Shiplap was always a beautiful home feature; who wouldn’t want to see stunning wood grain on their walls or a nice penny gap trim?
Best of all, it’s rather affordable in comparison to the cost of drywall.
Drywall has been around forever, but it’s gotten perfect, too perfect, with modern materials.
Virtually any home can have an affordable, ultra-smooth, flawless drywall finish these days. Some say Drywall is cold, prison-like, and dull. I like sheetrock walls personally, but I wouldn’t want an all-drywall home.
Could you imagine a house with only Drywall and no tile, shiplap, etc.? Go further and ditch the carpet, hardwood, and tile and replace it with concrete, and you now have a prison cell of sorts.
Wood is so warming and offers plenty of character and charm to any home, modern or traditional. Let’s face it; shiplap will never go out of style, even painted variations. It’s a classic, not a trend, folks.
Drywall vs. shiplap cost
Let’s face it; this is the number one thing every homeowner wants to know when it comes to comparing shiplap to Drywall. Which one is going to cost me more money? Is upgrading to shiplap going to be worth it?
As someone who has installed thousands and thousands of board feet of wall and ceiling coverings, I can answer this with the utmost confidence. When we built our own house, we used a mixture of Drywall on the walls and shiplap on the ceilings. Some walls, however, are cladded in a nice tongue and groove pine finish instead of a gypsum wallboard. It gives rooms more character, but more on the aesthetics later; for now, let’s get down to brass tax, the money!
At the time of writing, drywall prices are as follows:
½” is running $14.68 per 4×8′ sheet, and 5/8″ Drywall is running $16.98 per 4×8′ sheet. That gets you 32 square feet of wall or ceiling coverage for roughly 0.53 cents per square foot.
A 1×6″ 10′ stick of pine shiplap is $9.97, which is 3.8 square feet. That’s $2.94 per square foot. We opted for pine tongue and groove for our projects and generally paid $1 or less per board foot. Some lumber yards can offer the same material for as much as $1.75 per board foot. You have to shop around, as Drywall is somewhat similar in price, but shiplap and other wood materials can vary hugely from store to store.
Primary materials: There you have it. Drywall will cost you around $0.53 per square foot, while shiplap will run you around $2.94 per square foot. Shiplap is about 5.5x more expensive than Drywall for just the materials alone.
For a 15’x10′ wall, which would be a large master bedroom wall, you could spend ~$80 in Drywall or $441 in shiplap.
Fastener costs: Very minimal difference: Regarding installation, fasteners drywall will use your typical one ¼ or 1 5/8″ steel screws. Most modern drywall installers use collated strips of screws to make the installation process faster, though it can be done by hand with a power drill.
In comparison, wood shiplap is installed with either brad or finish nails, and an electric or compressed air nail gun makes this process fast and easy.
While the fastener cost is minimal, I’d still like to share the prices with you. A typical box of 5,000 drywall screws will run you a little over $75. If you purchase collated drywall screws, this cost will double to $125.
Brad nails for shiplap, on the other hand, only cost around $40 per 5,000 nails. So while shiplap fasteners are, give or take, about half the cost of drywall fasteners, the cost difference is still meager.
Finishing materials: Very minimal difference: Unlike shiplap, which requires a few tiny nail holes to be filled with wood filler, drywall finishing is more involved. To finish the Drywall, you’ll need taping mud, paper joint tape, and corner bead. These can run you around $20 or so; not much. On the other hand, wood filler might cost you $10 for a nice-sized bin of stainable/paintable filler.
One important thing to note is that Drywall will require a primer before painting, whereas wood shiplap can be painted immediately. Drywall primer can be found for around $70 per 5 gallons.
Wood stain and drywall paint are very comparable in costs and can range widely based on the manufacturer.
One of the best cost-saving features of using shiplap is that it does not need to be painted. This assumes you are going for an all-natural wood look. Though the paint is cheap, the savings can be huge if you subtract painting costs over an entire newly-constructed house.
Labor: Here’s where most people get it wrong.
Drywall installation labor is cheap, and I mean super cheap. Even finishing labor is more affordable than ever. However, small, one-off projects can get a bit more expensive. Drywall laborers work efficiently and often get paid per board, so the more work, the better. Most folks pay around $30-40 per hour for sheetrock installation and finishing, but this depends on your market. It could be much higher based on where you live and the local trade market.
When it comes to Drywall, there are a lot of drywall trades out there; a lot! In comparison, carpenters can be much harder to find and far more expensive. That’s not to say you can’t find one, but it’s often a tiny bit harder to find a good carpenter at a reasonable rate. The key phrase here is “good.” There are a lot of good drywallers out there, but not as many good carpenters.
Most finish carpenters charge $60 per hour, but this number can vary greatly depending on the level of quality and local market area.
In my estimate, I would easily expect a shiplap wall to cost about 25-30% more than a wall covered with sheetrock when it comes to labor costs.
It’s funny, though, because when you are the one installing and finishing either Drywall or sheetrock, you will find that shiplap is far easier to complete. I would choose to install shiplap over Drywall any day.
End cost: There you have it; shiplap is more expensive on both the material and labor costs, but don’t let that deter you from installing it. Shiplap is beautiful and offers so much more natural character than cold, flawless Drywall. In the end, when you install shiplap, you’re paying a small premium for a premium wall and ceiling finish.
5/8 vs. ½” Drywall
Let’s go beyond the costs now. When considering the differences between Drywall and shiplap, it’s essential to know which drywall thickness you’re basing your comparison against.
Take 5/8″ drywall, the standard for fire-rated walls such as garage and living space separations; it is far heavier than ½” Drywall. Though, when you come across a modern, high-end custom home, you’ll often find 5/8″ drywall chosen over 1/2″. Even though the building code doesn’t require this upgrade, it does offer better fire protection, soundproofing between rooms, and more thermal interior mass. Of course, with thicker Drywall, you also get better sag protection and stronger walls. Some folks claim that thicker Drywall can lower insurance costs, but I’ve never heard that from an agent as being a discount available.
In terms of cost, you can build a new custom home with 5/8″ drywall over ½” drywall for a cost upgrade of around a thousand dollars for an average-sized house. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer if you’re putting in Drywall.
In the next section, you’ll see why knowing the difference between the two is essential.
Shiplap vs. drywall weight
½” drywall weights approx. 47 lbs. per a standard 4×8′ sheet, while 5/8″ Drywall weighs approx. 70 lbs. per a standard 4×8′ sheet.
On the other hand, shiplap is far lighter with a standard 1×6′ profile at 8′, weighing well under 10 lbs. This weight matters because it determines how difficult you’ll strain yourself trying to install each piece. Unlike Drywall which has to be installed in a large board format, you can install shiplap in small bite-sized strips.
Drywall can be an absolute nightmare for ceilings to lift heavy, cumbersome boards overhead. Shiplap, in comparison, can be done by one person with complete ease.
Shiplap vs. drywall installation
While installing wall drywall doesn’t require any tools, ceiling drywall will need either scaffolding or a drywall lift. Some folks use a scissor lift when the ceilings are super high.
In comparison, shiplap installations require no special tools. You may want to invest in a clamp or hand pull to pull warped wood boards tighter.
When installing shiplap, longer lengths can be easily done with a single person by using wood resting boards that catch the opposite end of the shiplap. For instance, screw a 5′ or so board into the first starter strip of shiplap. Let it extend outwards to the unfinished portion of the ceiling. Grab your next piece of shiplap and tuck it underneath the resting board. Doing so will help support the shiplap at the other end. Place your ladder on the unsupported end and raise it to the ceiling with your hand. Add a nail in this end and slowly work your way down to the supported end with the wood resting board. It’s so simple!
I want to note that shiplap installation is much more time-consuming. With Drywall, you can install a giant sheet in one single go, whereas shiplap requires individual boards to be placed one at a time. Plus, each wood board has to be cut one at a time. You can slice Drywall with a razor in a few seconds, and you’re off to the races too.
I’d estimate that shiplap installs are 4-8x slower than sheetrocked rooms.
While you can caulk the seams and joints of shiplap, you can never truly get it to be completely airtight. Even tongue and groove variations of shiplap wall coverings, which fit much tighter, still let air through. As the wood expands and contracts, the movement will eventually create very tiny gaps between the connections of each board.
This doesn’t matter for interior walls but for exterior walls and ceilings. In most homes without an independent, intelligent membrane or vapor barrier, you will want these areas to be airtight. Speaking of which, if you’re doing a gut remodel and removing Drywall, you can always install an intelligent membrane in place of the Drywall. If you’re putting shiplap over pre-existing Drywall, you can forgo this process and use the existing Drywall as the air barrier.
Drywall is simply large solid sheets with no gaps and is the perfect air-blocking material. The seams and corners can be mudded and taped to make your home airtight. Most new houses use an “airtight drywall” approach to limit and prevent air leakage.
Is it the world’s end to have some air leakage going on? No, if you don’t mind paying higher energy heating and cooling bills. Most historic and older homes are riddled with air leakage, so more damage can’t be done.
Personally, I think shiplap is perfectly fine for air tightness when used with a smart membrane. Most people would call this overkill, but I’m an energy-saving nerd, and I don’t want fine insulation particles having any chance of making their way into the interior air. I’d instead seal off the insulation in the ceiling and be done with it.
½” Drywall has an R-value of 0.5″ per inch, while 5/8″ has an R-value of 0.5625 per inch. For most softwoods, such as pine, commonly used for shiplap, the R-Value is around 1.41 per inch. If you opt for hardwood such as oak or maple, which would cost a small fortune, the R-Value drops to 0.71 per inch.
Given that the 1×6″ shiplap is 0.75″ inches thick, you can expect an R-Value of 1.0575. That’s almost double that of Drywall. This is exceptionally minimal, given that most walls these days have around R-21 insulation, but it’s still important to note.
Technically shiplap is more insulation than Drywall.
Thermal mass, in a nutshell, is all about storing heat during the day and releasing it slowly later in the night. Heating a solid brick will take much longer to cool down than a thick paper book. That, my friend, is thermal mass.
Why does thermal mass matter? Well, you can take advantage of free solar heat gain from the sun if you’re going the passive house route. Or, for most folks, if the power goes out and your heating stops, it will give you more time before your home losses all of its heat. Instead of your home becoming a frozen Popsicle in a day, it might take a few days with more thermal mass.
Gypsum, which is what Drywall is made of, has a heat capacity (J/K) of 1.09 and a density (kg/m3) of 1602. In comparison, wood, such as what shiplap is made of, has a heat capacity (J/K) of 0.42 and a density of (kg/m3) 550.
Drywall has a heat capacity that’s twice as high and a density about three times higher. In other words, Drywall is the better option if you are looking to add more thermal mass to your home.
Personally, I don’t find this to be a big deal at all, but it’s just something worth considering.
Put some scraps of shiplap and Drywall into a burning fire and see which ones burn. Shiplap will be engulfed in flames, while Drywall won’t do much other than have a burnt paper face.
In terms of fire resistance, Drywall is far superior to wood shiplap. Drywall is made of rocks, and simply put, rocks don’t burn. Best of all, Drywall can be infused with fiberglass strands to make it even more fire-resistant. Yes, the paper face will always burn, but unlike wood, it won’t combust completely; instead, it will just simply crumble apart and eventually fail.
Shiplap is not allowed per most local building codes for fire-rated assemblies such as between your garage and kitchen or mudroom (any living space, really). Instead, Drywall is required in these locations. However, you can put shiplap over Drywall to get the needed fire rating.
There’s nothing to worry about for decorative and accent walls or ceilings, i.e., not behind your kitchen oven. It truly does take a good deal of fire to ignite shiplap. Hold a flame up to a piece of shiplap, and it won’t ignite instantly; it takes a few moments. Harder woods such as IPE, which are far denser than pine, can be placed in a bed for fire and refuse to ignite for several minutes.
Drywall is messy, messy, and messy! Cutting Drywall creating dust, as does sanding it down for a smooth finish. All sorts of tools and measures can be taken to prevent dust, but you cannot avoid it entirely. Another thing to consider is the mess created by dry mud compounds, which can coat floors and be tracked throughout the house. While good practices and a floor covering can help eliminate most splattered mud, it’s still easy to get it on your shoes.
On the other hand, shiplap is not messy at all other than the dust created by cutting it. Most of this sawdust can be eliminated using a bag or vacuum attached to a miter saw. Or you can chop each section outdoors and eliminate the dust altogether.
Drywall can easily be cut down to size with a razor blade and notched for outlet boxes quickly with a drywall knife. The process is fast and easy.
Cutting shiplap requires either a circular saw or a miter saw. A small table saw helps rip down the board widths to fit narrow spaces. You’ll also want a jigsaw to cut out outlet boxes and notch around wall protrusions. Needless to say, shiplap requires a few more power tools.
When comparing shiplap vs. Drywall, shiplap wins durability, hands down. Drywall can beat shiplap if you opt for a high-priced abuse-resistant drywall material. In residential construction, no one does this, however.
Drywall is prone to being dinged by all sorts of things, from backpacks to door handles, etc. Though, even when damaged, Drywall has the benefit of being easily repaired. While you could punch or kick through Drywall, shiplap, on the other hand, would take far more strength.
Shiplap is far more robust when it comes to taking abuse from everyday wear and tear. It’s a solid wood material, after all. If you opt for MDF, a “was wood” construction that uses sawdust and glue bonded together, you will notice the durability drop considerably. Natural wood, such as solid pine, is much more abuse-resistant. I would personally never use MDF in a mudroom unless the wall or ceiling in mind was decorative and saw very little traffic. For areas like the living room walls or ceiling, staircase, and so on, MDF can be a cost-saving choice. My preference is to spend a little more money and get real wood.
When it comes to water, Drywall will turn to mush-wall when it gets wet. It has to be removed and replaced. MDF shiplap will swell and budget and need to be replaced. Natural solid wood shiplap, such as pine, can take a lot of water and drying cycles before it swells or budges. It’s a far better material for wet areas; it’s not suitable for showers, etc. For a bathroom accent wall, go with natural wood.
Our home is modern, but it’s mountain modern, showing that shiplap and T&G wood wall claddings and ceiling coverings can easily fit into contemporary interiors. You don’t have to live in a nautical-beach front home or need a rustic mountain lifestyle to appreciate this excellent material.
Shiplap is timeless, and so is Drywall. Use whichever your heart desires, and don’t worry about the future.
When it comes to soundproofing, Drywall has more mass; therefore, it will absorb more sound than shiplap.
Shiplap wins when it comes to hanging photos and other wall objects because it will hold more weight. With Drywall, you are often stuck using anchors to support higher loads. No need to find studs with shiplap; for most light everyday décor items, you can screw into the wood, and you’re good to go.
Though, I wouldn’t recommend installing a TV or anything heavy without anchors on either shiplap or Drywall.
Because you asked about drywall vs shiplap:
Do you need Drywall behind the shiplap?
Yes, in fire-rated assemblies, such as separating the living areas from the garage, per local building codes. No, you do not need Drywall behind shiplap for all other home areas. If you are going with a 1×6″ (1″ thickness, which is actually 0.75″), then you can meet many local building code requirements for a wall covering.
If you are installing shiplap on exterior walls or ceilings, then it’s wise to install either a smart membrane (to stop air leakage) or install Drywall and use a lower level of finish. Tape and mud the seams and joints and then install shiplap over it.
Can you install shiplap over Drywall?
Yes, if you have Drywall installed, then removing it is no point. You may need some outlet and light switch box extensions, but those are cheap and simple to install. Keep the Drywall and let it serve as more thermal mass for your home or as the air barrier layer for your exterior walls or ceiling.
To install shiplap over Drywall, use longer finish or brad nails that can penetrate the Drywall and sink an inch into the wood studs.
Do you need glue to install shiplap?
No. Some folks recommend using glue over Drywall and installing shiplap over that. But glue only holds the wood shiplap to the paper face of the Drywall. There are a lot of tests out there that show that Drywall, when glued to the studs, relies on the strength of the paper facing and not the entire panel. The paper facing is weak and fails easily.
Go with a larger size finish or brad nail if you are worried about the strength of attachment.
How do you hide fasteners in shiplap?
Shoot your finish nails into the tongue, and you will have a nail-free finish that requires no wood filler. Keep in mind, though, that some boards can have a slight warp and may need a nail or two occasionally to get them to lay flat.