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I'm planning to insulate and panel the walls of an unfinished garage workshop, and would like to use wooden boards instead of sheetrock or other alternatives. I'm thinking 4" wide boards, 1/2" thick, of various lengths in horizontal rows, maybe a mix of species or different stains for appearance. My question is: what kinds of wood are most suitable?

Because this is a garage and not a living room, my main concerns are practical, not about appearance. I want to avoid wood that is likely to crack or warp with the seasons. (I am in Maine and the seasonal changes in climate are pretty dramatic.) Ease of installation, durability, strength, any insulating properties, could also be good to know. I'm not too concerned about the differences in appearance.

Cost is not a major concern, because I intend to cut the trees and saw them into boards myself. For softwoods I have access to pine, spruce, and fir in abundance, maybe some cedar or hemlock. For hardwoods, I'd probably use less-valuable species like beech, birch, popple, ash, soft maple, apple, etc. We do have oak and hard maple in our woods, but my intuition is that these furniture-grade woods should be saved for more worthy applications.

  • plywood tends to be a popular choice nowadays, though not something that can be DIYed from logs – ratchet freak Jun 21 '18 at 14:45
  • Is this an attached or integral garage or is it fully detached? – Jim Stewart Jun 21 '18 at 22:36
  • fully detached. – workerjoe Jun 22 '18 at 12:16
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I like (and use a lot) softwoods. They are easier to install (nail) and is more forgiving with respect to movement.

Hardwoods (especially if it’s being milled on site) will tend to split as it dries. You’ll probably have to pre-drill any nailing at the end of each board too.

However, your biggest problem with either choice is going to be shrinkage. Using green lumber you’ll need to be careful about twisting and shrinkage or it could be unsightly quickly.

BTW, any wall common to a habitable space requires fire rated gypsum board on the garage side of the wall. Check with your Building Department to see if you need to “rough-tape”.

  • + for fire rated , I agree with soft wood because after milling 1" hard wood I would wait at least 1 year for it to dry, soft woods are used when wet all the time but I would stay away from hemlock it tends to twist and is not as good as fir, pine ,spruce from the options listed. – Ed Beal Jun 21 '18 at 19:41

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