Plywood vs. PVC Panels For Your Garage – Which is Better?

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Plywood and PVC panels are two popular wall and ceiling choices for home garages. Each has unique qualities. But which is the best choice? We do a head-to-head comparison.

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There’s still a perception among many that the garage is strictly a utility space and, as a result, it’s interior should be outfitted with plain utility in mind.

For that reason, many homeowners line the interior walls of their garage with plywood.

Plywood is made from thin layers of wood veneer. The layers are treated with resins and glued under pressure at 90-degree angles to one another for added strength. Plywood can be made from softwood or hardwood and comes in a variety of thicknesses, finishes, and grades of quality.

Plywood is a no-nonsense product that has been available for decades and, as a result, is a product homeowners and contractors understand and are comfortable working with. Although it’s generally more expensive than drywall, plywood is tougher than drywall – less likely to dent or break if it suffers an impact. In other words, it gets the job done, if in a somewhat unspectacular fashion. Depending on the intended use – will the garage be for storage or a workspace? – plywood for garage walls may well be worth the premium cost.

Another option growing in popularity with homeowners for their garages are panels made from PVC, panels like those made by Trusscore.

PVC panels are a relatively new garage solution, one with a great many advantages. PVC panels are smooth and non-porous, lightweight, easy to install, and create a high-quality, finished aesthetic while at the same time delivering all the utility of plywood, and more.

Let’s have a look at the two products – plywood on garage walls versus PVC – and compare:

Plywood vs. PVC panels pros and cons

Durability

Plywood:

Plywood is, as mentioned above, tough and strong. But it’s still made from wood, meaning if it were struck with enough force, it would show a blemish.

PVC panels:

PVC panels are far lighter than plywood on a square foot basis, yet deliver immense strength, impact resistance, and longevity – outlasting the buildings within which they’re installed. You can fire a hockey puck at a PVC panel (and we have) and it won’t show. That’s not true with plywood.

Advantage:

PVC panels

Water resistance

Plywood:

Plywood, when it gets wet, it performs poorly. It tends to soak up water and once wet, will swell and warp and require replacement.

PVC panels:

PVC panels shed water. No swelling. No warping. No replacement.

Advantage:

PVC panels

Mold and mildew resistance

Plywood:

When plywood gets wet or damp, its cellulose can serve as a growth medium for mold and mildew. Removing mold and mildew from plywood can be difficult, as can preventing further growth. Remediation may require that panels be replaced.

PVC panels:

Because PVC panels don’t absorb water and have no cellulose component, they are mold and mildew resistant. In the unlikely event mold or mildew were to grow, it can be easily removed with a bleach-based cleanser and a damp cloth.

Advantage:

PVC panels

Cleanability

Plywood:

Unfinished wood can be difficult to clean. Cleaning products tend soak into the wood and cleaning cloths tend to catch on wood fiber. Scrub brushes, when combined with plenty of elbow grease, can work, but care needs to be taken not to use too much water, or the water will be absorbed into the wood and potentially will cause it to swell and warp. Power washers work, too, but present the same water risk.

PVC panels:

PVC panels clean up with simple wipe and won’t be harmed by detergent or cleansers. PVC panels can also be power washed with no impact or degradation to their performance.

Advantage:

PVC panels

Storage options

Plywood:

A variety of storage solutions are available with plywood because it’s solid enough to handle screws and fasteners, and it’s strong enough to carry shelving. Hooks or pegboard can be mounted on it. As needs change, shelves and hooks can be removed and rearranged, although not quickly, and not without holes and blemishes caused by removing fasteners. Holes must be filled if wall appearance matters.

PVC panels:

Some PVC panels are designed with storage in mind. For example, Trusscore PVC panels, known as Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard, pair seamlessly with another Trusscore product called SlatWall, a wall-based storage system. Trusscore SlatWall accepts snap-in hooks, baskets, and shelving to create storage and utility that can be quickly and easily reconfigured as needs change.

Advantage:

PVC panels

Installation

Plywood:

Plywood is relatively straightforward to install; sheets are simply nailed or screwed into studs. A 4 x 8 sheet of plywood, however, is heavy and usually requires more than one person for installation, particularly for a ceiling, potentially adding to the overall cost of a project. Once installed, seams between sheets are visible. Paint adds to the installation time and costs if a finish other than the raw, exposed wood is desired.

PVC panels:

PVC panels are lightweight and easy to handle, and one person can easily and quickly complete an installation. No painting or added finish is required.

Advantage:

PVC panels

Product cost

Plywood:

Thin plywood utility sheathing is typically available in the U.S. for under $1 per square foot and in Canada for slightly more than $1. Cost of adding storage (shelving, hooks, etc.) would increase the overall price of any project, as would the addition of paint or upgrading to thicker plywood or a product with a high-quality finish.

PVC panels: 

A project with a combination of Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard (75%) and Trusscore SlatWall (25%) nets out to approximately $4.35 in Canada and $4.10 in the U.S. Cost includes storage and trims.

Advantage: 

Plywood

Reflectivity & lighting

Plywood:

Plywood does an average to poor job of reflecting light. A garage lined with plywood tends to be dark, necessitating good light fixtures and bulbs, particularly if the garage will be used as a workshop.

PVC panels: 

Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard panels deliver a bright, clean look and have high light reflectivity of 0.88, meaning they reflect 88% of the light that strikes their surface. Fewer light fixtures are required as a result, and lighting costs are lower.

Advantage: 

PVC panels

PVC wall panels are the best material for garage walls.

If cost, and only cost, is the priority, then plywood garage walls make sense.

But if looks, storage utility, light reflectivity, cleanability, durability, and performance in wet and damp matter, then PVC panels like those made by Trusscore – Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard and Trusscore SlatWall – are the clear winner for any garage project.