Exposed Plywood Wall Finish

go do it

What is the best way to attach plywood for the finish wall surface? Is it a good idea to have a space between at the joints and paint the wall black behind the space? Some of the images I see look like the joints are butted, so just make sure everything is square and plumb and the sheets are square I guess.

My preferred method would be to liquid nail the hell out of it on top of the sheetrock or even DensSheild and trim nail it to hold it in place for the glue to cure. It would be a pretty cool look not to see any fasteners. 

Dec 6, 14 1:30 am

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Easy to make it look good in a photograph. Also depends on who is looking. I've got a staged project that has been used for a while with rough CD ply interior sheathing and lots of people think it's cool. When I say rough I mean framing rough. Eventually it all gets paneled in RS cedar, which surprisingly changes the feel more than the look.

Any wood over drywall is problematic because you are removed from the framing, and the tapered edges can also screw you up. I use 1/2" plywood under paneling for fire rating and better nailing. Plywood edges in particular are very unfriendly.

Dec 6, 14 9:45 am  · 

If you use adhesives, anyone who ever wants to remove the plywood will curse your memory.

Dec 6, 14 12:37 pm  · 
go do it

^That is why my ears are always burning! I am just looking for the best unobtrusive attachment. I guess I could use some of the trim head screws below and fill the holes.

I read the news today oh boy 
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire 
And though the holes were rather small 
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. 
I'd love to turn you on.



Dec 6, 14 2:41 pm  · 

Sometimes you can get decent plywood with a tong and grove edge that make it possible to conceal some of the fasteners. If you are not overly tight on space you can hang plywood and other paneling on channels. With a router and metal channels you can fabricate the plywood into a system similar to acoustic ceilings. Also consider battens which allow the wood to move with the changes in weather.

Jan 29, 18 12:32 pm  · 
go do it

My screws


Dec 6, 14 3:31 pm  · 

Or you could make the fasteners a feature:


Dec 6, 14 4:07 pm  · 

z-clips.  you'll need something behind it, though.

Dec 6, 14 4:11 pm  · 
go do it

jw468- Thanks I thought about that also but settled on the invisible attachment look. Thanks



toasteroven-   Z-clips could be the answer.  Any ideas or details on finishing the corners?Thanks

Dec 6, 14 5:06 pm  · 
Saint in the City

The Z's won't get you to the expression of the ply in the photos. Also, can you give us a hint what the project is...?  I've worked with ply finishes a lot, but I'd want to know a lot more about the project intent before I'd suggest any detailing.  I assume you're doing nice work and the details relate to the overall.

Dec 6, 14 5:34 pm  · 
go do it

This project is a new house spec build that I am designing to meet Passivehaus standards. I have come to appreciate the design of Japanese architects lately and I am designing this house to reflect that and add some traditional Japanese design elements. Such as a version of a tokonoma, a gated entry into a rock garden / water feature for passive cooling. I am still building it in my mind but that is the start anyway. I like how the Japanese pack a lot of design into small spaces.

Here are a few firms that I look at but I can't seem to locate my favorites at the moment.


Akasaka Shinichiro Atelier

Airhouse Design Office

Dec 6, 14 6:24 pm  · 
I don't know how well this would work, but what if you screwed in the plywood with screws and drilled them slightly deeper than flush with the surface of the plywood, then used wood putty to cover the nail that is the same color as the plywood? So, unless you looked very closely, you couldn't notice any difference.
Dec 6, 14 11:20 pm  · 
go do it

^See my two post 7 or 8 above.

Dec 7, 14 12:25 am  · 

Plywood paneling always feels cheap to me. Renovated basement cheap. T111 cheap.

For the cost and effort to do it nicely you could actually do something nice. But in the end nobody would probably know the difference.

Dec 7, 14 9:46 am  · 
Featured Comment
Saint in the City

go do it -- I see what your getting at, thanks for the links.  I like it a lot.  Plus, you're talkin' my language -- ply, spec builds and Passive House concepts. 

Skinning an interior in ply can be some unexpected awesomeness in a world of gyp interiors.  Most builders will respond with "wha...?", but that part gets worked out. 

Ply selection is important and takes some time.  I'd see that it met min fire req's so no gyp underneath.  I like your example in that it's applied to all surfaces in what I'd call "shingle style"...that is, over every form and surface is covered in the same material to help integrate and highlight the form itself, instead of decoration, trim, different materials...   That said, I think your attachment idea is on point...  IMO, I think exposed fasteners might work, but not probably not 25 dollar stainless hex type arranged in obsessively perfect order.   I think that it all needs to read as "field" -- no fastener pattern. 

That said, for me, I'd try to establish a screw type and installation method for each screw that didn't require anything beyond driving them in -- whether capped or countersunk.  I'd be less interested in finish carpentry approaches like coming back to each fastener location with color putty, etc. 

The ply selection is of course something to spend some time on as well.  Again, I'm not thinking that what you're looking to do is a giant highly finished furniture grade application.  You're more looking at good craftsmanship and butt joints -- right?  I think you can go with one of many ply types that are good one side -- for the most part, your builder will have to cut a fresh edge on almost edge of every piece.  Factory edges are almost never usable.

Corners -- kind of where the rubber meets the road.  Trim?  Probably not.  Miter?  That's a tough cut to make nice over long edges, and probably too fussy and not durable.  For me, I'd use a butt joint and a, clean, exposed edge.  You really don't need  200 dollar / sheet Baltic birch to do this.  You just need decent enough ply that you don't have big voids in the layers -- this is a place where I would just use color putty -- easy and it's not an endless task.

Dec 7, 14 10:08 am  · 
1  · 
go do it


You have a good understanding of my intent. I want to have a feature that stands out from the crowd while at the same time bringing the warmth of wood to the most surfaces as economically as possible.

I have settled on screwing the panels as an attachment. But... I will never be able to sleep or be satisfied if the holes are not addressed. I will have a screwer followed by a filler so that all that is seen is a hopefully uniform surface. To have this effect I will have to match the plywood with the filler or even have the plywood have a very slight whitewash finish to help hide the filler. Although the whitewash will be getting away from my intent it may help camouflage the screw holes. I really like the natural look though.

Corners-- What about this idea. Say 18" or 24" from the corners adjust the framing to allow the application of sheetrock and cornerbead, (plywood will be screwed to the TimberStrand studs), hold the plywood 3/8" to 1/2" shy of the sheetrock corner to achieve a stepped corner detail? See Fig.1A below. This will leave a corner to have a painted highlight possibly, paint is cheap. The notes for 104A and 104B will be the plywood.

Dec 7, 14 12:59 pm  · 
Saint in the City

Awesome.  But you don't need to whitewash on account of the filler...  There really is a filler called "Color Putty"...or whatever brand....comes in any color you need...  And you'll need two or three colors to match the light and dark features in the wood.  Then you can keep the natural color. 

Not digging the reglets for this app, however --- you could use reglets in some pattern over the entire wall, not just at the corners and not have to deal with edges anywhere -- but that's an entirely different effect from what I think you are looking to do.  

One thing too -- this approach seems to work best where you've got some height and volume and interesting masses...   In other words, it'd be a terrible choice in someone's living room with an 8 foot ceiling!

I'd say post some drawings / sketches, but no one seems to do that much on here.

Good luck with it.

Dec 7, 14 2:48 pm  · 
Saint in the City

And you could air nail (and fill holes) more easily than screws.

Dec 7, 14 2:54 pm  · 
go do it


Dec 7, 14 3:24 pm  · 
Featured Comment

Hi, Really interesting thread, some really great comments. Im currently looking into plywood interiors. Can anyone advise on the closeness of which boards can be sett. I have seen images of butt jointing used, can this be a problem with expansion of boards in time? Is it a safer to sett boards with a small 3mm gap or another method of spacing or connection?

Many thanks for any ideas.

Jul 21, 17 6:06 pm  · 

Hello! I am currently working on a project in my living room. I am planning on hanging 1/2" birch plywood on the wall as floor to ceiling mantle piece. (pictures were my inspiration... however looking for a less expensive way to achieve them) Additionally, I am wanting it to look more uniformed, like a single piece of wood with minimal seams showing -- also understanding the wood grain patterns will not match up but i am trying to avoid it looking like flooring basically. 

Based on this thread, would z clips be the best way to attach the plywood to my wall? the area I am working with is 8' W x 9' H. And lastly, should I coat the plywood with any finish? I want to maintain the color of the birch but do i need to apply a clear lacquer?

Thanks for any thoughts and suggestions!

Sep 8, 17 12:48 pm  · 

Wood grain wallpaper! And it's self adhesive!

Sep 9, 17 7:10 am  · 

I'm a wood grained Formica man myself, but to each his own.

Sep 9, 17 9:44 am  · 

Ah! Thanks for those suggestions!! :)

Sep 12, 17 12:03 pm  · 

Eh, if you want real wood, just call a local mill and have them book match the planks from the same log. It'll all look like one piece to an extent at that point. Also, depending on your total width, they can get pretty large pieces. My local mills range depending on the month you call them, but always have at least 36" wide boards. Largest I've gotten from them was 50"-wide and 2"-thick. Somebody had picked a tree to cut down for tables and had left it to dry. They ended up having leftovers and sold it to the mill. We ended up using it as a barn door, cut down a bit to size with iron hardware. It looked nice.

Jan 30, 18 9:37 am  · 

What type of construction professional would install interior plywood walls?  Carpenter?  Finish carpenter?  General contractor?

Jan 29, 18 3:28 am  · 

The guys standing at home depot will install it for you : )

Jan 30, 18 9:38 am  · 
go do it

dang a  4 yr old thread revised!

this never did come to fruition but a finish carpenter would need to do this

Jan 29, 18 8:05 pm  · 

Hi, middle of my own 3/4" cabinet grade birch plywood install from Home Depot IMP 4x8 sheets. Very complicated and time consuming for my contractor/finish carpenter but he has been a trooper with cleaning up edges, mixing and matching grain etc. Sheets are screwed in a regular pattern, which was tricky in some places because of stud placement behind boards being inconsistent. Still the pattern is awesome. We created 1/16" reveals with small mitres at all joints, and floated the walls above the floor 3/8" with stud wall painted out black at base. But the boards are not perfect and some joints are somewhat wider which we didn't anticipate and the stud walls between them are not painted out black. Those gaps are where we can see some sub structure shining through. AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!! Anyone out there that can suggest something? Much appreciated! 

Aug 9, 19 8:32 pm  · 

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