Cost to install alternative wall panels to drywall?
We were hoping to use non-toxic, plywood wall panels for interior walls instead of drywall. I read your article about using 'UV Wood' from Columbia Forest Products (hyperlinked). These panels are available locally for around $30 for 2x4' panels (maybe cheaper if purchased in bulk?).
Just wondering how expensive these are to install? Our designers are strongly discouraging us from going down this path due to much higher install costs. Do these require special hangers/hardware to install? I assume cutting these panels (for windows, outlets, etc.) would be much more time consuming compared to drywall. Apparently drywall/painting costs with materials/labour would likely not be much more than $3-5/sq ft.
Drywall is not the only way to finish walls, though it is the most common, and in most cases the cheapest. But not always by much! The suggestion of using PureBond finished grade plywood for interior walls is not at all a bad one, we’ve done it and quite liked it. Given the wild fluctuations in material costs that we’ve seen in 2020 and 2021 it would be difficult for us in one location to help with a price comparison in any other area because supply and demand has been so erratic, but I don't think your designer is factoring all the variables. This page will help you calculate –
Installing wood ceilings and walls - cost comparison to drywall
That article is written about mostly about ceilings but the cost variables you will need to input (into your noggin) to figure out the cheapest method are the same. Material cost on one hand, labor on the other. Wood may be more expensive to purchase that drywall, but the surface is finished.
Drywall on the other hand requires mudding, taping, sanding, (repeatedly), then priming and painting. Wood you can often just install and you’re done. Finished plywood panels are a very nice finished look, though it is difficult to ensure clean smooth joints so you would want a trim board. This page here has an image of a finished plywood ceiling with wood trim on joints as I mentioned, have a look and see what you think, it's not super expensive and we think it looks pretty swanky.
I just don’t think the cost of choosing one material compared to the other will be so much that it should sway your decision. Certainly price it out accurately before you are talked out of something you want by your designer.
You may have also stepped on this persons 'design' toes, they simply may not like the look and would prefer drywall for their portfolio but they can't convince based on that so that leaves dissuading you based on cost. You're the one that will live there so YOU should make the final choice.
The reason I say that is – you may end up having to spend a few hundred more, maybe a thousand or even two, but this is your home and quality of life matters. That decision would be a drop in the bucket of a house building budget, but it is what you will be looking at day in and day out, so make sure you like it. If you do finish it in a way that you find pleasing, you will be less inclined to do cosmetic renovations in the future. Just some food for thought, hope it helps!
Thanks for the info, Mike! I think the big worry was labour costs but it sounds like this might be a bit overblown. Do you know if there are any fire code issues when using plywood panels on interior walls?
We avoid weighing in on any building code issues as they can change by region, but I don’t imagine it would be a problem. Your designer should be able to confirm that. As for cost, I think the idea of wood panel walls being much more labor-intensive is very much overblown. Having done both myself I honestly think choosing wood panels would take less time from start to finish than drywall, not more.
But to get a more informed opinion than mine or your designer, you could get the opinion of a local general contractor. If you don’t have one already, this really is the time to get an GC onto the design team for exactly this reason. A designer may know what looks nice, but a builder knows how easy or difficult something is to build, which equates directly to cost. And to help the vetting process, here is a page about what to look for when choosing a home building contractor.
The ‘downside’ of wood panels is that you are limited in design ideas, where drywall you can paint an entirely different color anytime. Good luck Adrian, happy to help!
Thanks again! We'll definitely pursue this and find out actual costs from a GC (once we have one!).