what does wood paneling do better or worse than drywall? For example
- ease of installation
- ease of modification
- fire resistance
- noise insulation
- heat insulation
The cost of prefinished wall paneling can vary wildly. Cheap 3/16 inch fake wood or patterned panels can cost around $10 per panel. A decent real wood veneer can soar to $40 each.
It is common practice to put paneling over drywall. Two main reasons for that are fire rating and ability to spread adhesive evenly so panels don't bulge between studs. There is no real R-value advantage. If anything, if paneling is not installed over drywall, the seams can be a source of air infiltration, negating any insulation value.
As a comparison, my drywall subcontractor charges me an average of $45 per sheet for 12 X 4 foot 1/2 inch rock, hung, taped, mudded, and sanded paint ready. This is really competitive with decent quality paneling, especially if you figure in a drywall untaped backer. If you do decide to go with prefinished panels, be sure you really like it, because you're gonna be looking at it for a long time! LOL
The only advantage I can think of is speed of installation -- as you don't end up mudding it, you can get it up and trim it out in a day, and there's no need to paint.
I haven't priced it out, so I don't know how it compares, when you consider labor, it might actually be comparable.
And for maintenance -- you can wipe stuff off of it, so long as it's not any real damage to the paneling.
As for all of the rest -- it pretty much sucks. You can't patch it without taking out a whole section; it's thinner, so less R-value and more sound emissivity. (but if those were considerations, you'd stuff the wall with insulation)
And then I realized, maybe you're asking about real wood, and not the ugly stuff that comes in sheets that was so stylish in the 70s. (although, I admit, I have some stuff in my basement that's wood paneling peg-board, that I really like, and I've never been able to find to fix some modifications that I made)
... but then you wouldn't be asking if it was a cost savings.
I had a water leak and was glad I had wood paneling which dried nicely. If I had sheetrock I probably would have to pay somebody to replace it. FYI, I'm currently painting the wood paneling and to not show the grooves I spackle and sand the grooves three times. Looks great and you can't even see any of the grooves.