Drywall Alternatives Provide Awesome Finishes for Any Room

Drywall alternatives give homeowners options that can be more interesting than the basic construction go-to. While drywall might be the easiest type of wall for builders to install and painters to paint, it can also be rather boring.

Drywall Alternatives

We’ve pulled together a list of the most popular types of painted drywall alternatives for interior walls.

In addition, we’ll run down what you need to consider before installing each type of these drywall alternatives for wall structure.

What is Drywall?

What is Drywall?

This building material goes by a number of different names, including plasterboard, wallboard, sheet rock or gypsum board to name a few.

Essentially, it is a mixture of calcium sulfate dihydrate — gypsum — sandwiched between two thick sheets of paper, used in the construction of interior walls and ceilings.

The gypsum is usually mixed with different fibers like paper or glass wool and other additives. These additives help cut down water absorption and increase fire resistance.

This building material became popular beginning in the middle of the 20th century, mainly in North America.

Over time, installing drywall replaced the more traditional lath and plaster process, which was much more time-consuming and labor-intensive.

Why Choose Alternatives to Drywall?

Why Choose Alternatives to Drywall?

Builders choose drywall because it’s cheaper. Also, it’s made with gypsum, so it’s somewhat fire-resistant. 

While drywall is the go-to for the construction industry, it generally yields a cookie-cutter look.

While it has its upsides, drywall installation is pretty messy between the mud used and the dust from sanding.

Also, it’s pretty easily damaged, so while repairs are difficult, they can be a pain to do because they are time-consuming and messy.

Finally, drywall absorbs a lot of moisture so it’s not a good option for areas that are damp, like basements.

Actually, if you have exposed concrete block walls, you’ll want to find a basement wall finishing system.

These reasons — along with the obvious visual aesthetic – lead people to choose alternatives to drywall.

We’ve listed the most common types of alternatives to drywall. However, you can be creative and consider all sorts of wall coverings, from corrugated metal to rammed earth panels and solid wood options.

Prepping for Drywall Alternatives

Before installing a drywall alternative, you’ll still need a wall that is in good shape.

  • If the existing walls are damaged and patching is not enough, you’ll have to install new drywall.
  • You can replace the entire drywall surface or just the damaged section, depending on your situation.
  • If the part to be replaced is small and you’re pretty handy, it can be a DIY project.
  • Some drywall alternatives must be attached to the studs.
  • Depending on the situation, it might be easier to remove the existing wall surface.

The Most Popular Drywall Alternatives

Wood Planks

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Decorating with wood plank walls is one of the hottest trends for a wall covering. This is because farmhouse and rustic home decor styles are currently so popular.

Moreover, wildly popular home renovation television shows have made it a hot trend.

Stylistically, wood plank walls have to match the decor, otherwise, they look out of place. However, for the modern farmhouse style, they are perfect.

Shiplap

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Shiplap is the most common type of plank used. The term actually refers to the shape, which is tongue and groove, allowing the wood to expand and contract.

Of course, using hardwood boards without the tongue and groove is also an option. This however might be a little more challenging when it comes to spacing the boards.

Wood plank styles

Either way, installing wood planks is a fairly straightforward project if you have the tools, including a power saw. That said, you can do it with a manual saw.

You can leave wood planks in their natural state, stain them or paint them in a variety of styles. You can also choose engineered wood options.

While installation might not be complicated, doing it properly is key, otherwise, the planks can warp or rot. This can be a concern in a moist or humid environment like a basement or bathroom.

The only other drawback of wood plank and shiplap walls is that they seem to attract dust. Over time, it settles in the gaps and makes the wall seem dirty. Consequently, regular cleaning is a must.

If you like the look of a weathered wood wall but are in no way handy, there are other cost-effective alternatives.

Today’s design market has several major makers of peel-and-stick wood planks. These are thinner than traditional planks and install in a fraction of the time. They are easier to remove as well.

Plywood

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Making the choice to have plywood as a drywall alternative comes down to two main reasons. It’s either about the Decor aesthetic and second, the construction considerations. 

Budget Considerations

First, plywood is inexpensive and sturdy, as well as easier to install than drywall. Sheet wood is much more straightforward. It just has to be screwed the studs, either on its own or over existing drywall.

That said, plywood typically requires an extra set of hands to attach properly.

Before you plan to do this, check building codes in your area because plywood is not as safe when it comes to fire ratings. Consequently, some states restrict how you can use it in a home. It;s also not very good for noise reduction.

In addition to the standard plywood, there are different types and grades. depending on what you’re looking for and what the purpose is.

Design Factors

While people choose plywood most often for budgetary reasons, homeowners are now choosing to install plywood walls for decorative reasons.

Nordic-inspired minimalist decor often uses plywood in its unfinished state for aesthetic value. New types are eco-friendly and are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and low VOC — perfect for those who want a healthier home.

Plywood can even be used to create a “faux” shiplap wall at a fraction of the cost. This involves cutting plywood into planks and installing them on the wall.  These resemble true shiplap, especially when you paint them.

Few Downsides

Overall, plywood doesn’t have many drawbacks. The layers in the wood make it porous and repeated exposure to water because of a leak, for example, will damage it.

For those who are worried that this might just be a trend,  designers say that most all materials ebb and flow in popularity. Plywood is no more or less trendy than other materials and it does have the timeless appeal of warmth.

Textured Panels

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Crossed over from the contract and hospitality world, three-dimensional wall coverings are bursting onto the residential scene.

Textured panel options are great for homeowners looking for new ways to jazz up their rooms.

3D Wall Options

The variety of materials currently available is quite stunning, They range from wood panels or wooden slats to tiles or panels crafted from compressed coffee grounds or pottery shards.

Depending on the application, you can also choose wainscot panels or acoustic panels for sound mitigation. Speaking of which, acousting panels have become far more stylish over the years and now include colorful felt types.

You can install these types of 3D wall cladding fairly easily. Some are like tile that uses mastic while others are simply a peel and stick product.

Many of these wall coverings are easy to cut and are lightweight, making them an easy DIY project. This is especially true for a small accent wall — or an entire wall.

You can paint some types of wall covering to match your existing color scheme. In any case, creating a wall of texture has never been easier.

These products are ideal for one wall or accent feature, but not all four walls of a room.

Textured Wall Drawbacks

While it looks fabulous, three-dimensional wall cladding has a few drawbacks from a practical perspective.

  • It provides a wall full of stylish interest with little fuss.
  • However, depending on the specific installation, 3D wall cladding can be difficult to remove.
  • If the panels become damaged in any way, replacing them could prove challenging.
  • Last, but certainly not least, any cracks, crevices or deeply carved designs will trap dust, making regular cleaning a priority.

Exposed bricks

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Start a renovation and find old brick underneath the plaster of an interior wall and most homeowners will jump for joy. This is because exposed brick as a drywall alternative is a very popular design element.

Whether it’s a small accent wall or a larger portion of the main living area, the uneven character and warmth of brick provide an unmatched textural base for a room.

In fact, many homeowners love the elegant and rustic feel of an old brick wall.

Brick Wall Considerations

Once it’s exposed and cleaned up, you might think that’s the end of it. However, it does require a little prep work and maintenance.

Bricks are made with clay that is fired, so they are porous and absorb moisture. You definitely do not want damp seeping into your home. 

Keeping the inside dry and comfortable means sealing the exposed brick wall with a sealer that will penetrate those holes and pores.

Also, most interior brick doesn’t look like the pretty, rectangular units you see on the outside. This is because builders typically covered the backside of the bricks with plaster. Because they didn’t show as the interior wall, they have flaws and an uneven surface.

Some Drawbacks of Brick

Obviously, exposed brick walls as an alternative to drywall are durable. Bumping your fist into them isn’t going to make a hole as it would in drywall.

The bricks may be old and may have been damp in the past. This is why old mortar between them can crack and crumble. Thus, you might need to repair or replace it in some areas.

Most importantly, a brick wall has no insulation. This can affect your heating bill, depending on the climate and how large the wall is.

Last but not least, if you ever try to clean brick, you’ll find it’s not easy.

Because it’s a rough, uneven surface, it needs more than just regular dusting to keep it clean. If you paint the brick, cleaning will be a little easier.

Stone Veneer

Stone walls are not common for interiors, but you can have a stone veneer instead.

Stone veneer is generally manufactured from a synthetic material — typically foam — that looks like the real thing. Even better, it is a fraction of the weight and cost of natural stone.

These wall panels make a great, stylish alternative to drywall and are much easier to deal with if you’re doing a DIY remodel.

While stone veneer is obviously less durable, it doesn’t require the same level of maintenance. It

This drywall alternative is also very easy to install over an existing structural surface, whether that’s drywall, brick or concrete.

Most importantly, stone veneer walls are best used as a smaller accent wall. Doing an entire room in this drywall alternative is too overwhelming.

Unfinished Concrete

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Fans of the modern minimalist or industrial look may be drawn to concrete interiors and for good reason. With the right decor, concrete walls as an alternative to drywall can be a major style statement.

Some people like to combine concrete walls with a polished concrete floor. However, if four walls of concrete are too much for your taste, an accent wall is still an excellent design option.

Pros of Concrete Walls

Concrete walls are easy to maintain and require no special treatment once they are sealed. In addition, polishing is an option, depending on how rough you want it to look.

Texture is one of the main features of concrete. It adds an amazing amount of style and visual texture. It’s something that you can touch and feel without worry.

The feel that concrete exudes is special, particularly when you combine it with other more natural elements. 

Earthy pieces in wood along with thick, dimensional textiles are ideal for concrete interiors, making them warmer and softer. 

From an energy perspective, concrete homes save energy and as a plus are moisture-resistant and fire-resistant.

Veneer Plaster

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Considered a high-end wall option, veneer plaster is a very stylish alternative to drywall. This method involves a special application system to the entire surface of the wall.

Installers generally apply one or two coats of thin plaster, with tint or without.

Advantages of Veneer Plaster

The plaster goes over Blueboard, which is a special gypsum board. The board is used because it has advantages over drywall like being harder and easier to fix.

Once the plaster is on the board, it is quite hard. You can leave it unpainted for a natural style of beauty.

These types of plaster walls have a number of other advantages too.

  • More than just moisture resistant, they are a barrier against water. This is something that definitely cannot be said about drywall.
  • Unlike drywall installation that involves taping and sanding for a smooth surface, the finished plaster requires no sanding
  • Veneer plaster installs faster than drywall.
  • The surface is harder and more durable than drywall.

Downsides of Veneer Plaster

Even with all these advantages, there are some drawbacks or challenges to choosing veneer plaster walls.

  • Installing this type of wall option requires a specially skilled professional. In some regions, they can be hard to find, especially if the technique is not locally popular.
  • In addition, once the installation starts, it must be finished without stopping.
  • Last, but certainly not least, plaster veneer is more expensive than plain drywall by about 25 percent. This is due to labor considerations as well as materials because more plaster is used than tape and joint compound for drywall.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How to patch a hole in drywall.

To repair small holes in drywall, first, clean the edges of the hole so they are flat and smooth. Next, you’ll cover it with joint tape and then joint compound, smoothing it with a drywall knife. Once it’s dry, lightly sand it and then repeat the process until the whole surface is smooth and the tape doesn’t show. Then you can paint it.

How to repair drywall.

Assuming it is not a large hole, you can repair damage to drywall like you patch a hole. Use strips of drywall tape and joint compound, smoothing it each time. Sand between coats. If it;s just a nail hole, you can use spackle.

Can shiplap be used instead of drywall?

Yes, you can! In fact, installing shiplap directly to the studs is easier than putting it over drywall.

You save time and effort by not having to locate studs across the wall for nailing, especially on a large wall.

How do you attach wood planks to the wall?

If the wall surface is smooth and level, you can glue wood planks directly to it. After you fit the plank, use a caulking gun to put a line of adhesive along all the edges of the plank. I

t’s also a good idea to add some along the middle of the plank. Then, just press it to the wall.

Can you use wood instead of drywall?

Plywood is one of the best drywall alternatives. Generally, it’s stronger. However, the construction-grade plywood you’ll want to use typically costs more. Finally, you have to check local building codes because they might not allow it since it isn’t as fireproof as drywall.

Is plywood cheaper than drywall?

Plywood is more expensive than drywall. That’s because wood is costlier than the materials made to manufacture traditional drywall. That said, plywood is cheaper than most styles of other wood alternatives to drywall.

How do you install textured wall panels?

The method for installing textured wall panels will depend on the type and style of the panel. Some types require specific kinds of faster.

Some new types are lightweight and easy to cut and install with adhesive. Just plan the placement, cut them to size, including holes for light switches, and glue into place with panel adhesive. Some brands come in peel-and-stick types.

How do you install wall panels without adhesive?

You can install decorative wall panels without adhesive using double-sided tape made for rough or textured surfaces.

Is exposed brick worth it?

When it comes to verified data, there’s is none to indicate that exposed brick adds real value to a home.

However, it can really add a lot of ambiance and character to a space, making the home more appealing with a warmer vibe.

Are brick interior walls expensive?

In a word, yes. Bricks are heavy and your floor has to be strong enough to support them. Also, you need a mason to install themThe cost will probably be around $14.00 to $30.00 per square foot. A less expensive option is brick veneer. These materials will be just $4.00 to $1.00 a square foot.

How do you build exposed concrete walls?

To build an exposed concrete wall in your house, it’s best to install cement boards, which are fiberglass reinforced panels. These can be screwed to the studs.

After that, you’ll need to finish the seams with cement board tape and feather finish the joints of the fiberglass reinforced panels. After everything is dry, you apply concrete in a thin layer across the top to get the look you want.

How can I make my interior concrete walls look good?

If you don’t like the raw concrete look, you can always seal and then paint the walls. Another option to make them look good is to use concrete stain.

Experts recommend using a professional. Finally, you can attach decorative wall panels over the top. If you have exposed concrete block walls in the basement, there are basement wall finishing systems you can use as alternatives to drywall in the basement.

What is veneer plaster used for?

Veneer plaster — called plaster skim in the UK — is a technique for finishing interior walls. It involves applying a thin layer of plaster on top of Blueboard, which is a gypsum board.

People often choose it for its visual appeal.

Can I veneer plaster over drywall?

It is possible to put plaster veneer on top of traditional drywall. However, this requires some extra steps.

The existing finished wall surface needs to have a special adhesive compound applied. Then, a thin layer of plaster has to be added as a base coat for the plaster veneer layer.

Can you put stone veneer on drywall?

Because interior stone veneer is lightweight and say to install, you can attach it directly onto most walls. These include drywall, concrete and brick.

Are stone veneer worth it?

Stone veneers are great, especially for a DIY project. They are generally used for accent walls, kitchen backsplashes and fireplace upgrades.