How to Finish Garage Walls


To most people, your garage is much more than just a place to park their vehicle or store all those Christmas decorations.

Finishing the walls of your garage allows the space to be used in multiple different ways from added storage to organization, as well as adding your own personal style to one of the most used rooms in your home.

How can you finish your garage walls? Garage walls have traditionally been left alone. Homeowners have worried less about aesthetics and went for function, hiding walls with shelving. Those that have chosen wall coverings, usually opt for drywall, especially if the covering is done during the construction or remodeling of other areas of the home. Drywall is only one option for garage walls, some of the other options include:

  • Painting
  • Wood Paneling
  • Plywood Or OSB
  • Metal Panels
  • Plastic Or Fiberglass
  • Storage Panels, Such As Pegboards Or Slat Board
  • Moisture Resistant Backerboard

The problem is, how do you know what type of finish you should use on your garage walls? After all, there are several options, from painting to drywall, and a wide range of panel options.

This makes deciding between them difficult. Keep reading to find out more details on these various options for your garage walls, including the pros and cons of each to help you decide which might be right for your garage.

Why Cover Garage Walls?

So why cover your garage walls anyway?

Well, there are several reasons actually.

Perhaps you need to add storage to the space, or your garage is just too dark and needs to be brightened up a bit. Some homeowners find finished garage walls are easier to keep clean versus bare studs.

Or, you could want to increase that value of your home. While there may be no direct impact on the estimated value of your home, buyers are more drawn to homes that have a garage that is finished. I wrote an article which goes into a lot of detail covering whether a finished garage adds to your home’s value. Check it out if you’re thinking on selling your home in the next few years, but still want the benefit of a finished garage.

Adding a finished look to your garage gives buyers the option of using the garage as additional living space without the expectation (and hassle) of doing the finishing themselves.

Options for Garage Wall Coverings

We’ve covered the why. Now let’s talk about the how.

If you’re one of those creative, DIY homeowners, you may be willing to step out of the traditional box and go with something completely different. The options are endless.

For the rest of us that want some more common options, here’s a look at each of them as well as any pros and cons they may offer.

Painting

Painting is perhaps the most common way homeowners choose to change the look of their garage walls. Paint can be applied to almost every type of existing surface, including cinder blocks, concrete, even the back of exterior paneling.

If you’re going to go the simple route and just paint your concrete block walls, it’s important to seal your walls so water can’t get in. When I did this with my garage, I wrote about the entire process and how I waterproofed my garage walls. It’s a simple process but a really important step that you shouldn’t skip.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Can be done by the homeowner
  • Wide range of colors

Cons:

  • Not as durable as other wall coverings (unless applied to drywall)
  • Adds no surface for shelving or other storage solutions

Wood Paneling

There are several wood paneling options that you can use to cover the walls of your garage. You can purchase any of the wide range of siding panels, in large 4 x 8-foot panels or in horizontal lats. This can allow you additional options for style and can also be painted as well.

Image: octa-app.co

Pros:

  • Installation can be done easier and faster than drywall
  • No need for mudding or taping joints
  • Allows for attaching storage items, such as shelves, hooks, and more.

Cons:

  • May end up costing more than other options, depending on material choice
  • Will require additional supports between existing studs in most cases
Real Weathered Wood Planks Walls (10 sq. ft.)
$81.50
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09/27/2021 01:57 pm GMT

Plywood/OSB

Most garages are either concrete block or bare studs. If you’ve got a bare, wood stud frame, then plywood/OSB is going to be a popular choice.

In fact, it’s OSB\plywood is one of the best all-around choices for walls, floors, and all kinds of home improvement.

The panels are usually inexpensive and can be finished in several ways, including being painted or stained. Some people even torch the surface of panels to draw attention to the unique patterns they are known to have.

Image: acrossthefence.co

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Simple to install, even DIY with an extra hand or two
  • Allows for a wide range of finish options

Cons:

  • Will not hold up to excessive drilling, mounting, shelving, etc. due to the composition of the boards
  • May absorb excess moisture if not sealed properly

Metal Panels

A big trend in home improvement of all types is using metal instead of drywall or wood. There are several options if you want the look of metal on your garage walls. Some of the most durable options are diamond plating, corrugated sheet metal, even grates and fencing for some people, and many more.

Pros:

  • Metal is strong and durable in most cases
  • Can be used to customize a space
  • Reclaimed metal sheeting is an option (old tin roofs, metal sheds, and barns)

Cons:

  • When purchased new, may be expensive depending on the choice of metal
  • Requires additional supports in many cases
  • Hanging shelves and other storage options will require specialized metal screws

Plastic/Fiberglass

An inexpensive option is to use plastic or fiberglass. These lightweight options require very little maintenance and resist moisture. They can also be cleaned easily, making them a great option for high traffic areas or where there will be a lot of dirt and grime.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install
  • Mold and mildew resistant
  • Easy maintenance

Cons:

  • Usually, need to be install over drywall
  • Not as durable as other options

Pegboard, slatwall or track storage

Most people have seen pegboard, slat wall, and even lattice used as a wall covering. These types of panels give you immediate built-in storage using specialized hooks that are inexpensive and readily available in most hardware and discount stores. Storage panels are perfect for garages where there is a need for a wide range of storage needs due to their flexibility.

Gladiator GearWall with tools
Imagine this covering your entire wall

If you’re considering adding slatwall to your garage, I highly recommend checking out my slat wall buyer’s guide article. When I was considering it for my garage I spent hours researching the different brands and options and put it in that article. Check it out!

Pros:

  • Sturdy and flexible storage options
  • Inexpensive and easy to install
  • When combined with specialized accessories, offers endless options for customization
  • Can easily be painted

Cons:

  • Not the most aesthetically appealing
  • Offers little or no insulation properties
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09/27/2021 06:11 pm GMT

Moisture Resistant Backerboard

Backerboard, sometimes referred to as green board, is commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens. It’s similar to drywall in function, installation, and appearance. Green board is designed for use with tile and other installations that are high in moisture.

Unlike drywall that will crumble and collapse when exposed to high amounts of moisture, backer board’s core resists water while the surface is made with a mesh that allows air to circulate better, drying any moisture that does appear.

Pros:

  • Allows for a strong, drywall-like, base for additional coverings such as tile or stone
  • Resists moisture for less chance of mold and mildew to develop
  • Can be easily painted
  • Installation is easy for some, the same as drywall

Cons:

  • Is more expensive than standard drywall
  • Not recommended for garage walls that are going to have several items mounted on them (screws can impact moisture resistance)

What is the Best Material for Garage Walls?

The truth is, the best material for your garage is going to be different than anyone else.

Before making a choice, you will want to check with your local building codes to ensure you are working within the code limitations. You would not want to decide on one type of covering only to find out it is not allowed in your area.

Drywall is still the most popular wall covering and may still be the choice of many of you. After all, drywall has advantages too, such as being readily available and fire-resistant. Therefore, most attached garages will be required to use drywall.

In fact, that’s the choice I made when I was finishing my own garage. I installed wood framing and insulation over my concrete block walls. Then I added drywall to give it the finished look that I wanted.

The best material choice is going to be a personal one and depend on how you want to use the walls. Here are a few guidelines:

Painting – Best budget-friendly option, usually does not require any special knowledge or code issues

Wood Paneling – Most stylish options (with metal), but may also be most expensive

Plywood or OSB – Creative and affordable, offers a wide range of customization

Metal Panels – Considered a high-end option in most cases, not best for storage or organization options

Plastic or Fiberglass – Least durable, may be affordable, not great if you plan to attach things to your walls

Storage Panels – Most customizable, perfect for garages with a lot of tools or when organization and storage is the priority

Moisture Resistant Backerboard – The only option for adding tile or stone brick, may be used in place of drywall for higher moisture areas

Final Thoughts

The truth is there is probably an infinite number of ways you can finish your garage walls if you have the time, energy, and desire. Most of us choose function over style unless the garage is planned to be used as additional living space. No matter which option you choose, remember to check with your lock code requirements.

Regardless of which wall covering option, you choose; we hope this brief guide can at least point you in the right direction.

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