Lining Walls and Ceiling with Plywood

We used plywood to line the interior of our tiny house and it looks great. So why use plywood to line your walls and ceiling when you could use plaster board (gib)? Here is why we think ply is good, maybe not the best but worked for us.

  • Lightweight and strong - due to its laminated design it has a very good weight to strength ratio. 

  • Bracing - because of its strength it can be used as a bracing element which is important in a mobile tiny house.

  • Looks good - this is up for debate but we feel it creates a modern clean look.

  • Can be finished in different ways - Ply can be finished many different ways including paint stain, varnish, and veneers making it very flexible.

  • Many varieties - Ply comes in many different types including Radiata, Okoume, Birch, Poplar etc. This means many options when it comes to colours, textures, strength and weight.

  • Easy to install - ply generally comes in standard sheet sizes making it easy to work with. Only basic tools are needed to measure cut and secure.

  • Easy to source - ply is available at any hardware store or specialist.

  • Quick to install - its simple to install and finishing is generally fast due to not having to not having to use plaster.

  • Cheap - depending on the options you choose it is generally a cheap material to install and finish.

  • Easy to fix - any dents or holes can generally be fixed easily by using filler and the finish coat can be retouched.

What we did

We used 7mm Radarta ply non treated on the walls and ceiling from


. We used 30 sheets of grade CD, 2.7m long ply at 1.2m wide which covered the longest span of the ceiling. It was fixed using gauge 16 brads at 50mm long with nail bond fast from


. We finished in whitewash paint (have a blog coming on this) on the walls and hard white everywhere else. 

What type of plywood should I buy?

  • Use standard sheet size -  standard size sheets commonly come in 2.4m and 2.7m long and sometimes 3m. Width is generally 1.2m wide. To best utilise your sheets, design your fixings at multiplies of 1.2m. You could have studs at 400mm or 600mm for example. 

  • Weight, either look for a sheet weight or density. For example Radarta plywood has a density of around 500 kg/m3.

  • Plywood grades The front face is always stated first. So for example CD has a face grade of C and back grade of D.

    • A – high appearance grade suitable for clear finishing.

    • B – appearance grade with a solid sanded surface.

    • C – non-appearance grade with a solid sanded surface.

    • D – non-appearance grade with permitted open defects.

    • S – an appearance grade permitting natural characteristics as decorative features.

  • What thicknesses does it come in? Plywood is a series of timber veneers glued and pressed at right angles to each other to form a rigid board. The number of layers depends on the thickness and are usually.

    • 3ply 4mm, 7mm, 9mm

    • 5ply 12mm, 15mm

    • 7ply 17mm, 19mm, 21mm

    • 9ply 25mm

  • Wood. There are many different woods that can be used to make ply and in some cases a combination of different woods can be used to form one sheet. Check country of origin to ensure you are comfortable with the way it has travelled, consider carbon emissions.

  • Look. Finish and type of wood will control the final aesthetic. We find it best to get some free samples which most companies offer so you can try in the space.

  • TreatedPlywood. If the plywood is for exterior use treated H3.1 greenish looking ply is recommended. If for interior non treated is just fine.

  • Off gassing. Because ply is glued together there is an amount of off gassing occurring. There are some products that have a stronger focus on reducing the potentially dangerous chemicals used. See this post regarding Formaldehyde.

  • Suppliers Any leading hardware store in NZ supplies plywood, these stores can be limited in what they stock but if you ask you can generally get what you are after. We found they don't all have access to the same products so its worth asking around if one does not have what you are looking for. There is a number of specialist plywood stockists in NZ which offer a larger range and more detailed advice.