Because many garage walls are simply left unfinished, you may be wondering how to properly finish them yourself. And although drywall is often the most popular option, you don’t necessarily have to go that direction. We have thoroughly researched the correct steps for finishing your garage walls, even if you don’t want drywall.
Finishing garage walls properly largely depends on the climate you live in, the way you will use the area, and your total budget. There are a few important steps you should always follow:
- Clear the area
- Add insulation
- Consider a vapor barrier
- Select and install wall material
It can take a lot of time, effort, and money to finish garage walls yourself. So, it’s crucial to get it right the first time. Keep reading for the cheapest way to finish garage walls, what materials are best for the walls, and if you should even bother finishing them to begin with. Without further ado, let's get into it!
Is it worth finishing a garage?
If the garage is directly attached to your home, you may want to create a consistent look between them. Leaving bare wall studs may result in an unappealing contrast compared to a home interior that you have really invested in. This can also be handy for resale value.
But you mainly need to decide how the garage will be used and how much money you have for the job. If the right budget isn’t there yet, then weak results may only cost more in the long run.
And if the garage is more of a workshop, then you may need to finish the garage walls for strength, storage, and more.
1. Clear the Area
Remove all of the obstacles in your way, such as basic furniture and decor. Plan ahead for any vehicles to be parked or stored elsewhere. Hardware like storage shelves, racks, and hooks should also be removed.
This process might also involve electrical boxes. Always shut down the power to an area before you work with its wiring. Electrical outlet boxes are usually fastened to wall studs and need to be unscrewed.
2. Add Insulation
Insulation will help regulate the temperature and the sound in your garage. If the garage is attached to your home, this can make a serious impact.
Firstly, keeping the warmth inside the garage will help keep your bills lower, especially in seasons with extreme temperatures.
Secondly, reducing sound from the garage can be very useful for those who use it as a workshop. Many workshops involve loud woodworking and mechanical tools.
Those who leave early or arrive late at night might also need sound insulation to keep vehicles quieter for family and guests in the home.
How to install insulation for garage walls
The easiest way to add insulation is to purchase pre-cut insulation batts or rolls. Insulation experts explain that these “batts” are traditionally made of fiberglass or rock wool.
Because they are sold in industry-standard sizes, you will be able to simply press these thick pads of insulation right into place between the wall studs.
Wall studs are the vertical wooden beams that are evenly spaced across your walls for structural support. There are many insulation batt brands.
Some may require you to nail the batts’ overlapping flaps into your wall studs. But it is highly important that the batts themselves have a snug fit and do not extend beyond the studs.
Sometimes, the pre-cut batt sizes won’t work for unique areas in the garage. Fortunately, an ordinary box cutter or utility knife can be used to cut the insulation batts down to size.
When cutting, you might use a long groove in the cement of the garage or driveway as a straight edge.
If you buy the pre-cut insulation batts, you will also have to decide if you want “unfaced” or “kraft-faced” style. The unfaced batts do not include a vapor barrier, while kraft-faced batts do. If you are unsure which one to purchase, move on to the next step before taking action.
3. Consider a Vapor Barrier
A vapor barrier is a vast sheet that is designed to block moisture. It is traditionally sold in large rolls of six-millimeter poly. It is meant to be installed on top of the insulation, sometimes by nailing it to the wall studs.
But vapor barriers are also a highly divisive addition to the garage. That’s because many consider them to be mostly unnecessary, including specialists like Garage Advisor. Some argue that the garage should simply be allowed to “breathe."
The primary things to consider before adding the vapor barrier are your climate and building codes. Even if you don’t consider the barrier necessary, certain building inspectors require it.
This is often true for garages with a lot of wood, which is highly susceptible to moisture. Vapor barriers may also be good for garages that have been repurposed to produce more moisture.
For example, many attached garages include a laundry room. Similarly, garages that are attached to the house may need a vapor barrier for the wall that connects them.
Because vapor moves away from warmth towards the cold, it is also best to add a vapor barrier in colder environments.
But most areas are warm enough that you may not require the vapor barrier, so consult a local professional. Warm areas usually have vapor barriers installed on the outer side of the garage.
4. Best material for interior garage walls
Now, you can choose from several kinds of wall materials that vary in strength and cost. The ideal material should fit your budget and personal needs for the garage.
You can read our post 17 Garage Design Ideas To Inspire You for tips on how to follow up a finished garage.
What is the cheapest way to finish a garage wall?
Drywall is the cheapest option for finishing your garage walls. It is sold in sheets of various sizes that are simple to install.
First, you’ll need to measure each area of the garage. Then, use a utility knife to cut your drywall sheets to size. Only cut the paper, and snap the sheet apart using your cutting line. Measure and cut out holes as necessary for electrical boxes and hardware.
Next, nail the drywall into the wall studs using the correct nail type and length. Coarse drywall screws are appropriate for wooden studs, while fine drywall screws are ideal for metal. 1/2-inch drywall usually needs 1 1/4-inch nails.
Make sure the butted ends meet. Then, use a putty knife to fill those open joints with drywall mud, also known as joint compound.
Finally, cover the entire joint with drywall tape, using a putty knife to keep it smooth and even. Altogether, the cost is very low for the tools and materials required for this installation.
Is sheetrock good for garage walls?
Sheetrock is simply a brand of drywall. It is the most inexpensive garage wall and is often considered the easiest to install or repair.
Unfortunately, drywall damages just as easily, so it isn't ideal for busy workshop garages. And if you want to maximize storage, hanging racks from drywall will not support heavy objects.
"Oriented Strand Board" is simply engineered wood. It's often the most inexpensive wooden option. It won’t look smooth, but it provides much more strength. You can read our post Should Garage Walls Be Textured? to help you decide on the style.
First, take measurements again. You can use a jigsaw to cut the OSB sheets down to size and to make holes for outlets. Next, you can nail it into the wall studs just like drywall.
Next, apply a primer to the OSB. Use a paint roller and work in “v” shapes across the wall. Repeat this process with a sturdy paint finish.
Aluminum or steel panels are the most durable option, making them perfect for workshop garages. However, they cost much more than the alternatives, and they can be harder to install. But they are also prefinished, which saves time and money.
You can also add metal trimming to the base and head of the panels. After measuring for the siding, you may need specialized shears or circular saws to cut the metal sheets down to size.
Then, select specialized screws that match your specific siding's material and color. Drill the metal panels into the wall studs, keeping them parallel with the studs.
Finishing garage walls yourself is a complicated process. It’s important to know what you’ll need for insulation, moisture protection, and the walls themselves. Now that you’ve learned the price and strength of the most popular materials, you can finish your garage correctly the first time.