NFL Football ad in wood-paneled den in 1967.

Once a home status symbol, wood paneling has escaped its retro reputation to become an increasingly popular alternative to drywall.

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Alternatives to Drywall

As useful as drywall is, it still has some drawbacks. Many people are turned off by the hollow thump made when you knock or tap on a wall built with drywall. It can remind people that drywall is still a cheap, quick fix. Another problem is drywall's lack of texture and character, as well as its inability to be molded. Finally, some people feel that drywall is too susceptible to damage.

Luckily, there are several alternatives to traditional drywall that can be used to create walls in a building's interior. We'll take a look at some of them here:

  • Masonry/Brick - An exposed, unfinished brick wall can add a lot of character to a home or office and adds a lot of value to the property because it's unique and highly coveted.
  • Traditional Plaster - Some homeowners still prefer the look and texture of traditional plaster installed over a wooden lath system. Improvements in technology have simplified the installation of plaster a bit over the years, with faster drying times and better structural backing. Certain types of homes, such as those going for a traditional countryside look, will benefit from plaster walls.
  • Veneer Plaster - This is an up-and-coming finishing technique that continues to gain popularity. It consists of a layer of thin drywall, called blue board, with a very thin, 1/8-inch layer of plaster applied on top. It's even faster to install than drywall because no finishing is required. This system is still at least 25 percent more expensive than drywall, so time will tell how eventual price decreases affect its use and popularity.
  • Wood Paneling - This material has evolved from the cheesy form it took at its debut. It's now very easy to install and comes in nearly any wood veneer or finish you desire, though it's still more expensive than drywall.
  • Fiberglass Reinforced Panels (FRP) - These panels are used in areas that would normally receive ceramic tile, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and pools. They are also increasingly used in sterile environments like laboratories, hospitals and doctor's offices due to its resistance to mold, bacteria and other potentially harmful biological agents.

Next we'll look at how drywall fits into today's green building trends and examine ways drywall can be recycled by both the manufacturer and the end user.