Drywall vs. OSB: Which Is Better for Your Garage Walls?

Typically, garage interiors aren’t something you’d hire an interior designer for. There are only so many things a garage needs to be, and attractive living space is not one of them. Many times, the wall studs are left completely uncovered. There are reasons. However, you’d want to sheath the interior walls of your garage with either drywall or Oriented Strand Board (OSB). 

Generally speaking, OSB is often a better choice for garage walls than drywall. It’s easily painted, less expensive, and it allows you to drive nails or screws directly into it for hanging and storage. When coupled with insulation behind it, it can also keep your garage at a comfortable temperature year-round.

There are a number of factors a person should consider before they decide to use drywall or OSB as a sheathing material for their garage interior. This article will discuss some of those factors and hopefully help you determine which of these materials will better suit your needs. 

Drywall vs. OSB: Which is Better for Your Garage?

If you’re sheathing the interior of your garage, you’ll find you have a number of options for which material to use. Two of the most common, and the two that will be the focus of this article, are drywall and OSB.

Drywall is a material that’s often used for sheathing interior housing walls. It’s called drywall because it’s not made with water, which its predecessor, plaster, was. It’s made with gypsum, a mineral with a white, sand-like appearance, and it’s been a common construction material for over half a century at this point. 

OSB is an engineered board that’s made by cutting logs into long, thin strands of wood and then gluing and pressing these strands together into a board. That’s admittedly a very simple description of a relatively complex process, but as you can tell by the name, it’s made from strands of wood. 

There’s a number of reasons why OSB is generally the better choice for your interior garage wall. These reasons include:

  • It’s easier to cut and hang
  • It’s simple to prime and paint
  • You can screw and nail directly into it

One potential issue with using OSB for your garage walls is your local residential building code. Many locales require the use of fire-resistant material to sheath walls that are in an attached garage, and OSB unfortunately, is highly flammable. Before you do any installations, you should check with your local building department to see the rules.

The rest of this article will focus on describing the various pros and cons of using drywall or OSB to sheath the interior of your garage.

The Case for OSB As Garage Sheathing

OSB has a strong case for being used as a garage sheathing, and as long as it’s allowed by applicable building and residential codes in your area, it’s a great first choice. 

What is OSB?

OSB is a type of manufactured board that typically comes in 4′ x 8′ sheets, although you can get larger sheets if you have a larger space. These sheets typically are longer if the walls you’re covering are taller than 8′. 

OSB, it’s important to note, is different than plywood, particleboard, or MDF; although they’re all a type of manufactured wood board, they differ in their manufacturing process and their applicable uses. 

Below you’ll find a brief table outlining some of the pros and cons of using OSB as a garage interior wall. These pros and cons will be described in greater detail below.

Pros of Using OSBCons of Using OSB
More strength and supportHighly flammable; not up to fire-resistant code
Can attach hooks, nails, and screws directly to itDoesn’t give as finished a look
Easy to prime and paint
Holds moisture more than drywall

More Strength and Support

OSB provides a more resilient wall than drywall does. Drywall tends to show scuffs and dents more readily than OSB, although filling in holes after you’ve removed a nail or screw tends to be the same in terms of difficulty. OSB is also reputedly easier to work with since, with drywall, you have to cut the sheets properly, then tape and mud the joints. OSB doesn’t require this.

Can Attach Hooks, Nails, and Screws Directly to OSB

When you’re putting walls up in your garage, one of the main things you’ll probably be doing with it is hanging up hooks, shelves, etc. for storage. With that in mind, OSB performs better than drywall overall. In fact, OSB also performs better than plywood in terms of how much force is required to pull a nail or screw back out of the board. 

Easy to Paint and Prime

OSB is very simple to paint and prime as well. While with drywall, you’ll have to tape and mud the walls, then sand them down and wipe them with a wet cloth before you can prime and then paint, OSB requires no such prep work. Just put a coat of primer on, then paint over it for a clean, professional look. 

Of course, if you want an unfinished look in your garage that’s one step above bare studs, you can leave your OSB unpainted as well. It’ll perform the same.

Repels Moisture Better

Finally, OSB is more moisture-resistant than drywall. This means it will absorb less water overall, as well as release water quicker when it does become saturated. For people in areas with high humidity, OSB might be the better option because it will lead to less mold and mildew growth than drywall. 

OSB Is Highly Flammable

Of course, nothing comes without tradeoffs. Despite some of its obvious benefits, OSB is not up to the majority of fire codes because of its high flammability. There is such a thing as fire-rated OSB, though, so you might not be out of luck if you want the benefits of OSB. This will be more expensive than either traditional OSB or drywall, though.

Finished Look

Painted OSB might not give the finished look you’re looking for like drywall will. With a good drywall job, you won’t even be able to tell where the seams are, and it’ll look great. OSB, on the other hand, will likely show the joints even when primed and painted. If you’re after a garage that looks as finished as the rest of your house, OSB might not be the best option.

A Note About Drywall

All this being said, drywall is a fine option for a garage wall as well. It gives a professional look, and you can still use wall anchors or find the studs to attach hooks and screws for storage. You’ll also find that drywall will be cheaper overall to meet building codes for fire-resistance, and you’ll have a safer house in addition. In a detached garage, though, this isn’t as big a concern.

Closing Thoughts

In general, if you don’t have to worry about building codes, OSB will be the better bet for sheathing your interior garage wall. It’s about the same price per square foot as drywall, but it gives more strength and support, you can attach screws and nails directly to it for storage, and it’s very easy to prime and paint.

At the end of the day, your individual needs should guide your decision on whether to use OSB or drywall to finish the inside of your garage. Both are great material options, and you’ll find that one or the other has led to great results for a variety of people.