If you plan to renovate your home or office space, don't go with the traditional drywall before considering the alternatives discussed in this guide.
Drywall is the most commonly used material for walls and ceilings in homes and office spaces. However, you don't have to settle for drywall because it's the norm. There are plenty of drywall alternatives available that exceed the performance of drywall in many ways.
This guide will explore some of the best drywall alternatives to help you make an informed decision for your next renovation project. We'll discuss the flaws of drywall and the best alternative options for every part of your house.
But before that, let's take a quick look at what drywall is and how it is used.
What is Drywall and What is it Used for?
Drywall is a construction material widely used to create walls and ceilings. It consists of two sheets of plasterboard, which are then covered with joint compound and left to dry. The finished product is then sanded down to create a smooth surface.
Drywall is most commonly used in new construction but can also be used to repair damaged walls and ceilings. Drywall is an inexpensive and easy-to-use material, making it a popular choice for homeowners and contractors.
Drywall can be cut to size, making it easy to work with and install. Moreover, the material is lightweight, versatile, and fire-resistant, suitable for residential and commercial applications.
But several drawbacks force homeowners and contractors to look for alternatives. We'll explore the cons and suitable options in detail, but before that, let's quickly glance over the history of drywall.
History of Drywalls
Drywalls have a rather exciting tale that traces back centuries. So, let's take a stroll through the fascinating milestones in the history of drywall.
The origin of drywall can be dated back to 1888, when the American Augustine Sackett invented the machine for producing plasterboard. Later, around 1916, the U.S. Gypsum Company (USG) introduced drywall, originally called "Sackett Board." In the initial years, homeowners and contractors were hesitant to use the material as it was viewed as a cheap fix. They preferred to stick with the traditional plaster options.
It wasn't until World War II that the builders realized the benefits of this material for construction. The time was in dire need of construction materials that were cheap and less labor-intensive, and drywall offered just that.
What started as small fireproof tiles were now used in multiple layers of gypsum and paper sheets. The process involved beating the gypsum rock into a fine powder and pressing the material between two pieces of paper. This resulted in a non-toxic, rock-like material known as sheetrock plasterboard, gypsum board, and wallboard.
The Modern Implications
Over several years, it evolved into the drywall material we know today. Moreover, drywall took over a decade to be used in substantial quantities in the house or other construction projects. In contemporary times, drywall has found several uses like partitions, wrap columns, etc. Plus, they are also used as a soundproofing material.
If you are wondering how it got the name drywall, it is pretty simple. The original method of applying the plasterboard was to wet the paper before applying it to the wall. However, this method was found to be quite messy and time-consuming. So instead, the paper was glued to the board and then left to dry, hence the name drywall. Moreover, the resulting walls were completely dry, which was a considerable advantage over the traditional wet plaster walls.
What is the Need for Drywall Alternatives?
You must be wondering, if drywall is so prevalent, why would there be a need to resort to alternatives?
We can't deny that drywall is an excellent construction material and has many advantages. It's an affordable option that offers a quick fix for walls and ceilings. Drywalls are also a popular choice for DIY projects because, usually, they are easy to work with.
However, drywalls come with their share of flaws. They are susceptible to mold and bacteria plus can be easily damaged by water. Additionally, the joint compound used to finish the drywall can increase labor multiple times. Despite all the hard work, the finished product is not always as smooth as one would like.
No doubt drywalls are better than traditional plasters, but the drawbacks can't be ignored. This is where drywall alternatives come in. Drywall alternatives are materials that can be used in place of drywall to create walls and ceilings.
These alternatives may have their areas where they shine or don't come across as ideal. But overall, they provide a more durable, attractive, and easy-to-use option for those looking to avoid the traditional drywall route. And that's why you should learn about the popular drywall alternatives to select the one that suits your requirements better.
Popular Drywall Alternatives
To save you from hunting down the drywall alternatives, we have compiled a list of the best options. This list will help you understand these alternatives better and make an informed decision.
Plywood is a construction material made by layering multiple thin sheets of wood. It is an excellent alternative to drywall because it is sturdy, durable, and affordable. Additionally, it is also easy to work with and can be cut to size quite easily.
Plywood is a popular choice for ceilings and walls because it provides a clean and modern look. It is also relatively easy to install and can be done as a DIY project. You don't have to spend a fortune to get a trendy look for your home. Simply put, you can't go wrong with plywood.
Brick walls have been around for centuries, and there's a reason they are still popular today. They offer a rustic charm that is hard to replicate. The style is still prevalent because they are versatile and work well with several designs. Brick walls can be used as an accent or as a feature wall.
They provide a textured look to the room with an industrial feel. You can also paint them to get a more polished look. This is an option often preferred over drywall for its durability and timeless appeal. The only downside is that bricks can be pretty expensive. But if you're looking for an alternative that will last a lifetime, go with bricks.
Plastic panels are another great alternative to drywall. They are preferred because they can be easily cut to size and offer a clean look. Moreover, they are also waterproof, making them an excellent choice for bathrooms and kitchens. Plastic panels are also relatively lightweight and easy to install.
One of the biggest reasons for picking plastic panels over drywall is that you don't have to deal with mold anymore. These panels are completely waterproof and prevent the growth of mold. Additionally, they are stain-resistant and an incredible option if you have children or pets around the house.
Pegboard is a type of material that consists of a series of holes. These holes are used to insert pegs that can then be used to hold things in place. Pegboard is a popular choice for walls because it is quite versatile. You can use it to store tools, hang pictures, or even create a custom storage system.
Pegboard offers you complete freedom to bring out whatever aesthetics you want to spread in your home. Once they are installed, they are easy to maintain and decorate. Not to mention, they are pretty affordable and offer great value for money.
Brick and Masonry
Brick and masonry offer one of the oldest construction methods, but they've never gone out of style. They are highly durable and provide excellent insulation. Their strength and durability make them an ideal fit, especially if you live in a rural or suburban area.
The only downside of brick and masonry is that they are pretty expensive and require a lot of experience and expertise to install. However, they don't need much maintenance, so they are quite economical in the long run. Moreover, you can also use them with drywall to create a hybrid wall or bring out a unique look.
Lath and Plaster
Lath and plaster is a traditional method of construction that has been used for centuries. In this method, strips of wood are attached to the wall using nails or screws. These strips are then covered with a layer of plaster. The horizontal wood stripes form the backbone of the wall, and the plaster gives it a smooth finish.
This option might demand time and effort but is more robust and durable than drywall. It is best to get a professional to install lath and plaster in your home as it requires experience and expertise.
Veneer plaster is a type of plaster applied to walls using a trowel. It is pretty popular because it offers a smooth and polished look. Essentially, they are made of thin layers of plaster over drywall or any other type of substrate. Yes, it often uses drywall as a base to bring out a solid and polished finish.
Veneer plaster is an excellent alternative to drywall because it offers several benefits. For starters, it is quite strong and durable. It is also resistant to fire, making it a safe option for homes. Moreover, it is relatively easy to apply and can be done as a DIY project.
Wood planks have been around for centuries and are easily one of the most popular choices for ceilings and walls. Their popularity is based on offering a rustic and warm look to any space. Wood planks are also easy to install, making them popular for DIY projects.
Compared to traditional drywall, wood planks demand less maintenance. They are also more durable and can last for decades with proper care. If you want a drywall alternative that can stand the test of time and provide an elegant look, wood planks are your best bet.
Textured Wall Panels
Textured wall panels are a great option if you want to add some visual interest to your walls without going over the top. These panels come in various textures and patterns that can add depth and dimension to your space. They are also quite easy to install and can be done as a DIY project.
You must've encountered them in public places like airports and office lobbies. However, textured wall panels can also be used in homes to create an elegant and sophisticated look. These are simply the fanciest options on this list. It's comparatively expensive but worth it.
Basement Wall Finishing Systems
These prefabricated panels come in several colors, textures, and styles. They offer a quick and easy way to finish and insulate your basement walls. Basement wall finishing systems are made of waterproof and mold-resistant materials.
As the name suggests, these systems are mainly used in basements but can also be used in other home areas. However, the downside of basement wall finishing systems is that they are relatively expensive and cannot be done as a DIY project. It is best to hire a professional to install these panels in your basement.
Another very close but slightly better drywall alternative is Wahoo walls. These walls are made with non-organic materials and are moisture-proof, and will not give room for mold to grow. They are also impact, rot, and fire-resistant. Wahoo walls have an R-value of 13 plus, making them an excellent insulator against heat and cold.
They are easy to install, low-maintenance, and very versatile. You can use Wahoo walls in your basement, garage, or home office. Wahoo walls can provide a drywall-like look with much better water damage resistance. If you live in an area prone to flooding or has high humidity, then Wahoo walls are the way to go.
Cement board is a popular drywall alternative made with Portland cement and fiberglass mesh. They are water and mold-resistant, so this is an excellent option if you live in a high-humid area. Cement boards are also fire-resistant and termite-proof, further adding to their durability.
The only downside of cement boards is that they are pretty heavy and difficult to work with. So, if you're planning on doing a DIY project, this might not be the best option for you. It is best to hire a professional to install cement boards.
Vinyl siding is already a well-known material, and you must have heard about it. It is widely used in the exteriors of many houses, but it can make an excellent drywall alternative. Vinyl siding is made of PVC and comes in a variety of colors. You can find them in wood grain textures to give your space a more natural look.
This is one of the most affordable and easiest-to-install materials on this list. You can do it yourself or get a professional to do it. They would make a great addition to open-air patios and sunrooms. The only con is that you might need to replace it sooner than most other materials on this list.
Lath with Woodchip-Clay Plaster
This is an old-fashioned but effective way to finish your walls. It is made with lath (a type of wood strips), woodchip, and clay. This mixture is applied to the wall in two coats. This provides the wall with strength and enhances the insulating properties.
Having this option can prove fruitful in cold areas, ensuring noise reduction. The plaster coat can be painted over to create a unique look or left as is for a more rustic look. The only downside of this method is that it is quite labor-intensive, but the results are worth it.
Everlast Wall Panels
If you're digging for something solid and durable, go with Everlast wall panels. They look like drywall but are much stronger and more resistant. These wall panels are made of polystyrene and are easy to install. They are long-lasting plus mold and moisture resistant. You can use them in any room, including kitchens, bathrooms, and basements.
Everlast wall panels are fireproof and waterproof. They are also dent and ding resistant. Moreover, these panels open so many opportunities for creativity. You can use them to create unique designs and patterns. And the best part is that they are pretty affordable and much more premium than drywall.
Fiberglass Reinforced Panels (FRP)
As the name implies, a fiberglass reinforced panel is a type of plastic reinforced with fiberglass. It is lightweight, strong, and durable. They utilize the same fundamentals of drywall but are more durable and require less maintenance. FRP panels are also water and mold-resistant.
Moreover, you don't need to install them with existing walls; they are strong enough to stand independently. They offer protection against molds and water damage, but they also save you an extra inch of space. It's easy to install and cheap to maintain, making it ideal for many homeowners.
Concrete walls are a great alternative to drywall if you're looking for something strong and durable. They are made with a concrete frame and covered with a layer of plaster. You can leave them as-is for a rustic look or paint them to give your space a more polished look.
The main reason concrete walls are preferred is they are easy to maintain and clean. They look fantastic as an accent wall but can also be used for all four walls. Moreover, they provide a minimalistic look that many people are after these days.
Sheet Wood Panels
Wood paneling is another popular alternative to drywall. They are preferred because they can add a warm and cozy feeling to any space. Sheet wood panels are easy to install and come in various colors and styles. Moreover, this affordable alternative is easy to work with, so they are ideal for DIY lovers.
Wood paneling can provide the room with a classy finish, and they also serve as a base for decor. You can also find them in various thicknesses so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. But the only downside is that they are not the most durable materials on this list.
Fiberglass Mat Gypsum Panels (FMG)
Fiberglass mat gypsum panels are made with a gypsum core and faced with a fiberglass mat. These panels offer superior fire resistance and are also moisture and mold-resistant. Conceptually, they are similar to drywall, but they are more durable and require less maintenance.
FMG panels are also easy to work with and can be cut and drilled like regular drywall. They are also quite affordable, making them an excellent option for many homeowners. When installed, they look like painted drywall but with a smooth surface. FMG is ideal for use in high-humidity areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.
Cork Wall Tiles
Cork wall tiles are a great alternative to drywall if you're looking for something eco-friendly and stylish. These tiles are made from cork, which is a sustainable material. This is the best option to get a distinctive look while also being environmentally conscious.
Cork wall tiles are easy to install and come in various colors, sizes, and shapes. You can experiment with this style and use the decorative elements to elevate every corner of your house. Cork wall tiles make up for a flexible wall decor option. Just make sure you don't hang heavy items as they might damage the tiles.
Exposed Concrete Block
If there's one alternative with rustic aesthetics with a modern touch, it is the exposed concrete block. It is a great option to add texture and interest to your space. And since it is made with concrete, it is quite strong and durable. You can leave it as is to get a raw, untouched finish or paint it to create a unique look.
Either way, they are sure to add character to your space. You can also play around with furniture and decor to create a one-of-a-kind space. Concrete blocks are also fire-resistant, so if you're looking for a stylish and safe alternative, this is it.
Corrugated Metal Sheets
Corrugated metal sheets are common roofing materials, but they can also be used as an alternative to drywall. They provide a raw and unfinished look that works well with many industrial and rustic designs. Having said that, they work best in smaller accent walls. Using them for large walls can give the room an odd appearance.
Anyway, you are always free to experiment as these metal sheets are pretty easy to work with and can be cut to size. On top of that, this option won't cast a hole in your pocket. However, these are not ideal for DIY attempts, as working with metal can be tricky.
Drywall Alternatives for Ceilings
Drywalls are not just restricted to walls; they are also used in ceilings. But if you're looking for better alternatives, here are a few options.
One of the most popular alternatives to drywall ceilings are ceiling planks. They provide a rustic feel to the room and are easy to install. Like the wood paneling, you can also find these planks in various colors, thicknesses, and textures.
These planks are lightweight, meaning installing them won't be much of a bother. You just need a ladder and a nail gun, and you're good to go. If you want something more challenging, you can always try your hand at creating patterns and designs with these planks. They are sure to give your ceiling a unique look.
This one is suitable for those who want to add a little oomph to their ceilings. Also known as suspended ceilings, they have a unique design in which one section of the ceiling is lower than the other. Typically, these are made with panels that hang from the roof with a wire.
Drop ceilings are a more stylish alternative to drywall ceilings. They can completely transform the look of your room, adding a defining modern touch. Drop ceilings are available in different designs, colors, and textures. And if you have any issues with the existing ceiling, drop ceilings are a great way to cover them up.
Drywall Alternative for Other Parts of Your Home
In this section, we'll discuss the alternatives suitable for other parts of your home.
Your basement needs a moisture and mold-resistant option. The best drywall alternatives for the basement are lath and plaster, wahoo walls, everlast wall panels, and basement wall finishing systems. These options are ideal for basements and are better than drywall.
When it comes to bedrooms, the options are pretty much endless. You can choose from several materials like wood paneling, vinyl siding, beadboard, etc. These materials are great alternatives to drywall and give your bedroom a more unique and stylish look.
However, bricks and stones are a durable option and give your bedroom a timeless appeal. You can also opt for drop ceilings which are in trend these days. There's no reason to stick with drywall with so many options available.
Since the garage is mainly used for storage, you don't need anything fancy here. However, you need something durable and easy to maintain here. Drywall cannot serve this purpose duly, so go for cement board panels instead.
They are fire-resistant and can take a beating without crumbling. Your garage will appreciate the rustic looks, and you won't have to worry about water damage or molds.
The attic is another area where you need to be careful about moisture. So, avoid drywall here and go for lath and plaster or bricks, and you can never go wrong. The exposed bricks will add to the charm of the attic and make it look more inviting. You can also paint them in any color to further enhance the looks.
The bathroom is another area where you need a waterproof and moisture-resistant material. Plastic panels and everlast wall panels are ideal for them as they can take a beating and are easy to maintain.
You can also go for ceramic tiles, which give your bathroom a more luxurious look. They are easy to install and don't require much maintenance.
Drywall is not the only game in town. There are plenty of other materials that make for great alternatives. In this article, we've discussed some of the best materials used in place of drywall.
So, consider these materials the next time you're planning to renovate your home. They are more durable, but they also offer a more unique and stylish look.