Walls and wall materials can be a blank slate for your decor dreams

A home's foundation is crucial for stability and durability. Usually made of either concrete blocks or a solid wall created from poured concrete, the foundation produces a concrete wall in a home's basement.

A finished basement will normally cover these cement walls with other wall surfaces such as sheetrock or wood paneling, but an unfinished basement may have exposed cement walls that tend not to be sealed or insulated - allowing expensive warmth to escape from your home. Homeowners with exposed cement walls are encouraged to insulate those walls to maximize energy efficiency within the home.

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Making the Most of Your Walls

A lot of people look at their walls and miss the potential - they think that a wall is just a wall and whatever is up now is what they're stuck with for life, when that's just not the case. If you currently have sheetrock, which is a really popular wall material, it's easy to work with, and looks great. However, it's not your only wall surface option.

Sheetrock, also known as wallboard, plaster board, gypsum board and drywall, comes in many types:

  • Water-resistant greenboard
  • Insulated wallboards
  • Backer boards
  • Special boards, used for fire resistance, sound acoustics and durability

Drywall Screws

When putting up and fastening your drywall, drywall screws are usually a lot faster to use than nails. You may want to use an electric drywall screw gun for this job as it will let you adjust and sink the screws a little below the drywall surface. You won't have this type of control with a regular screw gun.

When using a screw gun, use only drywall screws. 1-1/4 inch screws should be used for 1/2 inch drywall, and 1-5/8 inch screws are needed for 5/8 inch drywall. There are different types of drywall screws available, such as fine- and coarse-threaded screws along with self-drilling drywall screws. They come in various sizes and heads and can be stainless steel, coated or plated.

Drywall Tools

There are many helpful tools you can use to make putting up drywall a little easier. There are drywall tools meant for cutting, hanging, fastening, taping, patching, finishing and texturing. Some cutting and hanging drywall tools include levels, rasps, T-squares, saws, keyhole saws, circle cutters and power routers.

If you are drywalling a ceiling, you may want to use a lift or jack to get it up there. For fastening, you'll likely need a hammer and a screw gun. For finishing, you may need taping knives and a mud pan, along with a pole sander or wet-sanding pad. You can also rent a sprayer to texture the drywall once you have it up.


Today, a lot of people have the misconception that plaster is something found in only older homes and isn't used much in newer ones, but that's not the case. Plaster veneers make using the substance easier and more affordable than ever.

Blueboard - the backing material for plaster veneer - is installed in exactly the same way as drywall, up until the finishing stage. At this point, instead of applying coats of joint compound, a tape and plaster treatment is applied to the joints. Then, the entire surface is covered in a couple of very thin layers of plaster, giving walls a superior finish by drying to a harder surface without any joints, creating a flatter, more even surface.

Plaster can also be washed without causing water damage, and it is an easier surface to strip wallpaper from.

Expose Your Brick

In many older homes, such as century homes, plaster and sheetrock cover up brick walls that can be exposed to provide a beautiful, warm and cozy, rustic look. Exposing these old brick walls is a project that many homeowners do themselves, but if you're thinking about doing it, be prepared for a mess. The plaster or drywall will create a thick layer of dust on everything in your house if you don't properly seal off the area with plastic sheeting.

Also be aware that exposed brick walls should be properly sealed. Because the brick found behind plaster and drywall is usually used as a backup for plastered walls, the bricks themselves can be quite soft and take water or stain easily. The type of brick sealant used will depend on how porous or dense the brick is, which will affect the absorption rate of the brick.

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