All You Need to Know About Shiplap (2024)


Shiplap can add rustic charm to any blank wall. Learn more about the trendy wooden planks and how you can install them in your own home.

All You Need to Know About Shiplap (2)


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Shiplap has been popping up everywhere lately. The rough-sawn wooden planks arranged as horizontal panels can take any wall from drab to dramatic. Homeowners love the rustic texture of shiplap as well as the ease of installation and budget-friendliness of the project. What’s more, shiplap works with any existing style of decor—from cozy cottage to beach bungalow. If you’re interested in installing shiplap in your home, consider the following tips and tricks.

What Is Shiplap?

Shiplap paneling takes its name from the horizontal planks once used to construct boats. Thanks to the grooves cut into the top and bottom of the boards, builders could fit shiplap panels tightly together to keep out the water. In fact, shiplap boards were so effective that builders began adapting the material for use as exterior sheathing on homes to block cold winds. Until the advent of plywood, shiplap boards were commonly used to construct the sheathing between a home’s structural framing and its exterior siding.

RELATED: 16 Times Shiplap Made the Room

Nowadays, people often find shiplap sheathing underneath the wood siding of historic homes during exterior renovation projects. The wooden planks, which are highly coveted as reclaimed construction materials, can be carefully salvaged and brought indoors for use as decorativewall coverings. Homeowners looking for an affordable alternative to traditional shiplap may choose to mimic the look by installing long boards ripped from sheets of plywood, leaving slight spaces (the standard gap is 1/8 inch) between each panel.

All You Need to Know About Shiplap (3)

Creating Character

When used indoors, shiplap shifts from functional to purely aesthetic. The wood panels add visual character and texture to otherwise blank walls in a home, and have the ability to adapt to any decorative scheme, depending on how the homeowner chooses to incorporate the material.

For example, crisp white shiplap paired with natural wood flooring and neutral accents creates a fresh Cape Cod look. Similarly, a shiplap wall accented with a ruffled slipcovered sofa, soft pillows in muted floral shades, and painted wicker end tables can evoke a romantic feeling.

Alternatively, homeowners can achieve Scandinavian style by pairing natural wood panels with equally simple furnishings. No matter your home’s style, installing shiplap paneling on one or more walls will enhance your decor.

For more adventurous designers, shiplap can go beyond standard wall coverings. Consider installing it as wainscoting, or use it to cover the backs of built-in cubbies or bookcases. Shiplap can also frame a designated picture-hanging area above a fireplace.

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Installing Shiplap

While you don’t need to be a professional carpenter to install shiplap paneling at home, you should be familiar with basic woodworking skills like measuring, sawing, and nailing. The most common (and affordable) way to re-create a shiplap look from scratch is to useplywood. Look for ¾-inch AC plywood (which is pre-sanded on one side) and avoid the cheapest variety of plywood (which is rough on both sides and has a tendency to chip). A 4×8 sheet sells for around $30—that’s just under $1 per square foot of a wall.

You’ll need a saw to cut the ends of the boards to fit your space, and you’ll also need a power sander and nail gun. Other necessary materials include a level, a chalk line, spacers, spackle, and paint to finish the look in a neutral of your choice. Once you’ve equipped yourself with the required tools and materials, installation will follow these seven stages.

  • Cutting the Boards: Before installing the plywood boards, you’ll need to “rip”them (cut them parallel to the grain)to the correct width, either using a table saw to do it yourself, or by seeking the help of employees at the hardware store where you purchased the wood. Any width of board can be ripped from a sheet of plywood, but 5-7/8 inches is a safe starting point for shiplap panels. This cut will give you exactly eight 8-foot-long boards from every sheet of plywood (because the saw eats ⅛ inch with every cut).
  • Sanding the Boards: The surface of AC plywood is smooth, but the edges require sanding since they’ll be rough from the ripping process. For the best results, sand sufficiently to create a slight bevel on the edge of the boards. This is called “sanding a chamfer.”
  • Painting the Boards: Apply a first coat of paint before placing the boards on your wall, because the gaps between the installed boards will be too narrow to fit even a detail paintbrush once the boards have been attached to the wall.
  • Prepping the Wall: Remove everything from the wall, including outlet covers, pictures, and any baseboard at the bottom of the wall. If you’re installing the shiplap boards around a door, take off the door casing and reinstall it after the shiplap is in place. Next, create a visual guide for nailing the boards into the wall studs, which will offer the best support for the weight of the wood panels. To do so, locate the center of each wall stud with astud finderand pop a vertical chalk line at every stud, from the bottom of the wall to the top.
  • Attaching the First Board:Attach the bottom board to the wall with two 2-inch nails in every wall stud.The entire design depends on the first board’s being perfectly level; if the panel is even a few centimeters off, the entire wall will appear slanted. Rely on a level to install the boards carefully and accurately.
  • Spacing the Boards:Enlist spacers to create uniform gaps (typically 1/8 inch)between each board. You can use any type of spacer you’d like, such as the edge of a carpenter’s squareor tile spacers. Make sure that you position each board using the same spacer so the boards appear evenly spaced.
  • Attaching the Other Boards: Attach the rest of the boards to the wall with two 2-inch nails in every wall stud, aligned vertically and evenly spaced. Don’t skip studs. For a more rustic look, you can hand-nail with 8d nails, which will leave visible nailheads. Use finish nails for a smooth look.
  • Finishing the Look: If you used finish nails, fill the nail holes with spackle. Let them dry and then sand the surface lightly with 400-grit sandpaperbefore brushing a final coat of paint on the surface of the boards. Since you have already painted the edges, you shouldn’t have to paint them again—touching up the surface should be sufficient. Let the paint dry, then proceed to fill the newly shiplap-covered walls with framed artwork, mirrors, and other decorative accents—whatever you’d like!
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All You Need to Know About Shiplap (2024)


All You Need to Know About Shiplap? ›

Shiplap is a type of wooden board with an overlapping joint design that creates a tight seal when installed on walls and ceilings. Shiplap can be crafted from a range of materials, for example, pine and cedar wood as well as composite varieties like vinyl or fiber cement.

What are the disadvantages of shiplap? ›

"Some potential drawbacks of shiplap include its tendency to collect dust and dirt in the grooves, its susceptibility to moisture damage, and its potential to look outdated in certain design styles," says Susan Wintersteen of Savvy Interiors.

Do I need to put anything behind shiplap? ›

If don't already have drywall installed, you do not need it as a base for affixing shiplap. You can install shiplap directly to your studs to save on time, money, and mess.

What is so special about shiplap? ›

Shiplap, characterized by its overlapping wooden (or composite) planks, offers a rustic, textured look, adding warmth and visual interest to a space. Traditionally, shiplap has been used as exterior siding but increasingly is found in homes as a wall treatment.

What looks better horizontal or vertical shiplap? ›

While vertical shiplap can make a room appear larger, horizontal shiplap can widen the look of a room, like in this powder room. Although it's a small room, the horizontal shiplap treatment broadens the look. Horizontal shiplap can look more modern than vertical shiplap.

Is it cheaper to drywall or shiplap? ›

Is it cheaper to shiplap or drywall? Drywall is generally cheaper than shiplapping walls, with an average cost of around $1.50 - $2 per sq foot. However, shiplapped walls bring a unique aesthetic to rooms that drywall can't match. For this reason, many homeowners find that the higher price point is justified.

Is it better to nail or glue shiplap? ›

Do you glue or nail shiplap? For shiplap with a smooth prepainted surface, you'll want to use adhesive and nails. Instead of nailing through the face of the board, you'll only nail through the flange of each board to avoid any visible nail marks that will affect the overall look of your wall.

Do I put baseboard over shiplap? ›

Make sure that your baseboard will cover the space between the floor and the bottom of the shiplap, while having enough shiplap board behind it to support it. Leveling the first board is key: You must get this right at the start, or your shiplap will be crooked all the way up the wall!

Is shiplap a dying trend? ›

Is the Shiplap Trend Gone for Good? Interior design professionals agree that shiplap itself isn't the problem. Instead, it's how overused the material was and still is.

Do you leave a gap between shiplap? ›

Shiplap doesn't require gaps between boards since it utilizes an overlapping rabbet joint design that creates a seamless appearance, but you can customize gap width if desired.

How to hide shiplap seams? ›

If you want to use shiplap to create a seamless look, caulk is your best option. Caulk is a material many people use to seal joints and cover up nail holes.

What is trending instead of shiplap? ›

Try a Wood-Look Backsplash

Try tiles that look like wood. These are great shiplap alternatives for sink areas, bathrooms, behind stoves, or in laundry rooms. Tiles with a wood look come in a variety of shapes and sizes. To mimic the look of shiplap, opt for the classic long and rectangular tiles.

Should I use 6 or 8 inch shiplap? ›

Key Takeaway: Picking a shiplap width can be a big decision, since it'll likely have a big impact on your living space. Six-inch wide boards are commonly used to create rustic, cozy atmospheres. For those working with larger areas or needing a bit more dramatic effect, eight-inch panels might be a better choice.

What is the best color to paint shiplap? ›

When using traditional shiplap, look to soft white hues for balance. We like Cloud White 967, shown here, White Dove OC-17 or Swiss Coffee OC-45.

What is better than shiplap? ›

Tongue and groove is a very efficient option for installing wood on your floors, walls, and ceilings! Tongue and groove is much easier than shiplap to install on your ceilings because of its joint. The joint holds together much more securely than shiplap when installing, making it much easier to handle.

Which is better, tongue and groove or shiplap? ›

Shiplap: With its overlapping design, shiplap may not provide as tight of a seal as T&G, potentially allowing for more air movement and moisture penetration. However, when installed correctly and properly maintained, shiplap can still be durable and suitable for various applications.

How long does shiplap last? ›

With proper care, you can expect your exterior shiplap siding to last around 20-30 years. Depending on the wood you use, that lifespan can be increased by several decades.

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