Used since ancient times and appreciated for its resistance to fire, gypsum reached its peak in the 19th century. Read more about its history.
Gypsum has been used since ancient times to build monuments that have lasted for centuries. The pyramid of Giza in Egypt, for example, is the only surviving wonder of the ancient world. This noble material has been a constant presence in construction and renovation through the ages.
Gypsum as an ancient material
Archaeologists have found vestiges of gypsum on walls dating back to 9000 B.C. in Anatolia, Turkey. Traces of gypsum have also been found in ancient Egypt and Greece.
During the late Middle Ages, Islamic civilization reinvented the use of gypsum, sculpting delicate arabesques to decorate mosques and palaces.
Over the centuries, its fire-resistant qualities have made it an indispensable building material. In 1667, 1 year after the Great Fire of London, Louis XIV issued in France an edict requiring a coating of the material on the interior and exterior of buildings to reduce the risk of fire spreading.
Gypsum in the time of the pharaohs
The great Egyptian pyramid of Kheops, in Giza, was constructed in 2700 B.C. The joints were made with a mixture of gypsum, lime and ground marble.
The 19th century: gypsum's golden age
In the early 19th century, small companies specializing in the production and use of gypsum began to appear.
The advent of plasterboard
The forerunner of plasterboard was invented in the United States in 1894 by Augustine Sackett. The principle was that of a panel "sandwich" made up of a gypsum core with sheets of cardboard stuck to each side.
Following the depression of the 1930's and the Second World War, industries in many Western countries found themselves in a difficult situation. They needed considerable quantities of materials, but their resources and techniques were obsolete. With support from the Marshall Plan, experts went in the United States to study new, rapid and productive building techniques. Plasterboard became and obvious choice.
Lafarge on the cutting edge of innovation
The installation of plasterboard with 4 tapered edges prevents overlap at the transversal joins. This results in a savings in joint compounds and installation time. The 1st patent for the manufacture of plasterboard with 4 tapered edges dates back to 1922. These boards were made to order, rather than on a production line and were very expensive.
Lafarge pulled out all the stops to find a solution and created pilot research units at the Research Center and the Technical Development Center specifically dedicated to the Gypsum Business.
To date, one of Lafarge North America's wallboard plants is the largest wallboard plant in the world.