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Garage Ceiling Drywall Alternatives

Shane Grey

Between material costs and labor, drywall can be one of the most expensive wall and ceiling coverings currently available.

An acoustic ceiling is one alternative to drywall.

If you don’t mind a ceiling that has a nontraditional appearance and your local building codes allow alternative materials, you can take advantage of a variety of drywall alternatives that can potentially save you money and are sure to get the job done.

Rigid Foam Insulation

Rigid foam insulation can serve the dual purpose of concealing the rafters and insulating the garage space. In general, the broad variety of rigid foam insulation varies according to two features: the type of plastic used to manufacture the insulation and the degree of insulation provided by the rigid foam, a characteristic represented by a factor called “R-value.” Aside from composition and R-value, rigid foam insulation is available in sheet and panel form. For the purposes of garage ceiling and wall covering, rigid foam insulation is available in 4-foot by 8-foot sheets, the same size as a standard sheet of drywall. The chief disadvantage of rigid foam insulation is its fragility. Rigid foam insulation typically consists of a material similar to packing peanuts, and the sheets can easily break and chip to pieces.

Acoustic Ceiling

Acoustic ceilings, also called “suspended” ceilings, consist of lightweight ceiling tiles sitting atop a lightweight metal grid. The metal grid attaches directly to ceiling framing members, such as joists or rafters. Some builders refer to this type of ceiling as a “drop” ceiling because the builder simply drops the square tiles into the installed grid. After building the metal grid, installing and repairing individual ceiling tiles is quick and easy. Acoustic ceiling tiles are usually made of a mixture of gypsum, the main ingredient in drywall, and foam. The tiles are lightweight and easy to lift and cut. Both the labor and materials required to construct an acoustic ceiling are inexpensive. Builders often install acoustic ceilings in commercial structures, such as office buildings. Although it is low-cost, an acoustic ceiling is relatively flimsy and has an aesthetic that many homeowners might consider “cheap” or tacky.


Tongue-and-groove planks or lap siding may be installed directly on garage ceiling rafters. The cost per square foot of lumber wall and ceiling coverings might slightly exceed the cost of drywall, depending on the grade and milling of the lumber. However, milled siding produces one of the most attractive garage ceiling coverings. Additionally, lumber accepts both paint and stain.

Choose Ceiling Coverings With Caution

Building codes often focus special attention on garage wall and ceiling coverings. The average garage is home to flammable and combustible chemicals, such as gasoline, oil and paint thinner. Additionally, wiring and gas plumbing may be exposed in garages. As a result, many fires begin in a garage and spread to an attached residence. Building codes are in place to protect your home, property and family from harm. Never apply a garage ceiling covering that contradicts your local building code.