Having drywall finished in your home lends the room a classy look. However, the installation process can be drawn-out and complicated, so it’s not for everyone. The material also doesn’t hold up well to high-traffic areas and water, so many people like to look for drywall alternatives. Drywall also doesn’t do well in cold areas due the the bacteria and mold growth potential, and it’s not dense enough for certain spaces.
Since there are many flaws that come with this material, many people don’t have a choice but to seek out drywall alternatives. No matter if you’re remodeling your current house or building a new one from the ground up, you may want something that doesn’t present the defects that drywall does. We want you to know your options, so we’re going to outline several different drywall alternatives for you to consider below.
Defining Drywall and Its Uses
In simple terms, drywall is a type of construction material that is commonly used in ceilings and interior walls. The materials are very versatile, easy to install, and lightweight. Drywall was originally introduced as an alternative to wall plaster, and it started out as Sackett Board. Augustine Sackett introduced it for the first time in 1894, and it took off for use in construction or remodel projects.
It got the name drywall because the walls are 100% dry without any wet materials needed during the installation process. This was the single biggest advantage that drywall had over wall plaster, and it has continued to date. Drywall had a huge breakthrough in World War II because there is a very large need for less labor-intensive and cheap construction materials.
Today’s drywall has lightweight designs made from gypsum, a type of rock. They manufacturers group the rock into a fine powder that they then press between two pieces of paper to form a sheet or board. Then, they cut the boards and nail them to the wooden framework on your home. The result is a rock-like material that is fire-resistant, non-toxic, and offers sound attenuation. It’s commonly called wallboard, Sheetrock plasterboard, or drywall.
Drywall is specifically made for ceilings or walls. You can also find them in partitions in buildings or for other architectural specialities. You can remove them and put them back easily, and you can cut them into different sizes to fit your required area.
If you install it in commercial buildings, drywall can work for different uses. It’s commonly used to wrap columns to help hide steel beams, and they give you an easy method to top off any masonry walls you have. Due to the fire-resistant nature of drywall, it’s also popular to add a fire-resistant layer to ceilings and walls. In turn, it helps contain any fire spread to give anyone inside enough time to get out.
20 Drywall Alternatives for Your Home
Now that you know what regular drywall is and what it can do for you, we’re going to dive in to several different drywall alternatives that you can consider when you’re remodeling or building your extension. Not all of them will work well for your needs, but you may just be pleasantly surprised at your options.
1. Plastic Panels
Plastic panels on your walls are a very popular drywall alternative because you can quickly and easily install them on a range of surfaces without running into problems. The plastic panels come reinforced with fiberglass to add a layer of versatility to the product. They’re popular in areas that are more wet or prone to moisture buildup because the plastic nature makes them very moisture and water-resistant. If you install them, you won’t have to worry about mold problems.
Another bonus for using plastic panels as your drywall alternative is the fact that they have fantastic resistance to stains. If you have pets or kids running around the house, you won’t have to worry about getting permanent stains on the walls. They’re great for bathrooms and kitchen areas.
Pegboard is another drywall alternative that has evolved from being commonplace in garages or workshops as storage solutions to use inside the house. It’s popular because it introduces a very unique look and feel to your space that gives your home a nice aesthetic. It’s also a very easy option to decorate once you get it installed, and it’s a great choice if you’re someone with low floor space for storage. They’re popular for hanging tools in the garage and pictures inside. As long as you make a point to fasten them to your wall studs, you’ll get a fantastic finish in your room.
3. Wahoo Walls
You’ve most likely never heard of wahoo walls, but they’re considered one of the most cost-effective drywall alternatives when it comes to the installation process because they’re DIY-friendly. You won’t have to worry about screwing this type of wall into your wall because it comes in panels that click together. You can also choose to glue them straight to your existing walls, but this isn’t something you have to do.
You’ll typically find this type of wall in basement areas, and this means that they won’t support mold growth because they’re moisture-proof. If you have problem areas in your basement that are leaking water, you can use this drywall alternative to give you that perfect drywall finish look. They can also work to shield your home from water damage.
4. Wooden Planks
If there is any type of drywall alternative that has been popular for decades, it’s wooden planks. You’ll find a rich history with this wall material that is still very popular, and they give your space a very rustic and elegant feel. They all need much less maintenance than traditional drywall, and this makes them great for busy areas of your home like your living room, kitchen, or hallways. Once you get these wooden planks installed, you won’t need to maintain or modify them. All you have to do is sit back and admire them. Additionally, they’re a very cost-effective choice if you’re on a tighter budget.
5. Masonry and Brick
Brick and stone walls have been immensely popular for centuries, and they never go out of style. They have warm aesthetics that make them a good drywall alternative, and they offer gorgeous color and beautiful styles to match any decor. If you have a rural or suburban home, masonry and brick will give you a nice look. Another bonus is the durability and strength of these materials.
You can use these options as a mix or match to drywall. A lot of people put masonry and brick in one room and blend any adjacent rooms with drywall. The goal is to try and create something beautiful and unique, however, the cost is a downside. Masonry and brick are far more expensive than traditional drywall. They do have a long lifespan that can help make the cost worth it, and they also require very minimal maintenance that makes them nice in dusty houses.
6. Textured Wall Paneling
Textured wall paneling is one of the fanciest options for drywall alternatives out there. Due to the aesthetics, you’ll typically find them installed in cocktail lounges and in boutique hotels. If you want to incorporate this beautiful wall covering into your home, you can add it as a finishing agent. However, keep in mind that textured walls can be much more expensive than other drywall alternatives. A lot of people don’t mind spending a little more due to the aesthetics, and you can even pick from 3D options that are very quick and easy to install, even if you have existing walls in place.
7. Plaster and Lath
The earlier forms of lath and plaster had a very long and involved installation process. However, it’s now considered to be one of the easiest and quickest drywall alternatives to install. Installing lath means that you’ll install wooden slats that run horizontally on your wall to create your wall structure’s backbone. Next, you apply a layer of gypsum plaster that goes over these slats. The plaster will fill in the crevices and cracks to give you a smooth surface. It can be time-consuming and tedious, and you also need a professional contractor to come out and do it for you. However, you get a very strong and sturdy wall in the end.
A cheap drywall alternative is plywood, and this is one of the biggest reasons why many people prefer this type of wall covering to drywall. It’s not only cost-effective, but it’s very easy to transport from point A to point B. They’re great for DIY projects too because all you have to do is screw it into position and you’re ready to go. You will have to paint, stain, or seal the plywood though to give it a more aesthetic look, but it’s very durable. You can also get different sizes, and it’s very easy to cut down to the size you want to use in your rooms.
9. Fiberglass Reinforced Panels
A fiberglass reinforced panel has the same concept of traditional drywall, but they’re more durable. This makes them a great drywall alternative to have, and they feature a scratch-resistant and strong material. The panels can stand on their own, and this allows you to install them in spaces without existing walls without a lot of prep work. This drywall alternative will give you an extra inch to your wall to make the room feel more spacious. They also have a higher bacteria and mold resistance to them, and they’re cost-effective solutions that have an easy installation process.
10. Veneer Plaster
If you want to keep the look of drywall without actually using it, this drywall alternative is a great idea. Veneer plaster has layers of thin drywall that brings out a range of finishing techniques to give you different looks. They’re already finished when you buy them, and this makes them easy and quick to install in your basement or home. You can use the drywall in your home as a base, and all you’ll have to do is apply the veneer plaster right over the current drywall. It allows you to move in sooner or use the room quicker because it dries very fast and comes with a quick installation process.
Brick has a textured design element that makes it a popular drywall alternative, and it works well for large walls or as small accent pieces. You get a warm and uneven character to add a texture base to any room you choose to install them in. If you use fired clay bricks, this can easily cover up their porous nature to stop moisture absorption. You can also use a sealant on them to seal the pores and holes. They’re very durable with a high strength point, and brick takes paint beautifully to make them easier to clean and more eye-catching.
You may have heard of a stamped concrete patio or a driveway, but what about using concrete as a drywall alternative? Concrete will give any room an industrial look with a minimalist design element, and they offer a nice decor item or style statement that is perfect for a more modern home. You can make it an accent wall or do all of your walls with concrete. This type of wall is very easy to maintain and clean, so it does well in high-traffic areas. You’ll need to apply no special treatments to them, but polishing these walls can add a glamorous edge to it.
If you’re someone who likes to play with different textures and designs, cork is a very good drywall alternative to have. Cork will allow you to easily experiment with random designs and colors on the wall. However, you do have to be very careful as to what you choose to hang on your cork walls as it doesn’t have the necessary structure to support heavier items. Heavier materials can add stress, strain, and wear or tear to your cork wall. However, they work well as a nice accent wall with lightweight items on it.
14. Exposed Concrete Blocks
Exposed concrete blocks or cinder blocks give your home excellent aesthetics with a modern look and feel. You get an untouched, raw finish that makes the wall look beautiful if not incomplete. If you want more texture, you can buy concrete paint and apply it. However, many people prefer to leave it the natural grey tint to allow it to stand out in your room. Exposed concrete blocks work exceptionally well with black furniture and a lot of glass elements to help balance out the heavier look.
15. Fiberglass Mat Gypsum Panels
If you’re after a look that gives the impression that you had regular drywall and painted it, this drywall alternative could be something to consider. The panels feature the same construction process as traditional drywall, but they are more moisture-resistant and durable as a whole. The construction process also involves coating the face of the panels with a thin mat to lend more strength to it. This makes it a long-lasting option for your home that does well in high-traffic areas or areas with moisture problems like in the basement. They can come in very bright coloring.
16. Woodchip Clay and Lath
Wood chips may be popular in mulch, but they’re also a solid drywall alternative that is very popular for outdoor walls. The walls involve using a mix of wood chips and clay slurry. The fiber will give the wall strength, and the clay lends insulating properties to it. So, it makes sense that it’s popular in areas that experience colder temperatures and for people who want long-lasting performance. They can naturally block noise, and they’re great if you want something different from lath and plaster. You can choose from a host of colors to help it blend in or stand out, but it is more time-consuming to install, and you’ll need to contact a professional and have them assist you.
17. Corrugated Metal
Maybe you’ve walked into a house and saw that they had waxy sheets on the wall like you’d normally see on the sides of sheds or barns. If so, they incorporated corrugated metals. They work best when you use them as a smaller accent wall rather than use them throughout the whole room. This drywall alternative will add a fun texture to your wall, and it’ll also be a long-lasting option that will stand up to high traffic. However, it can be challenging to cut them down to the right size if your DIY. You’ll need a table saw with a special blade and metal shears, and this could leave rough or sharp edges. So, it’s best to have a professional install them.
18. Cement Board
Cement board is a study drywall alternative that you can consider. This is a much heavier option than traditional drywall, so you’ll need more than one person available during the installation process. If you live in a planting zone with a lot of humidity, this is a great choice as it has a high level of mold and water resistance. This makes it safer and more low-maintenance to use than drywall, and you won’t have to worry about replacing or repairing it nearly as much.
KO-RI the new concrete wall by Lynn Friedman / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
19. Vinyl Siding
Vinyl siding panels are one of the lesser-known drywall alternatives available, but people who have them have nothing but good things to say. The plastic panels are very easy to install. If you choose the tongue-and-groove panels, you can quickly and easily lock them into place without having to do much more than put an occasional screw in to solidify everything. They’re a great choice for open air patios that have a roof over them, and you can put them right over a plywood base to give yourself a surface that is easy to clean and maintain.
20. Everlast Wall Panels
The final drywall alternative on the list is Everlast Wall Panels. They can withstand a huge range of unfavorable conditions without taking any damage, and this makes them a fan-favorite. They are stain, scratch, mold, and moisture-resistant, and this means that they can look like new for longer when you install them in high traffic areas. Because they have water-resistant properties, they do very well installed in laundry rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. They’re easy to clean, and they work well to help hide damaged drywall.
Best Drywall Alternatives by Room
Now that you know 20 different drywall alternatives, you’ll want to know which ones work best in different rooms in your home. After all, the last thing you want to do is go through the work of installing a new wall covering only to have it not stand up to traffic or environmental conditions well.
Basement Drywall Alternatives
Installing a lath frame with clay and bark-free chips will give you a cooler, insulated, and quieter basement. It performs much better than traditional plaster and lath when you want noise reduction. Wahoo walls are another nice drywall alternative in this space because they’re mold and water-resistant. Since basements have more issues with water leaks, you’ll need something that can stand up to it. They’re easy to install and cheap, and this makes these drywall alternatives popular.
Bedroom Drywall Alternatives
Bricks and stone have a very raw, unique look that makes them great for use on interior walls. If you paint or leave them exposed, you’ll still add some character that allows you to create a quaint and charming bedroom. They’re also a very long-lasting drywall alternative, so you won’t have to worry about changing them frequently. It’s a sustainable and recyclable option that can add value to your home too.
Ceiling Drywall Alternatives
Hardwood planks are nice for your ceilings over traditional drywall to give you a rustic look. They help close in the space for shorter ceilings, so you want planks that are easy to paint lighter colors or white. They’re easy to install and have a very lightweight feel, and you’ll need a ladder and nail gun to finish the installation.
Another option is a drop ceiling or a suspended ceiling. One section of your ceiling will be lower than the other ones, and it features panels and bars hanging on wire. It can give the illusion of lowering the house, and it gives you a very modern look and feel in your room. It helps to define the boundaries of your room without any walls, and it’s a great option if you’re trying to hide recessed lighting.
Garage Drywall Alternatives
The garage requires something easy to maintain, durable, and strong on the walls. Cement board panels offer all of these things and more. It’s also a great way to make the garage look more welcoming and attractive. You can choose from a range of textures and colors to help brighten up the space. Additionally, you’ll also get a very rustic look and feel for the space.
Shed Drywall Alternatives
Sheds are great for outdoor storage, so you need something cool and insulating to protect your items. The goal is to get something that naturally air conditions your space without needing a lot of maintenance. Pegboard makes a great drywall alternative here. It can bring out a unique look, and beadboard is another solid choice that can make a smaller space appear smaller because it has very few seams.
If you’re looking for drywall alternatives, you’re spoilt for choice. This allows you to be creative with your choices in different rooms of your home. The drywall alternative you pick out will depend on your budget, room type, and the look you want to create. Don’t forget to make note of any unique features your choice comes with too. For example, you may want to seal areas that get a lot of moisture. In very cold areas, consider an alternative that has excellent insulation properties.
Also, consider your drywall alternatives that blend well with your current decor to enhance your room’s look and feel. If you get a paintable one, you get slightly more design freedom. Finally, don’t forget about the installation process when you’re deciding on your drywall alternative. The ability to do it on your own can help to save you a lot of money while allowing you to take pride in the finished product.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.