Plywood instead of Drywall?

kdw72697June 21, 2010


Do you think it would be possible to replace some drywall with plywood? Or is it the law that all interior walls must be drywalled? ;)

Some explanation: The wall going up our stairs is covered with a "lovely" homemade stucco made of joint compound. We've always hated it (and we constantly scrape our knuckles against it when we go up or down the stairs while carrying laundry baskets), but repairing or replacing it has always been at the bottom of the priority list.

Now we are in the process of refinishing the stairs. The carpet is off, and before I go to the trouble of sanding and refinishing my steps, it seems to make sense to make a mess first and rip the stucco-ish drywall out now.

We'd like to do faux wainscoting or beadboard in that area, and it seems like kind of a waste to do all that taping and spackling with drywall if we're only going to cover it up.

Any comments welcome! Thanks!


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Taping and mudding needn't be perfect if you're covering it up, but the drywall needs to be behind the wood for fire safety reasons. Especially in a stairwell where a fire could roar from one floor to the next when feeding off of the wood.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 11:44PM
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There is no reason to avoid plywood except that it is more expensive and more difficult to install than drywall. If the drywall is going to be covered it doesn't need to be taped.

If you plan to install beadboard put up drywall and then add the beadboard over the lower portion or put the beadboard directly on the studs and drywall above it.

Walls (excluding trim and including paneling thicker than 1/4") and ceilings of a home must not have a flame-spread classification greater than 200 (class A, B, or C) or a smoke-developed index greater than 450. All common plywood construction panels are well within these these limits. Any furred spaces must be fireblocked.

There is no special fire protection treatment required for a stairway in a home. Usually the upper hall will ignite from superheated gasses before a stairway ignites. If there is an enclosed space below a stair, the bottom of the stair must be protected with 1/2" drywall.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 8:44AM
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Tearing out the textured drywall is likely to be faster than trying to smooth the surface (and likely less messy, or at least no worse than taping).

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 10:02AM
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Thanks so much!

As long as I am not making it any *less* safe, it's good to know I have options.

What's currently there is so...umm..."interesting". I will say, though, it's darn durable, because as much as we would have liked for it to happen, NONE of it has worn off!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 11:37AM
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...any chance of putting your beadboard up right over the stucko?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 2:17PM
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I wish we could just slap it up over the stucco. Unfortunately, the wall surface is bowed from their handiwork, and besides that the individual stucco "peaks" stick out as much as 1/2" in some places! It is so very, very weird...

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 2:58PM
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We use 1/2" MDO plywood in place of drywall for any number of applications. If you plan it so there are no visible seams that need to be taped it's amazing. You can use glue and brads to install so there are no screw heads to fill w/compound. Best application is hidden access panels that will someday be opened, like to replace a shower valve or get to a cleanout, and bulkheads/soffits. The seams can be disguised with filler, like bondo, and inside corners get caulked, not taped. It can cut days of drying time and separate taping visits out of some small jobs normally done w/drywall.
It can be painted immediately w/o waiting for mud to dry out.
It is vastly stronger structurally, and MDO is marine grade fir plywood with a resin-bonded surface overlaid, so it's so much more water-resistant than drywall. If backpainted it's darn near waterproof.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 7:13PM
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All MDO plywood has waterproof adhesive so it is Exterior rated. It can also made with Marine grade plywood.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 11:01AM
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Drywall is very easy to cut. Plywood can be very difficult to cut if you need custom fit pieces. I would go with drywall. No need to tape or mud given that you are covering it right?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:54PM
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