Is there a drywall alternative that's safe for our new baby's nursery?

Asked by Holly Coleman, Roeland Park, KS

We are having a baby this year, and the walls in our future nursery are in poor shape. Can you recommend a drywall alternative that is not just eco-friendly but also low in chemicals?


Nick Cope

Answered by Nick Cope

Brooklyn, NY

Green Painting

December 17, 2008

Having spent my formative years in New England, I have sufficient experience working on older homes with pockmarked walls to confidently field your question.

Fortunately, there are many options that are eco-friendly and free of toxic chemicals.

Have the walls patched

The easiest solution is to have the walls patched and skim-coated to conceal the poor condition of the surface. I would recommend a nontoxic patching compound such as Crawford's.

Drywall alternatives

If the walls are simply too damaged to get away with a quick fix, green drywall options are available.

Drywall itself is made from an inert mineral and presents no health concerns to you and your family. However, the process of manufacturing drywall is very energy intensive and contributes to as much as one percent of the total energy output of the United States.

Greener options include drywall made from recycled gypsum and synthetic gypsum, both of which meet the same quality standards as conventional gypsum, but with a smaller carbon footprint.

  • Synthetic gypsum is made from materials like coal fly-ash—byproducts of manufacturing and energy-generation processes. 
  • EcoRock is a synthetic-gypsum drywall made from 80 percent recycled materials. EcoRock will be available in 2009, beginning in the western U.S. 
  • Alternatively, the California Integrated Waste Management Board publishes a directory of recycled-content drywall.

Concealing your damaged walls

You might also consider using a wall covering to conceal the damage. I recommend a Japanese wallpaper called Fusuma—I discovered this product in the past year and cannot rave about it enough.

  • Fusuma is a handmade paper derived from mulberry fibers.
  • It is entirely free of chemicals or VOCs, and its sale supports the artisans in Shikoku who have been making this product for over 2,000 years.
  • Fusuma is available in many styles and conveys a natural aesthetic. It is easy to apply and is an excellent choice for concealing damaged wall surfaces.

Check out Wisconsin-based eShoji for details.


For more information:

Read Mary Cordaro's Q&A "I am having my breakfast room remodeled. I know that premixed joint compound is toxic, but is dry mix mixed onsite OK?"

Tagged In: drywall, eco wallpaper

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