Drywall vs. Shiplap: Which to Choose?

Drywall vs. Shiplap: Which to Choose?

Handyman's World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

If you are planning on making some walls, whether interior or exterior, there are many different materials that you may choose from. Two very popular choices for building walls include drywall and shiplap. These are two very different building materials with different properties, so choosing the right one for your needs is essential.

Let’s figure out whether it’s drywall or shiplap that you want to use.

Drywall vs Shiplap: The Basics

Before we start talking about the similarities and differences between drywall and shiplap, let’s first figure out what exactly both materials are.

What Is Drywall?

First, we have drywall, otherwise known as plasterboard, wallboard, or gypsum board. This is a special kind of wall and ceiling paneling made out of gypsum and calcium sulfate. This slurry or plaster is sandwiched in between two pieces of paper and then allowed to dry. Some common sizes of drywall sheets include 4’ x 8’, 4’ x 12’, and 4’ x 16’.

Drywall is known for being used as an indoor walling and ceiling material, as it is fairly easy to install, somewhat cost-effective, easy to paint, and not overly difficult to work with. That said, drywall is not overly impact resistant or water-resistant, which means that it is generally not used for outdoor purposes.

What Is Shiplap?

We then have shiplap, which is a special type of walling often used for exterior purposes, such as for exterior house and shed walls, but it can also be used indoors. Originally, shiplap was a way of constructing the exterior of ships, hence the name.

The “lap” part of the name comes from the fact that shiplap features boards that lap over each other using rabbets, a special kind of groove, to ensure that each board fits neatly into the other, therefore creating a waterproof seal.

Indeed, shiplap is well-known for being waterproof and highly durable too, mainly due to the rabbet construction combined with the fact that it is made out of real wood. That said, some modern shiplap, particularly if you are looking for something more cost-effective, may be made out of plywood as opposed to solid lumber.

Similarities of Drywall and Shiplap

Now that we know what both drywall and shiplap are, let’s determine what makes them similar. As you are about to see, there really aren’t many similarities between the two.

1. They Are Used for Walling

One of the most basic similarities here is that both shiplap and drywall are used for making walls. Now, they are going to look different and have different properties too, but making interior walls is one commonality shared here.

2. They Are Easy to Clean

Another basic similarity shared by drywall and shiplap is that they are fairly easy to clean, especially if the right kind of paint has been used on the drywall. For the most part, a wet rag and some light cleaning solutions will be more than enough to clean both of these materials.

Differences Between Drywall and Shiplap

Now that we know what makes drywall and shiplap similar, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.

1. Materials Used

The main difference between shiplap and drywall is the material itself. Drywall is a gypsum and calcium sulfate panel that has been sandwiched in between two pieces of paper. Shiplap on the other hand, is made out of real and solid lumber, usually very high-quality hardwood. Although, in recent years, to cut down on costs, sometimes high-quality plywood is use to make shiplap.

2. Durability

Another huge difference between drywall and shiplap has to do with overall durability. Drywall is often used as an indoor building material due to its cost-effectiveness, but it just isn’t the most durable material around.

Drywall is not weight-bearing and also isn’t very impact resistant. You could punch drywall and put your hand right through it.

Shiplap on the other hand, due to the fact that it is made of real wood and uses a rabbet construction, is much more durable. It could technically bear some weight, and it is very impact resistant too, especially if real lumber was used.

3. Water Resistance

The next main difference here is that shiplap by design is intended to be waterproof, hence why it is used in the construction of ships. Now, whether or not modern shiplap construction used in houses is 100% waterproof is questionable, as it does come down to build and material quality, although it is certainly intended to be very resistant to the elements.

On the other hand, drywall is not waterproof, and realistically, not even very water resistant. Sure, it’s fine if you splash it for a quick wash, but prolonged exposure to moisture will cause the drywall to absorb moisture and start to crumble. Drywall just doesn’t do well with moisture.

4. Ease of Installation

Yet another difference here is that drywall tends to be a bit easier to install than shiplap.

With drywall, you just nail it into place then cover the seams with plaster, and it is more or less good to go.

With shiplap, the installation process is much harder and also takes longer. The reason for this is because that special tongue and groove method is used to join each board to the last. Cutting those tongues and grooves and making sure that everything fits together is not easy. Nails are also used with shiplap. I wrote more about that here.

5. Ease of Maintenance

What you do need to consider here is that although shiplap is far more durable and longer lasting, if it does break, it is harder to maintain. Removing single boards that are attached with tongues and grooves on either end is not easy. Replacing boards will be time-consuming, difficult, and expensive too. This is unlike drywall which is easy to replace and repair.

6. Cost

The simple reality here is that due to being made with real wood and requiring an extensive installation process, shiplap is going to be many times more expensive than drywall.

7. Appearance

One of the main reasons why shiplap is so popular is its appearance. It just looks rustic and nautical, or in other words, much more visually appealing than plain drywall.

8. General Use

Shiplap is used for making boats, as well as interior and exterior walls for houses, sheds, and other such things. Drywall is usually only used for interior walls.

Drywall vs. Shiplap: Which Should You Use?

If you have the money to pay for it, you want something durable and waterproof, and you want it to look nice, then shiplap is the better option. However, if you are looking for something easy, quick, and cheap, then drywall is the better way to go.


Now that you know what the differences between shiplap and drywall are, you can make an informed decision between the two.

How Does Drywall Compare with Other Materials?

You might also be interested in seeing how drywall compares with: