board for a tile installation.

Conclusion

In general, paper drywall tape is slightly stronger and more versatile, but mesh tape has a more manageable learning curve and better moisture resistance. It comes down to personal preference: Use the tape you’re most comfortable with.

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Dan Stout
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.