As a woodworker and DIY enthusiast living in Chicago, I always look for budget-friendly home improvement options. Two popular choices for interior walls are drywall and shiplap. But which one is more cost-effective to install? I decided to break down the costs to help fellow DIYers make an informed decision.
- 1 A Quick Intro to Drywall and Shiplap
- 2 Cost of Materials
- 3 Labor Costs for Installation
- 4 Cost of Tools and Supplies
- 5 Accounting for Waste and Efficiency
- 6 Aesthetic Appeal and Design Trends
- 7 Longevity and Durability
- 8 Installation: DIY or Call the Pros?
- 9 The Verdict: Which is More Cost-Effective Overall?
A Quick Intro to Drywall and Shiplap
Let me start with a quick overview for those unfamiliar with these terms. Drywall, or wallboard or plasterboard, consists of a layer of gypsum plaster sandwiched between two sheets of heavy paper. It’s used to make interior walls and ceilings and has a smooth, seamless surface that’s easy to paint or wallpaper.
On the other hand, shiplap refers to horizontal wooden boards with grooved edges that overlap to cover walls or ceilings. It creates a rustic, vintage look with visible seams between each panel. Shiplap dates back centuries but has seen a revival in recent years thanks to popular home design trends.
Now that we’ve got the basics, let’s break down the costs step-by-step.
Cost of Materials
The first thing to look at is the cost of materials for each option.
Drywall Sheet Prices
A standard size sheet of 1/2″ drywall is 4’ x 8’ and costs an average of $10-$30 per sheet. The price varies based on the brand, thickness, and specialty features like mold resistance. You would need approximately five sheets for a 10’ x 10’ wall. At $15 per sheet, that’s $75 in materials.
Shiplap Plank Prices
Shiplap also comes in varying sizes and prices. A typical size is 6 inches wide by 12 feet long boards. Depending on the wood type, grade, and milling style, these can range from $30-$100 per plank. For a 10’ x 10’ accent wall, you may need 10-15 boards at $50 each, so approximately $500-$750 in materials.
As you can see, drywall is the more budget-friendly choice for materials alone. But that’s just one part of the equation.
Labor Costs for Installation
The next consideration is how much it costs to have either drywall or shiplap professionally installed.
Drywall Installation Labor
Installing drywall costs $2-$5 per square foot, including materials and labor. A 10’x10’ wall equates to $200-$500 for installation. The work involves mounting the sheets on the wall studs, taping and mudding the seams, applying primer, and sanding. Most professional drywall installers can complete a room this size in 1-2 days.
Shiplap Installation Labor
The cost to install shiplap is higher, averaging $5-$15 per square foot, with labor and materials included. For our 10’x10’ wall example, you’re looking at $500-$1,500 installed. The higher price reflects the more intensive installation process: measuring and cutting each board, centering on studs, leveling, and aligning the planks perfectly. Professional shiplap installation may take 2-3 days for a single wall.
The labor costs are far more for shiplap installation, but it can be worth the investment for those who want the rustic aesthetic in their home.
Cost of Tools and Supplies
Another factor that adds up is all the tools and supplies needed for installation. Let’s look at what’s required for each material:
Drywall Tools and Supplies
Here are the essential tools needed for drywall installation:
- Drywall panels
- Drywall screws or nails
- Screw gun or hammer
- Utility knife
- Tape measure
- Joint compound
- Joint tape
- Drywall mud pan
- Drywall taping knives
- Dust mask
If you’re starting from scratch, you can pick up the essential tools for $50-$100. Joint compound, tape, and sandpaper will cost another $30 per standard room. However, if you anticipate doing drywall projects frequently, it pays to invest in quality tools that will last years with proper care.
Shiplap Tools and Supplies
For installing shiplap, you’ll need many of the same basics:
- Shiplap boards
- Finish nails/nail gun
- Stud finder
- Tape measure
- Chalk line
- Jigsaw or circular saw
- Miter saw
- Table saw
- Air compressor and hose (for nail gun)
- Wood filler
- Paintable caulk
Specialty saws like jigsaw, miter saws, and table saws are essential for making precision cuts on the shiplap boards. These tools represent a more significant upfront investment of $200-$500 or more. The good news is that they can be used for DIY projects like trim carpentry or furniture-building. Renting specialty tools is also an option if this is a one-time shiplap project.
If you cut it, the tool costs to properly install the shiplap are higher. But when you’re done, you’ll be set up for future woodworking projects!
Accounting for Waste and Efficiency
No construction project ever goes perfectly, so waste and efficiency should also be factored into the cost. In general, professionals can minimize waste and complete jobs quickly and accurately, thanks to experience. But here’s how these two materials compare:
Drywall Waste and Efficiency
Drywall is relatively straightforward to measure and cut to size. Still, minor errors can add up to wasted scraps. Efficiency is highest when installing large, uninterrupted walls. Working around doors, windows, and electrical equipment can slow the process. Professionals often use 4×12 sheets to minimize seams and scrap material. Taping and mudding are also labor-intensive steps. Drywall installation waste can range from 2% to 10%, and professionals complete jobs efficiently.
Shiplap Waste and Efficiency
Shiplap is a solid wood product that is more vulnerable to material waste if pieces need to be re-cut or replaced. Complex patterns or heavily angled walls also increase the chances of error and waste. You’ll also accrue scrap from cutting boards to staggered lengths. Efficiency is impacted by the meticulous measuring, aligning, and nailing required. Professionals recommend ordering 10-15% extra material for errors and scrap pieces.
The nature of the shiplap installation process lends itself to more material waste and slower installation compared to drywall. This waste directly adds to the cost of any shiplap project.
Aesthetic Appeal and Design Trends
Beyond just hard costs, there are also aesthetic factors that impact the appeal of drywall versus shiplap. These factors influence which material the average homeowner will gravitate towards for their space.
The Look of Drywall
Drywall has been used for decades to create smooth, neutral interior walls and ceilings. When painted, it almost disappears into the background of a room. Drywall is likely the top choice for those wanting a crisp, contemporary look. It can blend seamlessly into any color scheme or overall design style. The very evenness of drywall gives it mass appeal.
The Shiplap Look
Shiplap has grown exponentially in popularity thanks to “fixer-upper” shows and the modern farmhouse craze. The overlapping wooden boards create texture and visible lines from the seams, giving Shiplap a rustic vibe that pairs perfectly with worn, vintage elements and cozy cottage interiors. For those drawn to the reclaimed barn wood aesthetic, shiplap has irresistible charm and character compared to bare drywall.
Regarding appearance, shiplap wins for adding depth and interest to any space. Drywall’s neutrality allows for versatility but less inherent character. Consider which look aligns with your personal style and home décor before deciding.
Longevity and Durability
How long these materials last also affects their cost-effectiveness in the long run. Let’s compare:
With proper installation and care, drywall can last for decades before needing replacement. Over time, minor cracks, dents, and water damage may occur. These can be easily repaired with joint compound and touch-up painting. However, drywall won’t withstand direct moisture, and prolonged dampness can cause significant issues. Regular maintenance, like sealing any cracks, helps maintain its longevity.
As a solid wood product, shiplap is inherently durable and longer-lasting than drywall when correctly cared for. Areas exposed to moisture, like bathrooms, may need extra sealing and protection. Shiplap can last for generations with adequate sealing and avoiding standing water damage. Some older homes still have original shiplap walls withstood over a century of use. The boards can eventually warp or split, requiring replacement, but have a remarkably long lifespan with proper maintenance.
If longevity is important to you, shiplap’s durability gives it the advantage. Well-installed drywall can also stand the test of time but requires more careful maintenance and repairs over decades.
Installation: DIY or Call the Pros?
When budgeting for a drywall or shiplap project, the final decision is whether to DIY it or hire a professional. Here’s an overview of the process for each to help decide:
Installing Drywall Yourself
With some basic skills, installing drywall is a DIY project many homeowners can tackle successfully. The process includes:
- Measuring and marking stud locations
- Cutting panels to size
- Securing panels with screws into studs
- Applying joint compound to seams
- Taping and finishing the seams
- Sanding once dry
- Priming and painting
This is simplified but gives an idea of the process. With patience, an amateur can achieve good results.
DIY Shiplap Installation
Shiplap requires more precision and skill to cut and install than drywall. The process involves:
- Measuring space and calculating layout
- Cutting boards to an appropriate length
- installing backing boards if needed
- Applying adhesive and affixing to studs
- Nailing boards into place
- Filling gaps and sanding
- Caulking and sealing
- Finishing with paint or stain
Shiplap presents more challenges for novice DIYers who want a professional-quality result. The cutting and installation require special tools and techniques to avoid cracking or misaligned boards. Hiring a pro is strongly recommended for those lacking experience with intricate trim carpentry.
Both projects could be DIY, but shiplap is better for those with advanced skills. Drywall is more straightforward for beginners to tackle with patience and proper preparation.
The Verdict: Which is More Cost-Effective Overall?
Now that we’ve examined the costs, which building material is affordable?
Drywall is the clear winner when it comes to cost-effectiveness. The materials, installation labor, tools, and supplies cost less than solid wood shiplap. Drywall is also more efficient and longer-lasting. For large areas on a budget, drywall can’t be beat.
However, shiplap offers benefits like durability, character, and design flexibility that justify the higher costs for many homeowners. If going for a rustic or farmhouse aesthetic, investing in shiplap can pay dividends in added value and enjoyment of your home.
I advise carefully assessing your budget, project goals, and style preferences before deciding between drywall or shiplap. While drywall is cheaper overall, sometimes it’s worth investing extra for the impact of a statement wall of gorgeous shiplap boards.
Either way, armed with the correct information, you can tackle any drywall or shiplap project like a pro! Take your time, do your prep work, and apply my tips here to get the most value from your next wall-finishing project. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions!