Drywall is among the most popular materials used in today’s construction business. And it automatically comes to mind when you think of constructing interior walls.
So, what exactly is drywall? Drywall has gypsum pressed between two paperboards. Gypsum is a soft and noncombustible sulfate mineral, making it somewhat fire-resistant and appealing to homeowners.
Although drywall has many benefits, its installation requires experience and is tricky. Plus, drywall is susceptible to holes and can lose its luster fast in busy homes.
Drywall is also less suitable for wet areas, basements, and other spaces with flooding potential. It retains moisture, making it vulnerable to mold and mildew in damp conditions.
Fortunately, drywall isn’t your only option if you’re taking on a remodeling project or building new walls. This guide includes sturdy and visually interesting wall covering ideas. Consider these drywall alternatives, many of which provide superb functionality and design appeal. Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Best Drywall Alternatives
Barnwood is a good option if you’re looking to achieve a rustic aesthetic. Reclaimed wood lends the most authentic appearance but is expensive and challenging to find. Panels are mostly made from engineered wood to resemble aged planks like this highly rated Port Gamble Barnwood paneling available on Amazon. This type of Barnwood is affordable, easy to set up, and washable. It comes in different styles and finishes. However, we don’t recommend buying natural or engineered wood for high-moisture areas.
Basement Wall Finishing Systems
This wall finishing system is part of a proprietary basement finishing system such as the familiar Owens-Corning system. The biggest advantage of basement wall panels is their moisture resistance. These panels don’t have organic materials and cannot rot or degrade over time.
These wall panels aren’t available separately, so you must purchase an entire finishing system built by certified installers. Costs for entire systems vary depending on your basement’s size and custom work.
Real Wood Wall Paneling
Real wood wall paneling has a rich and textured appearance and looks different from the cheap wood veneer pressboard. Its easy-to-attach J channels and invisible fasteners allow for quick and easy installation on walls.
It is hard to find solid wood paneling because of the high cost. Modern real-wood paneling has veneers of classic mahogany, wenge, zebrawood, or teak to ensure quality and drastically reduce costs.
This is a synthetic material and is a replica of natural stone. It is more cost-effective and lighter than the real thing. But, it is less durable than stone.
Stone veneer is available in various styles and colors. It is ideal for rustic home décor, and it’s popular near fireplaces or as a kitchen backsplash.
Faux brick is perfect for rustic and industrial spaces. It adds texture and visual interest to any space. If you’re looking for a lightweight, easy-to-install alternative to drywall, faux brick fits the bill. It lends a nice look without all the time-consuming masonry work.
Faux brick panels are budget-friendly and available in different styles and colors like this classic red brick option available on Amazon. Most faux brick panels are water-resistant, but only some are fire-rated.
These panels come in various designs to match your interior. They use PVC or recycled plant fiber like this great option available at Amazon. The material is durable, lightweight, and water-resistant. Also, it is inexpensive and great for accent walls. However, these panels aren’t heat-resistant because they’re made of plastic or plant fiber. Avoid using 3D panels near a fireplace or in the kitchen.
Lath with Woodchip-Clay
This is a combo of a lath frame with bark-free wood chips and clay. This alternative is a great solution for noise reduction and a superior option to the traditional lath and plaster.
Fiberglass Reinforced Panels
This drywall alternative features strong polyester resin reinforced with fiberglass. The thin, flexible panels provide a durable and scratch-resistant surface. Also, they’re easy to clean and are resistant to mold, bacteria, and other harmful biological agents.
Fiberglass mat gypsum panels
This alternative is a noncombustible interior panel, mold-resistant, and much more durable than regular drywall. It also offers a painted drywall look if that’s what you’re after.
Rammed earth construction uses natural materials like soil and gravel to make interior walls, floors, and foundations. This technique is modernized through the use of precast panels. These panels are durable, attractive, and provide natural insulation. It’s a great choice for eco-friendly builders. That said, rammed earth panels are difficult to find and expensive to install.
Shiplap is popular in homes across America. Traditional shiplap like this option available on Amazon has a rabbet joint. It is a groove cut into the wood, allowing pieces to fit tightly together. However, modern-day builders use various forms of panels to create the look of shiplap. It is quick to install and effective at insulating rooms.
Pegboard isn’t the first thing to consider when searching for drywall alternatives. But, it can be a pretty good option to find. Pegboard is convenient to use, and you can use it to add extra storage space to your rooms. People use pegboard walls in garages to have a spot to hang their tools. All you have to do is fasten the pegboard to the studs. The finishing process is also a breeze. You can just screw everything where it needs to go and be ready to make use of it.
This option doesn’t give you many visual styles to choose from, but you won’t want to use a pegboard inside your home anyway.
If you want to limit the noise entering a room, acoustic panels provide a great alternative to drywall. They can absorb sound and reverberation. They usually feature foam or wool interiors framed in wood and wrapped in canvas like this option available on Amazon. Make sure to look for products fire-rated for added safety.
Corrugated metal is well-suited for roofing and offers a unique way to add a rustic look to an interior wall or ceiling surface. This material is commonly made of steel and is available as panels and sheets. You can also find corrugated aluminum and copper. The panels are available in different finishes and wave styles and can be installed vertically or horizontally to create different looks.
If you’re looking for affordable panels for walls, consider choosing plywood. It is inexpensive, easy to install, and durable. The wood grain will warm up any space and can be painted to match any decor. You can install plywood in sheets or plank. Plus, you can seal plywood sheets and planks for moisture resistance. Keep in mind that plywood won’t be as fire-resistant as drywall.
Wahoo Walls is a clever DIY wall product used for basement finishing. It has non-organic products and features an expanded polystyrene core. A 4-inch thick Wahoo wall panel weighs 95 lbs. and has a total R-value of 13. Plus, it’s waterproof and doesn’t support mold growth.
Exposed brick can be a fun surprise behind an existing wall, but it’s rarely seen as a structural element anymore. Modern-day builders often attach the brick veneer to a structural wall like some highly-rated option available at Amazon. Brick is naturally fire-resistant but requires a sealant to protect it from moisture and mold growth.
Cement boards can stand up to mold, mildew, and rot where water or moisture is a problem. It is simple and less messy to install because it is dried in the factory. However, a cement board can be bulky, so installing it is a two-person job. Cement boards are most commonly used as a subsurface for tiling, but they lend a minimalist, industrial look when used in place of drywall.
Plaster and Lath
Plaster and lath is an age-old method of creating a finished wall with wet plaster and wood slats. Plaster-and-lath construction is very malleable and is like a sculpture for your walls. Builders can create graceful curves and carve intricate designs that can’t be achieved with drywall.
The plaster and lath method isn’t popular nowadays because it is labor-intensive and involves nailing up hundreds of parallel, horizontal wood slats called lath. This method creates a solid, heavy wall. Plus, you can repair damaged areas rather than demolish the entire wall.
This features a layer of plaster over a substrate, similar to drywall. However, it is resistant to mold and much harder than drywall. If you’re looking for options resilient against damage, consider getting veneer plaster! While drywall has joints, a veneer plaster surface is seamless and serves as a better base for paint. Veneer plaster needs less installation time but comes at a higher cost and is difficult to repair.
If you’re looking for alternative interior wall ideas, exterior siding is an affordable, easy-to-install option. For example, wood siding provides a rustic paneling look, making it well suited to accent walls.
Corkboard isn’t sturdy enough for all the walls in your home, but it can serve as a pleasant accent wall in a home office or a child’s room. The eco-friendly material offers thermal and acoustic insulation, and it’s a nice surface for hanging artwork and pictures. The cork will need a plywood or plywood alternative backing for wall applications. It is fire- and moisture-resistant, and it’s available in many designs and colors to suit any preference.
Exposed concrete can give your space a modern, minimalist design while offering a durable and fire-resistant surface. However, that concrete surface can be porous once dried, so using a sealer will help protect your walls from moisture and mold. You’ll find concrete in a range of colors and finishes, with smooth finishes being most appropriate for interior walls.
These panels are among the least popular drywall alternatives, but those who’ve tried them have only good things to say about them. You can also consider other types of siding.
These panels are extremely easy to install if you buy tongue and groove panels. You can lock the panels into place swiftly, and the wall requires no extra work minus the occasional screw.
Vinyl is combustible, so you shouldn’t put these inside your home, but they’re good for open-air patios. Install this right over the plywood instead of drywall for an easy-to-clean surface.
Reinforced Polyurethane Foam Boards
This rigid foam offers high insulation, making it ideal to use instead of drywall. This is a lightweight material and is easy for one person to install on their own, without any problems. The reinforced polyurethane boards are incredibly strong due to the fiberglass reinforcement running through them.
Unlike other construction materials, these boards are waterproof, and you never have to worry about warping or buckling when they’re used in construction. They are perfect for semi-structural applications. Because they are water-resistant, there isn’t any risk of mold growth. Reinforced polyurethane boards weigh less than other options and are available in several densities.
Stability & Reliability
Drywall is more stable than some options, such as plaster, but it isn’t as durable. Drywall is thin and has joints, making it more prone to holes and dents, but drywall is very easy to repair. You can use a drywall patch or joint compound to fill in dents.
Drywall is fire-resistant because it contains a mineral called gypsum.
Drywall is a popular choice because of its price. It’s an affordable material used in the construction business. If you’re looking for effective ways to reduce expenses, you will find this helpful.
This material is easily available in the market. So if you need to replace a damaged sheet or panel, you can easily find a replacement to match your old panels.
Drywall is quicker and easier to install. It speeds up the construction or remodeling of the home. If you want a perfect result, drywall is the best choice.
Easy to cut
You can easily cut drywalls if you need a specific size for repair. Sometimes you need to cut the sheet to fit a small space on the wall, and that’s where drywall is a better option.
- There are potential disadvantages to drywall when it comes to appearance. It doesn’t give a handcrafted look. If the builder does not tape them properly, the joints between sheets or panels may be visible. This is why it is necessary to hire a professional finisher.
- Drywall comes in flat sheets with clean, straight edges, but it requires wet work. Despite being an easier material to work with than plaster and lath, drywall requires a deft, artistic hand to get right in the finishing stages.
- Drywall isn’t soundproof and needs sound insulation between two layers.
- The drywall surface is susceptible to damage. It can be easily damaged because it isn’t resistant to impact. So, you might have dense damaged corners, tapes coming off, and joints cracking. But you can find repair solutions for such problems.
- Drywall isn’t resistant to water. It’s not suitable for bathrooms, basements, and other high moisture rooms. Plus, damp drywall will encourage mold infestations. If drywall is water damaged, you must replace it immediately. You can also get drywall with fiberglass because they’re more water-resistant.
- Drywall can’t be erected freely on its own. It requires wooden, steel, or MS framing for this purpose.
- You can’t use drywall for external walls until you use special water-resistant treatments to prevent damage.
With all the drywall alternatives we’ve listed here, you should be able to choose one that suits your needs.
There are many highly durable alternatives to drywall. Some of these alternatives are suitable for high-moisture environments such as basements, while others have more visual appeal than drywalls. You can also choose options to install on top of the drywall, meaning you don’t have to remove existing material even if it’s unsightly.