Can You Plywood Behind Drywall? (Why It’s An Uncommon Tactic)


Both drywall and plywood are common materials for building walls. You can use them both as your main surface that attaches to the framework of your home.

It’s not common to see the two in use together, however. Their qualities don’t often complement each other, and what you could do with both of them together you could do just as well with one material alone.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use them together, though.

You can use plywood behind drywall if you’re building a shear wall or if you want to hang a lot of items on your wall. In most cases, though, drywall is suitable on its own and costs less than plywood. You can also use thicker drywall for hanging items instead of using the sturdier, but more expensive, plywood.

What Is Drywall?

Drywall is a synthetic material for use in construction – walls in particular, of course.

Drywall attaches to wood or metal studs with nails or screws. This creates a uniform, closed surface around a construction frame such as those used for homes.

It comes in flat panels and consists of two thick sheets of paper with a section of gypsum plaster in between. Gypsum is a very soft gray or white mineral, with good insulation and fire-resistant properties.

Construction professionals have been using gypsum plaster for over 100 years. It’s been one of the most common wall construction materials since the middle of the 20th century.

There are five main types of basic drywall: standard, mold-resistant, moisture-resistant, fire-resistant, and soundproof. You can also get drywall of different lengths and thicknesses.

Thickness is one reason why you might want to put plywood behind your drywall, but it’s far from the only reason.

Benefits Of Using Plywood Behind Drywall

A thinner drywall may make it harder to hang items with typical drywall hangers. You may be able to supplement thinner drywall with a layer of plywood behind it.

Plywood is a sturdy engineered wood that readily takes nails and screws, you don’t have to worry about anchors or even finding a stud.

Plywood will give you a wider surface area for hanging items, while the drywall in front of it offers a smooth, easily paintable surface for your décor.

You can also use plywood as a shear wall. Shear walls are those that can resist lateral forces like wind, as opposed to the vertical force of load-bearing walls.

Without a shear wall, your construction can sway from side to side, which will put stress on the frame.

This kind of lateral stress can eventually lead to severe damage. Shear walls mitigate that damage, but you need building material that can withstand that lateral force.

Plywood is one such material; its strength makes it more suitable for a shear wall than drywall, which is a relatively weaker material.

Drawbacks to Drywalling Over Plywood

Using plywood behind your drywall does have its disadvantages.

For one, plywood is often more expensive than drywall. This can be a real hindrance to your budget, especially considering you don’t actually need anything behind your drywall.

This is even more of a drain when there’s already water-resistant and soundproof drywall available.

Plywood can offer these same benefits, but unless you have concerns about strength or hanging abilities, you might as well use these specific types of drywall.

Better Alternatives To Plywood

In general, you don’t need to have any other material behind your drywall unless your local building code requires it.

However, if you do need a shear wall, or aren’t able to get a hold of the type of drywall that fits your needs, there are materials you can use besides plywood.

OSB is a great alternative to plywood because while it’s a similar material to plywood, it’s less expensive. It won’t delaminate like plywood and has fewer soft spots and voids.

You could also use simple planks similar to shiplap or tongue-and-groove planks. This would help with having more spots to securely hang items on the wall (instead of relying on just studs). It can also help secure insulation material behind the drywall.

In the end, though, if you can just use drywall, that’s your best bet. Plywood and its alternatives don’t offer much that drywall can’t do on its own, outside of lateral support.

Thicker drywall, between 1/2″ and 5/8” offers enough durability for hanging pictures and other items. The 5/8” drywall, which is about as thick as you can get, is also great for soundproofing.

Other Uses For Plywood

While there may be better materials to use behind your drywall, plywood still has a place in construction. In fact, it’s much more versatile than drywall, which, as its name suggests, is best for just wall construction.

Plywood is a very sturdy material for walls in its own right. So, if you decide to forgo drywall altogether, you can use plywood instead.

Plywood is also a great material for subfloors, offering durability and soundproofing qualities. It’s usually cheaper than solid wood as well, so it’s a good low-budget solution for everything from furniture to roofing.

Conclusion

When building walls for your home or other kinds of construction, both drywall and plywood are good choices for your materials. However, you may wonder if combining the two will offer more benefits than just one of them alone.

While you can use plywood behind drywall, it’s not a common construction method. Mixing the materials will likely cost you more money, and in general, there’s no requirement to have plywood (or any other sturdy material) behind your drywall.

The exception to this would be a shear wall. These walls need materials like plywood to protect your dwelling from lateral pressure that can come from wind or even earthquakes.

Using plywood behind your drywall can also help if you plan to hang a lot of items on the wall. Because plywood is so sturdy, you don’t have to worry about finding a stud; you can nail or screw directly into the drywall to the plywood behind it.

These Reads Can Be Beneficial In Your Construction Work:

  1. Presswood Vs. Plywood
  2. How Many Layers Of Plywood For Subfloor?
  3. Does Drywall Need To Be Primed?
  4. Do You Prime Drywall Before Tiling?

Katherine Ann

Katherine is a freelance writer who enjoys DIY home décor and refurbishing tired furniture. In addition to writing for PlumbJoe, she blogs about books and movies and writes creatively in her spare time.

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