What Wall Covering Options Are Available Other Than Sheetrock?

Bonnie Jahangiri

Sheetrock is commonly used to cover walls in houses, but alternative choices exist that allow you to incorporate creative elements into the interior design of your home.

Numerous wall covering options exist for interior design.

Many green products appeal to the environmentally conscious, offering natural elements that are not only aesthetically pleasing but preserve indoor air quality. Alternative wall coverings adhere directly to sheetrock, as well as other surfaces, and are useful in updating a room's design as well as remodels and new construction.

Stone Veneer

A synthetic stone application lends contemporary as well as old-world style to interior design.

Stone applied to interior walls can create a rustic, rugged atmosphere or a feeling of sleek, contemporary elegance. It conveys an earthy element to the room. Because of its versatility in various applications, stone is often used to create or enhance a space’s focal point. Stone veneers are relatively lightweight and can be applied to any structurally sound wall. Indistinguishable from natural stone to the untrained eye, recent innovations in the production process using custom molds created from natural stone have made manufactured stone cost-effective and increasingly sought after. Also known as architectural stone, Cultured Stone, and faux stone, it consists of lightweight cement mixed with stone aggregates such as shale or pumice, dyed to duplicate all types of natural stone. Installation is relatively simple and manufacturer's instructions are generally comprehensive. Long-lasting, low-maintenance and versatile, stone veneer brings texture and character to interior spaces.

Venetian Plaster

Venitian plaster has been applied from ancient times to the present, offering a natural feel.

Venetian plaster, originating in Italy centuries ago and noted for its durability and aesthetic beauty, has gracefully withstood the test of time. Authentic plaster compounds comprise of slaked lime, crushed marble and marble dust. Once applied and dried, a true lime plaster reacquires the hardness of marble and retains the attributes of natural stone: it is breathable, washable, has low emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and is fire-, mildew- and mold-resistant. Highly desired for its longevity and beauty, investing in quality composition is essential for a lime plaster but its application is simple enough that a non-professional can apply it.


Wainscoting is a classic paneling covering the lower wall.

Interior paneling comes in a wide variety of materials, including wood, bamboo, beadboard, synthetic stone and brick. Prefabricated boards allow ease of installation. Versatility of application and the introduction of interest and character to interior spaces enhance the appeal of paneling as a wall covering.

Wainscoting, a classic form of paneling that covers only the lower part of the wall, remains a fashionable application often in the form of bead-board or raised wood panels, stained or painted to match the trim of the home's interior. Easily washed or touched up, it assists in keeping high-traffic areas clean.


Tiles function well as a versatile hard-suface wall covering.

Hard-surface materials such as tile are preferred in spaces where moisture is prevalent, such as the bathroom, or where ease in cleaning walls is a practical issue. A broad selection of materials and designs makes tile a creative option, enhancing any design style from contemporary to rustic. Natural stone tiles include travertine, slate, granite, limestone and marble, among others, and need to be sealed only once for wall applications. Glass, porcelain and ceramic represent options in manufactured tiles. They do not absorb moisture like natural stone, are generally less expensive, but more durable.

Natural Materials

Cork is a natural, environmentally friendly product.

As an alternative to adhesive-applied paper products, Marion Keeler of Simon & Associates, Inc. suggests applying textile products to complement your decor. New developments in green technology have resulted in a wide array of options, including textile compositions using stone, straw, bark and wood pulp as well as rayon, polyester and linen. Keeler warns, however, that some trades offer their products exclusively with their services. Even so, a wide variety of natural-fiber wall coverings such as the fabric-emulating duraprene, grasses, paperweaves, bamboo and organic hand-pounded barkskins are readily available, naturally introducing texture and pattern into the space.

Cork, considered environmentally friendly, absorbs sound and functions well as a wall covering in acoustically-controlled spaces. Additionally, cork does not emit gases, thereby maintaining indoor air quality.