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Thread: Thoughts on plywood shop walls

  1. #1

    Thoughts on plywood shop walls

    Hi All,

    I'm new to the forum and realize there are similar threads up but I didn't find my specific answers so I thought I'd ask here.

    Bought a new house, garage came unfinished and I've decided to finish it and build up my space. I've decided to go plywood. I live the utility and the look. Here are my questions for this eof you who have done it:

    1) what thickness?
    2) Is it worth getting the sanded plywood?
    3) Anyone had any luck sanding the unsanded plywood to a good finish while still in full sheets? And if so what did you use to do all that sanding with, and how long did it take.
    4) what do you wish you did from from the get go?

    Thanks all!

  2. #2
    1). 1/2 is probably fine, 5/8 if you want more rigidity and cost.
    2). Up to you, if you want it smooth then yes (see 3 below), if you are going to paint it, probably not.
    3). You could do this, but why? It sounds like sheer misery. If you really want to, get one sheet and try. And then buy sanded
    4). I wish I would have used a light tan or off white paint rather than a pure white semi gloss. I think it would have been easier on the eyes, and better color rendition in the shop. Fortunately there is so much stuff on the walls, I don't actually see much paint.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Posts
    52,331
    I've never seen "unsanded" plywood, honestly....

    Plywood is a good material if you want/need to be able to drive screws "anywhere". It's not inexpensive, however, and thinner, less expensive sheets will not have the same screw holding power as thicker sheets. (no surprise there). That said, I suspect you could easily get away with nominal 1/2" material (about 7/16" actual) as long as you screw anything heavy into the studs.

    That all said, be sure to check with your local code enforcement folks about what's acceptable to put on the walls and ceiling of a garage, especially if it's attached to your home. At the very least the wall bordering the house will be required to be fire retardant and thicker drywall. You may or may not be permitted to put anything flammable over it.

    Most of my shop walls are covered with 7/32" T1-11 sheet goods. I like the look. The portion that has OSB is "functional" but I'm not a fan. I did not consider thicker plywood due to cost. If I did another shop, I'd probably go drywall and French cleats.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Leesville, SC
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    2,275
    If the shop is unfinished, I would go with insulation and 1/2" plywood.
    Army Veteran 1968 - 1970
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    I Support the Second Amendment of the US Constitution

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lewiston, Idaho
    Posts
    27,317
    I agree with Von. In my shop, I insulated and went 1/2" plywood on the walls. I cheapened out using sheetrock on the ceiling. I regret that decision as even with 9' 7" ceilings I have dings in the sheetrock.
    Ken

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Dolfo Picanco View Post
    4) what do you wish you did from from the get go?
    I think everyone else has questions 1 through 3 covered well, but I can share my experience which may help with your fourth question.

    My garage is my workshop. It's a one car garage, super old (built in 1938), uninsulated, wood framing exposed. I built a tool wall for a bunch of my most often used hand tools and power tools. While it's been great, I wish I put plywood up in the whole garage (with insulation, walls and ceiling). What I REALLY wish I did was french cleats from workbench height and up. That's on my list of to-do projects and it is probably easiest to put the french cleats on sheets of plywood prior to hanging.

    So if you're considering putting plywood up on the walls and you think you may want to have a french cleat system at some point down the road, I recommend you do the french cleats before hanging the plywood.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
    Posts
    9,461

    Radiata Pine

    I built my shop with 2x6 studs, insulated, and paneled the inside and ceilings with 1/2" Radiata Pine plywood.

    I put every piece up with deck screws so I could remove panels if needed. The stuff came so smooth even 400 sandpaper probably wouldn't have improved it. The back side is nicer than any other plywood I've used except for Baltic Birch. The sheets were without voids, flat, and even leftover sheets I've had for years now didn't warp.

    Pay attention to the insulation vapor barrier recommendations for your area - they may be different for conditioned spaces in the cold north vs the hot south.

    If painting, I'd prop them up outside and use a spray paint rig and paint both sides before installing. I did that for OSB panels mounted where humidity might be high and the painting was extremely quick.

    I am SO glad I used plywood. It allows me to mount anything anywhere. It adds a lot of strength to the structure too. If you put it on the ceiling buy or rent a panel jack/lift or the 4x8 sheets will first break your bones then kill you.

    panel_jack_IMG_20150106_185527_791.jpg

    Talk to the building inspector in your area - there are codes in some places that may prohibit combustible panels in a garage or require it be covered with sheetrock or fire "proof" paint or something else. May not apply to stand-alone shops.

    JKJ



    Quote Originally Posted by Dolfo Picanco View Post
    Hi All,

    I'm new to the forum and realize there are similar threads up but I didn't find my specific answers so I thought I'd ask here.

    Bought a new house, garage came unfinished and I've decided to finish it and build up my space. I've decided to go plywood. I live the utility and the look. Here are my questions for this eof you who have done it:

    1) what thickness?
    2) Is it worth getting the sanded plywood?
    3) Anyone had any luck sanding the unsanded plywood to a good finish while still in full sheets? And if so what did you use to do all that sanding with, and how long did it take.
    4) what do you wish you did from from the get go?

    Thanks all!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    If you put it on the ceiling buy or rent a panel jack/lift or the 4x8 sheets will first break your bones then kill you.
    JKJ
    Yes! I rented a drywall lift to put the OSB on my 9 1/2 foot ceiling. Definitely one of the best $40 I have ever spent in my life.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    West Tennessee
    Posts
    48
    My shop was not insulated, it is now, I covered the walls with 7/16" OSB, my 8' ceiling is insulated and I used paneling to cover it. I tried french cleats - after a couple months I determined I did not want all my tools on display; more of a theft concern living in a rural area. I've since built cabinets for storage.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    The old pueblo in el norte.
    Posts
    257
    Quote Originally Posted by Don Coffman View Post
    My shop was not insulated, it is now, I covered the walls with 7/16" OSB, my 8' ceiling is insulated and I used paneling to cover it. I tried french cleats - after a couple months I determined I did not want all my tools on display; more of a theft concern living in a rural area. I've since built cabinets for storage.
    In my last shop, and likely in this one, the French cleats held cabinets mostly
    ~mike

    scope creep

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by mike stenson View Post
    In my last shop, and likely in this one, the French cleats held cabinets mostly
    That's the beauty of the french cleat Can hold full on cabinets or simple little tool racks!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
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    9,461
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan M Peters View Post
    That's the beauty of the french cleat Can hold full on cabinets or simple little tool racks!
    I've never used french cleats. Are they cheaper than deck screws and shelf brackets?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    The old pueblo in el norte.
    Posts
    257
    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    I've never used french cleats. Are they cheaper than deck screws and shelf brackets?
    Considering I've always built mine with what was effectively scrap. Yes. They're also a lot more flexible, which is the real advantage.
    ~mike

    scope creep

  14. #14
    My shop is 2x6, insulated and 1/2" plywood. The walls are 10' and when pricing the material I decided to go with 8' sheets, cut a 2' filler and do a contrasting color 1x4 band to cover the seam. My plywood is set vertically. Once I get to a wall section I can remove the plywood, make what ever changes/additions and have the wall back up without a lot of fuss. Oh, and stud finding is pretty easy I am very happy with the way this worked out.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    I've never used french cleats. Are they cheaper than deck screws and shelf brackets?
    You can make a lot of french cleats by ripping up a sheet of plywood. And if you put the french cleats on the sheets of plywood to be hung on the wall before hanging, you can screw them from the back. That way there are no screw holes on the face.

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