Drywall or Plywood for Garage Walls

An image showing plywood that can be used in the garage walls

Finishing your garage walls is a choice that could seldom go wrong. It increases the resale value and aesthetic appeal, improves fire safety, and adds to the structural strength of your garage. But first, you need to determine the material to use.

Will it be drywall or plywood for garage walls?

Read on!

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Drywall or Plywood for garage walls

Sheathing the interior walls is crucial in either remodeling an existing garage or building a new one. Your garage walls’ functionality, safety, and durability depend entirely on the material you use. Drywall and plywood are two of the most popular materials for garage walls.

We will compare these two materials across several parameters to help you choose the best one for you.

What is drywall? Drywall is a panel made of gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate) that is extruded between sheets of backer and facer paper and is used in constructing interior walls and ceilings. By the mid-1900s, drywall had become one of North America’s most popular construction materials due to the labor and time it saved, and this popularity has persisted to this day. 

What is plywood? Plywood is engineered wood made from gluing together thin layers of wood veneer with the wood grain in adjacent layers rotated up to 90 degrees. All plywood usually bind resin and wood fiber sheets to form a composite material. Some of the most common plywood types include structural, external, marine, and internal plywood.

Drywall vs Plywood

Below is a comparison of the properties of plywood and drywall to help you choose the best one.

  1. Structural strength

When hanging heavy objects on drywall, you must first locate the studs and then drill into the studs through the drywall to ensure the objects have adequate studs. On the other hand, when using plywood, you can screw the objects directly into it.

Plywood has the structural strength to support more weight than drywall and resist the damage that drywall may suffer due to impact from tools and contact. This makes it the better choice for garage you if you plan to hand shelves and tools.

  1. Fire resistance

With drywall and plywood being combustible under the right circumstances, it is crucial to consider the fire resistance properties of these materials. The unique composition of drywall (gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of paper) makes it extremely fire resistant.

The temperature of gypsum will not go above 100 degrees Celsius until all its water has evaporated, and even beyond that, it will still not catch fire. When tested per ASTM standards, drywall is often classified as non-combustible.

The residential building codes of most areas require at least a one-hour fire rating for walls that separate an attached garage from the living space. This will mean covering the studs with a 5/8-inch sheet of fire-rated drywall for drywall.

You cannot use most plywood to meet this requirement. Even where fire-rated walls are not mandated by law, we recommend that garage owners use drywall rather than plywood for extra protection in the case of a fire emergency.

If you plan to use plywood as the sole interior finish, check with your local building authority about any rules. 

  1. Moisture resistance

If you live in an area with high humidity or flooding, we recommend using plywood over drywall for your garage. Almost all plywood walls have an APA rating attached for Exposure Durability. This rating relates to bond strength and ranges from water and weatherproof to not moisture proof and not suitable for interior use. Even after getting wet, plywood will dry once the moisture conditions improve.

However, drywall is very porous and hygroscopic. In cases of extreme moisture, drywall will absorb the water like a sponge. The water will wick and spread and make a large section of the wall soggy.

  1. Pest resistance

Because drywall is almost entirely gypsum, it is impervious to attacks from all types of pests. However, plywood, a wood-based sheathing, can be attacked by pests like carpenter ants and termites. To combat this, you can coat your plywood in pest repellant or buy insect repellant plywood.

With this in mind, it is clear that drywall is the better option in dry climates, while plywood is a better choice in wet environments as long as you can guarantee pest resistance. 

  1. Ease of installation.

A 5/8-inch sheet of drywall can weigh up to 50% more than a similarly sized piece of plywood. This extra weight means that drywall installation requires more work and will often need at least two people due to the weight of the materials. 

Installing plywood requires no taping or using joint compound and is a simple affair of caulking the seams between boards to complete installation. On the other hand, drywall installation typically includes taping, using joint compounds, and sanding the joints to smoothen them. This makes the process of installing drywall much more labor-intensive.

  1. Choice of finish

Drywall and plywood are very different in terms of the final aesthetic they offer. The walls will have a natural wood grain pattern for plywood, while drywall provides a smooth surface ready to paint.

Drywall comes with many popular options for texturing, while plywood that has been finished with a clear topcoat will give the garage a modern and warm aesthetic.

  1. Material cost

In terms of price, drywall is significantly cheaper than plywood, with the cost difference going up to more than 100% in most cases.

Choosing between drywall or plywood for garage walls is a balancing act of choosing which properties matter the most to you. Do you live in a dry area and are on a tight budget? Go with drywall. Do you have a large budget, but structural strength is critical to you? Go with plywood.

How to Drywall a Garage

Drywalling your garage has immeasurable advantages such as increasing the property value, offering sound insulation and improving the space’s aesthetic appeal. However, this is only if you do it right. Before you begin your drywalling project, you should make some assessments to ensure that the project is well thought out and will be completed safely and effectively. 

Below is a comprehensive guide on how to best drywall your garage.

Step 1: Make the necessary preparations

The preparations you should make include:

  • Determine if you need extra framing

If the framing in your garage was done correctly, you could skip this step. However, you may need to install additional framing near the wall corners or the ceiling in most unfinished garages.

If some rough framing was done, you might need to add extra blocks or studs to ensure you have something to secure the drywall to. 

  • Assess your electrical plan

Before you install drywall in your garage, pause and take some time to envision what you would like the space to look like when you are done. Where would you like to place the workbench, the saw, and the tools that need to be powered electrically? This strategic assessment will help you correctly plan the electricals in your garage, so you are not stuck dragging an extension cord from one corner to another. 

If you already have existing electricals in your garage, it is a good idea to ensure they are up to code before installing the drywall.

  • Clear out the garage corners

One of the main reasons for ensuring that the corners and small spaces in your garage are clean is to prepare the space insulation. A clean and ready garage will make for a quicker insulation process. Also, cleaning out the debris will make the drywall installation much faster and prevent you from gouging your drywall on some stray debris.

  • Add insulation to your walls.

Insulating your walls gives a more finished space and makes the area more usable throughout the year. 

  • Get the necessary tools and materials.

The equipment and materials you will need to drywall your garage include the drywall itself, screws, a screw gun, joint compound, and sandpaper. 

Step 2: Install the drywall panels

Before you install the drywall panels, ensure that they are sized to fit the garage wall framing. If they are not sized correctly, you can trim some off until they do. Also, we recommend getting a second set of hands to help you lift the panels and secure them in place as some of them can be pretty heavy, although you can also do it yourself. 

Start screwing the panels on from the top of the wall, moving down, and leaving a small gap where the drywall meets the floor to prevent water from seeping through the garage floor. 

Once all the drywall is hung, you will be left with many grooves between the drywall pieces. You now need to finish the joints using some tape and drywall compound. Apply some compound over each joint, followed by a run of tape. Run a drywall knife over the tape to help it adhere, squeeze the excess compound out and, scrape it away, then leave the joint to dry. For maximum safety, you can use both a fire-rated compound and tape. 

How to Drywall a Garage Ceiling

The process for drywalling a garage ceiling is somewhat like that of garage walls, with a few modifications. Below are some handy tips to help you install a drywall ceiling perfectly.

Ceiling framing

The rafter spacing will significantly impact the installation of drywall on a garage ceiling. Typically, you will need to install one layer of a 5/8-inch drywall panel for joists spaced sixteen inches apart. If the joist spacing is 24 inches, you may need to use two 5/8-inch layers of drywall. 

If you live in an area requiring fire-rated installation, check for specifications with the local building authority. 


As mentioned above, drywall panels are heavy and hard to secure alone. For a ceiling installation, this is doubly so. You will likely need a drywall lift to hold the panels in place as you secure them.

For a single layer of drywall, you can use 1-5/8-inch long screws and 2.5-inch screws for a second layer. The general rule of thumb is to use screws at least one inch longer than the panel thickness. If your local building codes do not specify a screw pattern, use one screw every 6 inches on the panel edges and one screw every 8 inches on the panel plane.

For the second layer of drywall, be sure to stagger the joints so that it does not align on the same joists as the first drywall layer. 

Finishing the ceiling drywall is done similarly to the wall panels.

An image showing a garage owner lining garage walls with plywood

Garage wall paneling ideas

Paneling is a decorative treatment of walls consisting of thin, wide sheets of wood (panels) framed together by thicker and narrower wood strips. The extensive use of paneling on walls began in the Gothic period but was also used in Greco-Roman classical architecture.

You have several options when it comes to paneling your garage walls. You can go with traditional wood paneling or DIY wall panels. If you want something durable, go for wood or engineered wood. If you want something affordable, you can use vinyl wall panels. The options are very nearly limitless.

What size of drywall is used in garages

The standard sizing used for drywall is arguably one of its best features. For each drywall panel, you know the exact size down to the millimeter in advance. This predictable sizing allows homeowners to hang up drywall with complete accuracy. So what is the best drywall size for use in garages?

Length and width

The width and length of drywall panels are usually in multiples of four. While codes usually have specifications regarding the thickness of the drywall, the length and width are not governed. The most common sizes you can use are:

  • The two by 2-foot drywall

These are not usually the stock sheet size for panels. However, this smaller size is often available in smaller hardware stores and is excellent for small patch jobs in your garage and boarding up some small spaces.

  • The four by 8-foot drywall

This size of drywall allows for either vertical or horizontal installation. Panels of this size usually come attached in pairs and can be hard to carry and cut by yourself.

  • The four by 12/16 foot drywall

The 12/16 feet long drywall is an excellent choice for tall or long walls. These panes sizes are especially great for higher ceilings if you want to create a smooth, unbroken look from top to bottom. Another great advantage of this size is that you can also install it horizontally for fewer butt joints than smaller panels. The downside, however, is that you cannot install these panels alone. You will need several people at hand to help you secure them.


The local building codes dictate the drywall thickness for each installation in your garage in your area. There are three primary thicknesses you can choose from.

  • The ¼-inch thick drywall. 

While this size is not as standard as the rest, it is used as a skimming material and is placed over an existing surface, like covering a textured wall instead of removing the texture. They also work perfectly for installing drywall on any curved surfaces in your garage.

  • The ½-inch thick drywall

This is the standard drywall size for interior garage walls and ceilings, and they are easy to carry and hang.

  • The 5/8-inch thick drywall

This size is primarily used for garage walls and ceilings that require a fire-resistance rating. They are also a better option for ceiling installation than the ½-inch as they are less susceptible to sag between the joists.

If you are worried about noise transmission or if your garage shares a wall with a living area, you may need to use multiple drywall layers.

What is the difference between Sheetrock and drywall

If you spend enough time in the home construction space, you will likely hear the terms Sheetrock and drywall thrown around and often used interchangeably. Is there a difference between the two? The best answer to this question is that all Sheetrock is drywall, but not all drywall is Sheetrock. 

Drywall refers to the panels of gypsum sandwiched between heavy sheets of paper. On the other hand, Sheetrock is a trademarked drywall brand manufactured by USG- U.S Gypsum company.

Because of its early appearance in the drywall market and its popularity, Sheetrock has become almost synonymous with drywall, much like the situation with Kleenex and tissues. 

However, Sheetrock is not the only company that produces drywall, so not all drywall is Sheetrock.

Frequently Asked Questions-FAQs 

What can I use to cover garage walls

Drywall and plywood are both great options for covering garage walls. Apart from these two, other alternatives include:

  • Metal panels- deliver a contemporary, stylish look, and you can get them in several finishes.
  • Cement boards are durable and robust and a great option if you want to achieve a unique, industrial aesthetic.
  • Pegboard– Great for hanging equipment and tools on the wall and easy to install. 

What is the cheapest way to cover garage walls

Drywall is a much more affordable option compared to plywood. A sheet of ½ x 4 x 8-foot drywall would put you out $11, while a similarly sized plywood sheet would cost you approximately $40 from Home Depot.

Apart from using drywall and plywood, there are several other cheap alternatives for finishing your garage walls if you are working on a budget. One budget-friendly way is using OSB (Oriented Strand Board). OSB is similar to plywood and is made by gluing together multiple layers of wood flakes. It is easy to work with and fastens to garage walls quickly. A square foot of OSB retails for approximately $0.75. 

Can I use plywood instead of drywall in my garage.

Yes, you can. Plywood has some distinct advantages over drywall in specific parameters, making it the better choice in some circumstances. Regarding structural strength, plywood is the better option, especially if you plan to hand shelves and tools from the walls.

Almost all plywoods also have an AP Exposure rating, making them a better choice over drywall in humid and wet areas. It is also much easier to hand up and secure plywood as it doesn’t need joint compound and tape. It can also be up to 50% lighter for a similar size as drywall. 

What kind of plywood do you use for garage walls

While plywood may seem like a straightforward material, several variations are suitable for different scenarios and environments. For garage walls, we recommend using structural plywood. It is also called sheathing plywood and is best for framing strength and permanent structures. One drawback of this is that it has an unfinished look that may not be the aesthetic you are going for. 

Another type of plywood you can use for your garage is lumbar core plywood. It usually consists of three plies, two veneers on each side with a thick core of hard slab in the middle that are glued together. The ability of the inner core to grasp screws easily makes it an excellent choice for projects that require a strong screw hold, such as garage walls. 

Should I drywall my garage

Yes, you should. Drywalling your garage has several distinct advantages and is an efficient and cost-effective method of finishing your garage. Some of the reasons you should install drywall in your garage include:

  • Drywalling your garage gives it a more finished look than an unfinished garage. 
  • Increasing the resale value of the home and its attractiveness when it comes time to put it on the market.
  • Increasing your garage’s fire safety, mainly if you use fire-rated panels.
  • Increasing the structural integrity of your home. Thicker drywall has greater overall strength and is excellent for anchoring ornamentation such as shelving and racks. 
  • Complying with local building codes. Most local authorities require garages that share a wall with living space to have a fire-rated wall. You can use type X drywall to meet these requirements.

Which is cheaper drywall or Sheetrock?

Most contractors and seasoned DIYers use Sheetrock for walling over other generic brands. As with most name brands, Sheetrock is a bit more costly than the other generic drywall productions. However, most builders believe that the better quality makes up for this price difference that Sheetrock provides. 

The Takeaway

The material you use depends on factors such as the climate, local building codes, and personal preferences. Whichever material you decide to use, we hope this guide helps you choose the best one for your garage!

If you have any question, leave one in the comment box below. Cheers!