Drywall vs. Plywood: What’s better for the garage ceiling?

Drywall and plywood are two extremely common materials to use for a garage ceiling. Both can provide great looks and help tie together the whole garage, but each one has some utility benefits over the other. While there is no one answer that is sure to work for everyone, there are a few things to consider when deciding which suits a particular garage best.

Drywall is great for insulation, allowing the garage to be used year-round, and can be easily repaired. Plywood provides a unique look, is fairly cheap, and handles humidity better than drywall. Thick plywood can handle weight better than drywall as well. 

Both materials provide ample opportunities for different looks in addition to their mechanical benefits. Various states and counties may have strict building laws about what materials can comprise a garage, so be sure to follow the law where applicable.

How To Choose Between Drywall and Plywood For The Garage Ceiling

If using plywood for your garage ceiling is a possibility in your area, the next question becomes how to choose between drywall and plywood (or some of the other options available). There are a few important aspects to consider when looking at materials for garage ceilings, including:

  • Aesthetics
  • Usability
  • Construction
  • Intended Use Of The Garage

The list seems long, but in reality, these do not share equal weight. Another important consideration is cost; in many places, the difference in cost between drywall and plywood is minimal, but your area may differ. Consider which of these facets is most important to you to make your final choice easier.


Of all the important things to consider when choosing the material for your garage ceiling, the aesthetic choice is the most personal. There is really no right answer here; instead, you should think about which one you prefer the most and the future plans for the look of the space.

Plywood is available in a host of different woods and even cuts, allowing the ceiling to look better than just some basic plywood sheets. It can also be primed and painted fairly easily, expanding the looks even further. Keep in mind, however, that the material of the garage walls is likely drywall; this will create a distinct look for the ceiling which you may love or hate.

Drywall can be thought of like a blank canvas, ready to be filled and painted however you wish. You can keep the drywall clean and simple, opting for a uniform look with the walls of the garage, or introduce popcorn or sculpted ceilings to add some texture. Drywall is easily painted a variety of colors and also easily blends into many other materials. This can help make the ceiling look the same as the walls, resulting in a space that is uniform and often looks bigger. 

If you are the type to often repaint or restyle a room, it may be best to go with drywall, as it is highly malleable in that regard.


If using the ceiling as something more than a roof over your head is a main goal, plywood almost certainly takes the lead. Most plywood can support hanging tools, storage bins, or other devices while using drywall will require the finding of a stud.

Of course, plywood cannot take an absurd amount of weight; if you are planning on hanging something heavy from the ceiling, it is best to take the proper precautions and steps needed to do so. However, for some quick additional space to utilize, the ceiling can come in handy when made out of plywood. The thicker and higher quality plywood used, the more weight it can support before bending or breaking. 

However, drywall has its own ways to get increased usability, as well. Strips of wood or metal can always be drilled into the drywall using stud support, allowing the same level or even stronger ways of hanging things. Drywall’s ease of use and blending into different materials also makes it much more usable in a variety of settings, so that should be kept in mind. Finally, drywall can also be easily repaired and patched as future issues arise.


The initial construction and placement of both drywall and plywood can be frustrating for your garage ceiling, but most people agree that drywall is slightly easier. Both need to be hung and nailed or screwed in place and cut to size; the main difference is that drywall allows for more mistakes and repairs. 

When placing a plywood ceiling, each piece needs to be carefully measured and cut to create a tight seal across the whole ceiling. This can become an issue with warped pieces and create a lot of wasted scrap material, especially for new carpenters. It is possible to get a gorgeous ceiling out of it with little waste, but construction will generally be a timesink.

Drywall also requires cutting and measuring carefully, but more mistakes can be made. Drywall can be cut with a simple drywall knife, allowing awkward angles to be cut and dealt with on the fly. Drywall also requires less even and straight cuts, as it will be filled with tape and compound afterward anyway.

Despite drywall hanging technically having more steps, it is often the easier material to build a garage ceiling out of. The high margin of error also allows beginners to feel more confident in their decisions, making it a great first-time choice. 

Intended Use Of The Garage

The final thing to consider when choosing between drywall and plywood is what the garage will be used for. This feeds back into the aesthetics and usability aspects as well, as it is important to enjoy and utilize your space as you want to. In addition to that, however, the two materials excel at different things.

Consider what you will use the garage space for, and how much time you will spend there. This will provide a fantastic base to work with when deciding on materials.

Drywall is fantastic for areas with large temperature differences or four seasons, such as the Northeast or Midwest. This is because it is a much better insulator, allowing you to heat or cool the garage as you wish without wasting as much energy. While not important for a garage that will only be used to store cars, this can quickly save you money and make the experience better if you plan on using the garage for other purposes.

Plywood does not insulate very well at all, but it does handle humidity surprisingly well. Speaking to the material’s durability, plywood tends to not warp or run into other common issues in areas with extreme humidity, such as the Southeast coast. Thankfully, many humid areas in the world do not get the extreme seasons that require better insulation, making plywood an even better option. 

Can You Use Plywood For A Garage Ceiling?

In most places throughout the United States and beyond, using plywood for a garage ceiling is acceptable. It is important to note, however, that using plywood on the walls of a garage is likely against the local building and fire laws. 

Ceilings tend to have less strict laws, as they tend to not directly separate another part of the house. However, this does not mean that using plywood for your garage’s ceiling is always going to be the best option. Plywood is not good at insulating heat or cool air, meaning that the garage is unlikely to be comfortable for the majority of the year, especially if you live somewhere with four distinct seasons. 

If you plan on using the garage for a purpose beyond car storage, especially something that means you will be in the garage often, it may be worth it to maneuver toward drywall. The opposite is also true, however.

Thanks to plywood’s natural makeup, it can handle humidity and weight much better than drywall can. Garages in particularly humid climates are likely to benefit from this. Additionally, the ceiling can be prime real estate to hang various tools, gear, or storage in certain setups. If you are planning on using this space, it could be worth it to just do the whole ceiling with plywood.

Before making the decision, it is important to consider local laws and ensure that you are meeting all of them. Especially if your garage is connected directly to the rest of your house, consider how flame retardant the two materials are; local building laws are put in place to protect you. 

If you are a particular fan of the look of plywood, remember that you can likely place strips of wood or similar looking materials on top of a drywall face for extra protection. This will not result in some of the benefits of using a full plywood ceiling, but does eliminate the largest negative. 

Whatever you plan on using the garage for, ensure that the material you choose will help you be comfortable and safe. Follow local building laws, and go with what makes the most sense for you!