Prior to World War II, builders crafted walls by laboriously coating thousands of wooden laths with layers of plaster. After the war, the widespread use of drywall allowed contractors to build walls much more quickly, though the process -- installing, taping, mudding and sanding -- was still far from easy. Fortunately, today's homeowners have a number of other options for crafting strong walls without the difficult process of hanging and finishing drywall.
Sheet woods like plywood, medium-density fiberboard and oriented strand board serve as some of the cheapest and easiest-to-install materials for finishing walls in the home. While these materials don't offer the smooth look or fire resistance of drywall, they are simple to screw in place and can be painted or left unfinished.
Fiberglass-reinforced panels secure with screws and glue to almost any surface, including directly over studs. You can install them over existing drywall, making them an easy option to cover up drywall that's in bad shape. FRP panels resist water, mold and stains, making them suitable wall coverings for laundry rooms, kitchens and baths.
Tongue-and-groove wood planks give a space a natural and rustic look. While planks installed parallel to joists typically require furring strips, you can fasten planks installed perpendicular to the joists directly to wood or metal framing. Wood planks come in many different finishes and species, and you can smooth them out with joint compound and paint them if you decide you no longer like their look at a future date.
Pegboard provides a convenient way to store and organize tools, fasteners and other supplies in garages and storage spaces. Generally you can fasten pegboard directly to studs with no need for furring. The tiny holes in pegboard aid in installation by allowing you to see the studs, making it easy to screw the panels in place. Compare different finish options or look for pegboard that you can if you don't like the basic brown finish of this material.
Veneer plaster offers the look of traditional plaster with much of the convenience of drywall. Installation can be time-consuming but doesn't require the skill needed to properly finish drywall. Start by screwing sheets of special drywall, known as blue board, to the studs. Instead of meticulous taping and sanding, veneer plaster requires only a quick line of tape over the seams, after which you'll cover the entire panel with a thin layer of plaster that helps joints blend in without a great deal of finishing. You may save time by leaving this material unpainted and simply enjoying its natural off-white finish.
Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.