What are the pros and cons of each type of drywall joint tape? Are there situations where one should always be used over the other?
Nylon mesh tape has some pros and good applications. It is best used on joints that may have more tendency to crack, seams with wider gaps, boards that don't fit real flush to each other. It is much stronger than paper tape, but more difficult to cover using straight tools.(as opposed to beveled or bow trowels) It saves time as you do not need a base mud coat, the tape adheres to the wall by itself. The first coat should be a bit thicker than you would use with paper tape, thus taking longer to dry.
Paper tape is preferred by pros because it is lighter, thinner, cuts easier and much cheaper. When using paper tape, the base coat and first overcoat should be a setting type mud, not general purpose. Not absolutely necessary, but setting mud is harder, holds tape better and cures quickly. Usually a 45 or 60 minute set up type works great. The paper tape must be completely saturated and embedded into the base coat or air bubbles will appear. This first coat should be very thin and firmly troweled over with a 6 or 8 inch stiff knife to push out all air, make good contact with base coat and remove excess base coat mud. Subsequent coats of mud can then be the GP premixed stuff.
Like many aspects of drywall, it's all depends on your skill & knowledge. I've been in drywall over 30 years, and have run my own business for about 15 of those years, (www.mrpatchdrywall.com). I specialize in drywall repairs and mesh tape is absolutely the best tape to use, for my application. And I've NEVER had a call back because of tape failure, joint cracks, etc. Does that mean it can never crack, of course not, any tape can crack, and I've fixed THOUSANDS of cracks, and have seen both types of tape crack.
The big advantages to Mesh tape are you can apply it to the joint, and immediately coat it, which brings it to the taped, then coated step when using paper. With paper, it takes 2 days to get to that same point. If you use fast setting joint compound, (ie hotmud), you gain the added benefit of almost no shrinkage, allowing you to finish the work faster, plus you can apply multiple coats in one day with hotmud. The other big advantage is you can't get blisters with hotmud, something that plagues MOST all amateurs.
I have no problem whatsoever in coating it and making it not show, but again, that's because I'm the best at what I do, with tons of experience. You as an amateur will not be able to achieve the same quality I can, BUT, with a little extra work, you can get close enough to suit you in most cases.
I recommend checking out my YouTube channel at www.thatkiltedguy.com where I actually have a video discussing just this subject, as well as numerous others that should help you all out a lot.
Thanks, Guy, That Kilted Guy.com