Garage wall finishes determine the sturdiness and aesthetics of your multifunctional home extension. What’s more, they could also influence the value of a home for potential buyers.

Drywall is the most common garage finishing material. Its popularity stems from its attractive finish, affordability, soundproofing, and fire resistance capabilities. Plywood is a close competitor that’s fighting for its place at the top by offering extra sturdiness and greater impact resistance. It’s also fairly easy to install and will serve you for longer than drywall.

The cost to finish a garage in drywall or plywood is going to depend on the quality and thickness of the drywall you use. A fireproof X type will be more expensive than standard drywall.

 DrywallPlywood
Per Sheet (4’ x 8’)$15$10
Per sq ft. installed$2$1.5
Single car garage 14 x 22 $660 - $1,848$495 - $1,386
Single car garage 24 x 22$1,056 - 3,168$792 - $2,376

What Is Drywall?

Drywall is a construction material made from treated gypsum, a natural non-toxic sulfate mineral, sandwiched between two thick paperboards.

To process the gypsum into drywall, it’s heated to remove the naturally occurring water in the mineral. It’s then cured using crystallized water at normal temperatures. The main product consists of large panels that are cut and put up as walls.

What Is Plywood?

Plywood is an engineered wood material made from several layers of thin wood, like veneer or plies. An odd number of thin wood pieces are pressed together at right angles along the grain then bonded using adhesives or resins. The bonding requires using pressure and heat.

The quality of plywood depends on the number of veneer layers and the gluing used. It also varies depending on its different uses.

The Differences Between Drywall and Plywood

You will find either drywall or plywood used for many indoor and outdoor spaces. The most suitable for your garage depends on the intended use of the space as well as your personal preferences.

Let’s dive into the differences between the two.

 DRYWALL PLYWOOD
CostAffordable Significantly more expensive
Aesthetics Gives you a blank canvas to work withHeavily textured works if you don’t mind a rough finish
SturdinessEasily damaged Greater strength and integrity
Ease of installationDifficult and more involving to installFast and straightforward to install
SoundproofingDampens noiseNo soundproofing capabilities
Fire hazard safetyHigh fire safety ratingLow fire safety rating

Fire Resistance

Winner: Drywall

Crystallized water in drywall gives it superior fire resistance abilities. When the drywall is subjected to extreme heat, it starts to release the crystallized water as steam, which buys time before the fire can spread.

Additionally, drywall is non-combustible and also acts as a barrier. As a result, drywall is a great option for garage walls in spaces that see lots of power tool activities or other potential fire hazards.

Drywall meets the most residential building codes of at least one-hour fire rating.
On the other hand, plywood is combustible, meaning it doesn’t provide sufficient protection and safety in the event of a fire. Plywood is not suitable for areas with local building codes.

Smooth and Ready to Paint Finish

Winner: Drywall

If you are looking for a blank canvas that you can turn into anything under the sun, then drywall is the best choice for you. Drywall is smooth, flat, and plain, allowing you the freedom to create any textures and designs you’d want.

You’ll love that it’s forgiving and moisture resistant; thus, it doesn’t need lots of paint or sealant to transform.

Plywood features a natural wood grain pattern and texture that adds warmth to a space. Although this works for many homeowners, you will hate it if you decide to cover it up. That’s because plywood is highly absorbent and soaks up a lot of paint and sealant, and may not hold paint as well as drywall.

Drywall Has Noise Reduction Capabilities

Conventional drywall helps to limit the spread of noise, although it doesn’t block it out completely. Drywall creates a rigid surface that dampens noise by slowing down sound vibrations.

Its noise reduction properties make it an ideal choice for homeowners who use their garages as recording studios or for brand practice. It also works if you live in a densely populated and noisy neighborhood because it prevents noise from transferring into the home through the garage.

Tip: You can improve on this by layering two panels of drywall.

Plywood is lighter and made from wood, a material that’s a good sound conductor. Thus, it allows sound to move freely from your garage to the rest of your home.

Plywood Panels Offer Added Structural Strength

Drywall is not strong enough to hold shelves or hang items on your wall. If you must, you’re required to drill through your drywall onto the wooden studs that hold the wall together. Drilling through your walls is not only messy but could also impact the appearance of your wall in the long run.

The composite wood pieces used to make plywood are slanted at right angles to give the panels added strength. Bonding using pressure and heat makes the construction material structurally stable and less susceptible to cracking, warping, shrinking, and twisting.

As a result, plywood allows homeowners to screw objects directly to the plywood without damaging the wall beneath. It can also support more weight imposed by tools, machinery, workstations, and shelving. Not forgetting that it’s more resistant to dents and damage caused by people, tools, and sharp objects.

Plywood Is Easier to Install

Drywall is huge and significantly heavier than drywall. For instance, an average 4 by 8 sheet of drywall is 20 to 30 pounds heavier than the same size plywood.

The added weight necessitates at least two people to carry and install it properly. Installing drywall is also more involving as it requires multiple steps to be complete these may include:

  • Tapping
  • Applying joint compound
  • Hanging the panels
  • Sanding the joints

Contrastingly, plywood is light enough to be carried and installed by one person. The process is also fast and straightforward as it only involves lining the plywood sheets against the wall and caulking the seams between them.

Drywall Is Cheaper

Although it may be more involving to install, drywall is more affordable to install and maintain in the long run. When we look at buying costs, wooden materials are generally expensive, and plywood is no exception.

Labor costs for installing drywall are low because it is faster to install. So are repair costs because, unlike plywood, you can plaster and sand down drywall.

Plywood is not readily available like drywall which makes it subject to price fluctuations. That’s because plywood and other wood construction materials have multiple other uses. Unfortunately, wood mills are unable to satisfy this high demand equally and sufficiently throughout the year.

Generally, many potential homebuyers appreciate the clean and fresh look of finished garage walls using either material. It adds value for the right buyer and convinces them that your home is the best fit for them.

The Best Sheathing Material For Your Garage: Drywall Vs. Plywood

Drywall is a better choice because it provides owners with multiple benefits, added economical value, and a smooth and appealing finish. The bright white finish of most walls helps maximize the lighting in your garage by providing a reflective surface for light. It comes highly recommended, and it’s the sheathing material you will find drywall in most homes.

Because plywood is moisture-resistant, it’s a great option if your garage is likely to retain moisture, such as when you live in a humid climate or have an underground garage. It will also work for you if you appreciate its wooden finish and if you need a sturdy surface to fasten shelves and other additions to your garage walls.

Ben McInerney
Author: Ben McInerney - is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.