15 Drywall Alternatives You’ll Wish You Knew About Sooner

When you’re tackling a home remodeling project or taking on a new build, drywall isn’t your only option. Consider these substitutes, many of which deliver on functionality and design appeal.

By Kristen Mosier | Published Oct 29, 2021 8:37 PM

drywall alternatives

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When we think of constructing interior walls, drywall automatically comes to mind. It is cost-effective and easy to find, making it one of the most common building materials used in today’s houses. So, what is drywall? Drywall consists of gypsum pressed between two paperboards. Gypsum, a soft sulfate mineral, is noncombustible, which gives it the attraction of being somewhat fire-resistant.

Although drywall offers plenty of benefits, its installation takes experience and can be messy, requiring taping, mudding, and sanding, the last of which can result in heaps of dust. Susceptible to holes, preschooler artwork, and more, these walls can lose their luster fast in busy homes and may need regular repairs.

Drywall is also less than ideal for wet areas, basements, and other spaces that have the potential to flood. It holds moisture, making it vulnerable to mold and mildew in damp conditions. Read on to learn about alternative wall covering ideas that are not only sturdy but also visually interesting.

1. Barnwood

drywall alternatives - barnwood

Photo: homedepot.com

Barnwood is a great option for those looking to achieve a rustic aesthetic. Reclaimed wood offers the most authentic appearance, but it can be expensive and challenging to find. Most commonly, panels are made from engineered wood designed to resemble aged planks like this highly rated Mountain Music barnwood paneling available at The Home Depot. This type of barnwood is generally affordable, easy to install, and washable, and it’s manufactured in different styles and finishes. However, neither natural nor engineered wood are recommended for high-moisture areas.

2. Stone Veneer

drywall alternatives

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More cost-effective, lighter, and easier to handle than natural stone, manufactured stone veneer is a synthetic material—mainly foam—that is a cast replica of the real thing. It is less durable than stone but requires little maintenance, and it’s sold in various styles and colors like this Desert Sunrise option available at The Home Depot. Stone veneer is ideal for rustic spots, and it’s popular around fireplaces or as a kitchen backsplash. Use a sealant with stone veneer in moist or humid rooms.

3. Faux Brick

drywall alternatives

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Well suited for rustic and industrial spaces, natural brick can add texture and visual interest to a space. But if you want the look without all the time-consuming masonry work, faux brick is a lightweight, easy-to-install alternative. Panels are cost-effective and available in a variety of styles and colors like this classic red brick option available at The Home Depot. Most faux brick is water-resistant, but only some are fire rated.

RELATED: 7 Types of Brick All DIYers Should Know

4. 3D Panels

drywall alternatives

Photo: amazon.com

Made from PVC or recycled plant fiber like this highly rated option available at Amazon, 3D wall panels are available in various designs and can be painted to match your interior. Often used for accent walls, the material is durable, lightweight, inexpensive, and water-resistant. However, because the panels are made of plastic or plant fiber, they are not heat-resistant and should not be used near a fireplace or in the kitchen.

5. Rammed Earth

drywall alternatives - rammed earth

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Rammed earth construction uses natural raw materials like compacted soil and gravel to make walls, floors, and foundations. This technique, which originated in ancient times, has been modernized through the use of precast panels. These panels are naturally insulating and durable as well as attractive, especially to eco-friendly builders. That said, rammed earth panels can be difficult to find and expensive to install.

6. Shiplap

drywall alternatives

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Made popular in recent years thanks to HGTV design shows, shiplap has found a place in homes across America. Traditional shiplap like this best-seller available at The Home Depot has a rabbet joint, which is a simple groove cut into the wood that allows the pieces to fit tightly together. However, today’s builders use a variety of forms of wood panels to create the look of shiplap. It is easy to install and effective at keeping rooms dry and warm, but shiplap can collect dust in the gaps and won’t work with every design aesthetic.

RELATED: All You Need to Know About Shiplap

7. Acoustic Panels

drywall alternatives - acoustic panels

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For builders looking to limit the noise entering or exiting a room, acoustic panels provide a solution that will absorb sound and reverberation. Commonly made with a foam or wool interior, they are generally framed in wood and then wrapped in canvas or fabric like this option available at Amazon—selected “best acoustic panel” in our guide to the best soundproofing materials for muffling noise. Make sure to look for options that are fire rated for added safety.

8. Corrugated Metal

drywall alternatives

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Traditionally used for roofing, corrugated metal offers an unconventional way to add an industrial or rustic look to an interior feature wall or ceiling surface. Available in both sheets and panels, this material is most commonly made of steel but can be made of other metals, such as aluminum and copper, both new and reclaimed. The panels are available in various finishes and wave styles, and can be installed vertically or horizontally to create two different looks.

9. Plywood

drywall alternatives

plywood for sale in a macro hardware store

If you’re looking for cheap panels for walls, plywood is inexpensive, easy to install, and durable. The wood grain will warm up a space and can be stained or painted to coordinate with any decor. Plywood can be installed in sheets or planks, the latter resembling the look of shiplap or traditional wood paneling. It can be sealed for moisture resistance, but plywood’s big drawback is that it won’t be as fire-resistant as drywall.

RELATED: 15 Types of Wood All DIYers Should Know

10. Exposed Brick

drywall alternatives - exposed brick

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When found lurking behind an existing wall, exposed brick can be a pleasant surprise, but it’s rarely used as a structural element anymore. Nowadays, it’s more likely that a builder will attach brick veneer like this option available at The Home Depot to a structural wall in a process similar to installing tile with grout. Brick is naturally fire-resistant but will need a sealant to protect it from moisture and mold.

11. Cement Board

drywall alternatives

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Cement board will stand up to mold, mildew, and rot where water or moisture is an issue. It is straightforward to install, and because it is dried in the factory, there’s a lot less mess than when working with drywall. Cement board can, however, be bulky and heavy, so installing it is usually a two-person job. Most commonly, cement board will be used as a subsurface for tiling, but it can also be used raw for a minimalist, industrial look.

12. Veneer Plaster

drywall alternatives

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Veneer plaster is made up of a layer of plaster over a substrate, most commonly gypsum board, making it similar to drywall. However, it is mold-resistant and much harder than drywall, making it more resilient against damage. While drywall has joints, a plaster surface is continuous, so it looks smoother and serves as a better base for paint. Veneer plaster requires less time for installation but comes at a higher cost and can be difficult to repair.

13. Exterior Siding

drywall alternatives

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If you’re looking for alternative interior garage wall ideas, exterior siding is an inexpensive, easy-to-install option. Wood siding, for instance, can offer the rustic look of paneling, making it well suited to an accent wall. Vinyl siding, however, is combustible and chemical-laden, so avoid using this option in your main living space.

14. Cork

drywall alternatives

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Corkboard isn’t durable enough for all the walls in your home, but it can serve as a fun accent in a home office or a child’s room. The eco-friendly material can provide thermal and acoustic insulation, and it’s a great surface for hanging lightweight artwork and pictures. For wall applications, cork will most likely have a plywood or plywood alternative backing. It is naturally fire- and moisture-resistant, and it’s available in various designs, thicknesses, and colors to suit any preference. It’s available in tiles or rolls, like this option available at Amazon.

15. Exposed Concrete

drywall alternatives

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Exposed concrete will lend your space a modern, minimalist design while offering a durable and fire-resistant surface. Note, however, that concrete can be porous once dried, so using a sealer will help protect your walls from moisture and mold. Concrete is available in a range of colors and finishes, with smooth finishes being most appropriate for interior walls.