Chances are you’ve seen both paper and fiberglass mesh drywall tape on the shelves of your local home improvement store. To help you understand the difference, and how to choose the best tape for your application, we’ll look at three factors: Adhesion, Strength/Flexibility and Moisture Resistance.
Mesh drywall tape has a tacky backing, allowing it to be self-stuck to the wall. Paper tape needs to be embedded in a layer of joint compound. This means that mesh tape is easier for the average person 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 is possible to fold mesh tape, but it’s easy to get off center if done by hand. If you want to use 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 even easier installation and a very resilient corner!
Strength and Flexibility
Hold both kinds of tape in your hand, and you might think that they have similar levels of bend. But the paper tape firms up dramatically after being embedded in mud, a little like paper-mache.
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.
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.
In general, paper drywall tape is slightly stronger and more versatile, but mesh tape has a more manageable learning curve and better moisture resistance. At the end of the day, this contest comes down to personal preference: use the tape that you’re most comfortable with!