PVC Panels or Plywood for Garage Walls: Which is the Better Option?

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

PVC panels and plywood are two of the most popular building materials for residential garages, but each offers different benefits to you as a homeowner. Which is the best option for your unique space? Find out in this head-to-head comparison.  

Whether you’re using your garage as extra storage or as a workshop, covering the walls and ceilings can help you complete your space. While a cheaper commodity like plywood may seem like a safe and serviceable option for your garage, PVC panels are a better long-term investment that outperform plywood in almost every category. 

What is Plywood?

Plywood panels are made from thin layers of wood veneer. The layers are placed perpendicular to each other, are treated with resin, and are glued together under pressure for added strength. Plywood can be made from softwood or hardwood and panels come in a variety of thicknesses, finishes, and grades of quality. 

Since plywood has been around for decades, homeowners and contractors alike are generally comfortable working with it. Plywood is also easier to install than drywall and is more durable – it’s less likely to dent or break if impacted. In other words, it gets the job done, even if it’s in a somewhat unspectacular fashion. 

Another option for your garage walls and ceilings is panels made from PVC like Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard. 

What is PVC?

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, which has a long history of being used to create pipes, cables, window profiles, flooring, and roofing thanks to how durable and lightweight it is. PVC can also be used to create wall and ceiling panels for a wide range of interior spaces including garages.  

PVC panels are smooth and non-porous, lightweight, easy to install, and create a high-quality finish for your space all while delivering the utility of plywood – and then some. 

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

Pros and Cons of PVC and Plywood for Garage Walls 

Which material is more durable? 

Plywood is tough and strong, but it’s still made from wood, meaning if it were struck with enough force, it would show it and would need to be replaced. 

PVC is a durable material that’s abrasion and impact resistant, meaning panels can stand up to contact without showing dents, cracks, or damage. PVC panels also have a service life of up to 100 years and often outlast the buildings they’re installed in. You can fire a 71.7 mile per hour fastball at a PVC panel (and we have!) and it won’t show. That’s not true with plywood.  

Winner: PVC 

Which material has better water resistance? 

When plywood gets wet, it soaks up the water. Since plywood is made from wood, the panels will swell and warp and require replacement. 

PVC panels shed water, will never absorb airborne moisture, and won’t degrade or deteriorate in wet or damp environments. No swelling. No warping. No worries. 

Winner: PVC 

Which material has better mold and mildew resistance?

The cellulose used in plywood can serve as a growth medium for mold and mildew after a panel gets wet. Removing mold and mildew from plywood can be difficult and it’s virtually impossible to prevent future growth.  

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

Winner: PVC 

Which material is easier to clean?

Unfinished wood can be difficult to clean since cleaning products can soak into the wood and cleaning cloths can catch on wood fibers. Scrub brushes combined with a lot of elbow grease can work, you’ll need to be careful not to use too much water to avoid future swelling and warping. Pressure or power washers can be used on plywood, too, but present the same water risk.  

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

Winner: PVC 

Which material has better storage options? 

Plywood is solid enough to handle screws and fasteners and it’s strong enough to carry shelving. Hooks or pegboard can be mounted on it and can be removed and rearranged as needs change, but you’ll be left with holes and blemishes from the screws. 

Some PVC panels are designed with storage in mind. For example, Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard integrate seamlessly with another PVC-based Trusscore product called Trusscore SlatWall, which is a wall-based storage system. Trusscore SlatWall can be installed as a track, section, half wall, or full wall, can hold up to 75 pounds per square foot, and can easily be accessorized with snap-in hooks, baskets, and shelving. Accessories can also be quickly and easily re-arranged as your needs change and won’t leave any lasting impressions on the panels. 

Winner: PVC 

Which material is easier to install?

Plywood is relatively straightforward to install as sheets are simply nailed or screwed into studs. However, a 4x8 sheet of plywood is heavy and usually requires more than one person for installation, particularly for a ceiling. Once installed, seams between sheets are visible. If you want a finish other than raw, exposed wood, you’ll also have to budget for paint in your project installation time and cost. 

PVC panels are lightweight and easy to handle, and one person can easily and quickly complete an installation, even on tricky ceiling installs. No painting or added finish is required, and the product is ready to perform as soon as it’s fastened to the wall. 

Winner: PVC 

Which material is more reflective?

Plywood does a poor to average job of reflecting light. A garage lined with plywood tends to be dark and requires good light fixtures and bulbs if you plan to use the space as a workshop. 

PVC-based Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard panels deliver a bright, clean finish, and have a light reflectivity score of 0.90, meaning they reflect 90% of the light that strikes their surface. With Trusscore, you’ll need fewer light fixtures for your space, boosting your garage’s energy efficiency and keeping lighting costs low. 

Winner: PVC 

Which material is cheaper? 

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

When you purchase PVC panels like Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard, you’ll invest a little extra in the high-quality material up front, but you’ll ultimately save money in the long run. Trusscore panels are designed to minimize the total cost of installation materials, labor, and maintenance all while never having to be replaced. 

Winner: Plywood

PVC wall panels are the best material for garage walls  

If cost and only cost is your top priority, then plywood garage walls are right for you. 

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

Want a second opinion? See how Trusscore panels stack up against plywood in this video from Matt Risinger, owner of Risinger Homes and host of The BUILD Show on YouTube (jump ahead to 10:27 to see Trusscore fully installed!)