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.
Some bad info here. Mesh tape is weaker than paper and you must use hot mud on your initial coat over mesh. USG and National Gypsum both say to use hot mud for initial coats if using mesh tape. Mesh does eliminate the bubble issues that can plague rookie tapers and if you haven't invested into automatic taking tools it is faster than hand taping.
Paper tape or fiberfuse is generally preferred by pros because it works with automatic tools, is a stronger joint and you DON'T have to use hot mud with it which allows you to do large areas without having to stop every 45-90 minutes to clean up or mix new mud. If you're doing an entire house you don't care if it needs to dry over night because it'll take all day to prep the board, run your bazooka to apply tape to wipe joints, roll corners, run glazer in corners, etc... If you're doing a small job sure hot mud will speed you up because you don't have the sheer volume of work to do while the mud is drying.
20 year plaster/drywall contractor commercial and residential
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