Here’s a little tutorial on how to install plywood walls, but first… a little backstory. This summer we moved our leather shop up to Washington state and into a new workshop space. The workshop was bare-bones and definitely needed a little help, and part of what needed to be done was sheathing the walls in plywood. I chose plywood simply because I really only had two options… Drywall or Plywood. Drywall is notoriously a pain in the behind and I have no real experience with it. I also think drywall is not a great choice for a workshop since it does not function well in being able to install shelving, brackets and hangers wherever you need them. Truth be told plywood was actually my second choice. I originally wanted to install aged wood boards to lend a little character to the space, but reality dictated that this would be a poor choice due to non-uniformity in wall thickness, warping, smells, and insect infestation.
That said I suppose we should get on to it, so here’s a quick tutorial on how to install a plywood wall. Once you have these basics down for measuring, cutting to width, cutting holes for obstructions and securing…you can just repeat over and over until your project is done. Oh – for those with workshops in their garages attached to the house, make sure to refer to your local code to see if plywood is allowed. In many places you can use it – just not on the wall that is shared with the house.
PART 1: Tools and Materials
You won’t need much to get this project going. I should note that the tools I use, I purchased on my own accord and I do not receive any compensation for showing them off (similar tools from other brands will work quite well too). The image at the top of this post – from the top down I have a track saw and track (used to cut the plywood to width or length, or other odd angles), battery operated jigsaw (cutting out holes or other obstructions), deck screws #9 x 2″ length GRK brand, drill with bit for screws, drill bit slightly larger than width of the blade on jigsaw, work gloves, t-square 36″, pencil, notepad, measuring tape, protective glasses, thin wood shims (to raise plywood off ground level).
Then of course you will need to choose the right type of plywood. Typically most will base this on price, I did too since I had to purchase around 40 sheets of the stuff! I actually really dislike the look of the typical cheaper plywood you find in most home stores. It’s not the most pleasing stuff to look at. I ended up going up a notch in price for something called ‘Sande’ plywood. From researching it online it doesn’t appear to be the best type if you are building finer cabinetry, however for a wall in a workshop I think it will do quite well. A lot of people had issues with ‘voids’ in the plywood – that’s something you don’t want in a woodworking project. I ended up choosing this type for two reasons – it was still towards the cheaper end, and it has a very flat look to it. The grain pattern is not very pronounced so it kind of blends right in.