What to Know Before Making a Shiplap Wall | The Ultimate Guide


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Made popular by shows like Fixer Upper, shiplap has quickly grown into one of the most popular home design trends. You won’t find a modern farmhouse around that doesn’t have shiplap somewhere! Whether you decide to DIY your shiplap project or hire the job out, there are a few things you need to consider before making a shiplap wall. Here you will find the answer in this ultimate guide as well as some tips & FAQs.

Installing Shiplap Guide

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. For more info, please see my full disclosures here

What is Shiplap

So what exactly is this trend we call “shiplap”? Let’s have a quick little history lesson! It’s believed that early shipbuilding methods used a form of shiplap to help build the hulls of their ships. They used board to overlap each other to form a watertight surface for the ships. This is where we believe the term shiplap came from.

Shiplap was also used in most historical homes, however you would not see the shiplap. Before the invention of sheet rock, shiplap would be used as a barrier between the exterior of the home and the framing. They would then cover the shiplap with muslin or cheesecloth and then cover with wallpaper.

Where Can I Put Shiplap

There are countless ideas of where you can use shiplap in your home. You can utilize it as accent throughout your whole home, on cabinets, or just as an accent wall in the entryway. One of my favorite ways it can be used is on the ceilings. We will look at more examples below!

Shiplap Ceiling

Source: Unknown

What Tools Do I Need For Shiplap

If you choose to get your tools out and DIY your own shiplap wall, there are a few things you will want to make sure to have on hand.

Materials Needed to Shiplap a Wall

What You Should Know Before Installing Shiplap

Shiplap isn’t very hard to install, but it does take some planning. You’ll first want to make sure and measure the wall where you plan on installing the shiplap. Be sure to take into account the small space that will go between each board. Once you know how much you will need you will be able to get your boards and plan your cuts.

A few other things to keep in mind. It really doesn’t matter if you start at the top or the bottom, but you will want to make sure each board is level so your final project is straight and pretty! If you are only going 1/2 way or 3/4 way up on the wall I would start at the bottom instead of the top.

Shiplap on Wall

How to Install Shiplap

In case you missed it, I did a full tutorial on How to Plank a Wall that walks you through step-by-step on how to install shiplap using plywood. These really are easy manageable steps and I would rate this DIY project Easy to Intermediate depending on your skills with a saw and brad nailer. I was able to complete this whole project on my own, so I know you can do this too! Check out the full details on how to install a shiplap wall the easy way.

Installing Shiplap Directly to Studs

This is where your handy stud finder will come into play. It is best if possible to nail your boards directly into the studs. This will guarantee a good hold and will make sure the boards will not stick out in certain areas or come out of the wall and make an uneven surface.

Don’t let using a stud finder intimidate you. It is really easy and your stud finder should come with good instructions or you can always watch a YouTube video!

How to Finish Shiplap Edges

Depending on where you choose to install your shiplap, you will more than likely have to finish off the edges. You can see here how I finished my edges on my DIY shiplap project. One of the easiest ways to finish off your edges is by either using hobby board to cover up your edges if you are laying your boards against trim, or by using 1/8 inch corner molding to cover up the edges if you are continuing around to another wall. (Below you can see where I added quarter round to the interior edges as well as hobby board on the outer edges).

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Shiplap Wall Ideas

Not quite sure where or how you want to install your shiplap wall? Here are a few inspiration ideas for you!

I am absolutely loving this vertical shiplap from Hydrangea Tree House! Such a unique take on the traditional horizontal shiplap style!

Vertical Shiplap Wall

Another really popular idea that always looks great, is using it behind your fireplace like they did at Kelly Hohla Interiors.

Shiplap Fireplace

Or what about this stunning entryway shiplap detail from McClary CP Construction?

One of my favorites is this beautiful kitchen from Cole Harris Associates.

Shiplap Kitchen


FAQS | What to Know Before Making a Shiplap Wall

In case I haven’t already answered your questions about what to know before making a shiplap wall, here are some of the most commonly asked questions.

How to Make a Shiplap Wall Cheap

So maybe the true vintage planks aren’t in your budget. There are still budget friendly ways to get that look you want and I promise no one will know the difference. Here are some of my favorite ways to get that shiplap look cheap.

  • MDF BoardsHer Tool Belt used MDF to make her shiplap wall panel. This is a great/easy option that would look stunning in a bedroom or bathroom. I am sharing her tutorial here for those of you deciding to use MDF for your shiplap project.
  • Plywood – plywood is the choice of wood I made for my entryway shiplap accent wall. This is not only a super affordable way to get shiplap in your home, but also a simple project that can make a big difference. You can check out my full tutorial here.
  • Tongue & Groove Planks – if your goal is to try and get as close as possible to the real thing, tongue and groove planks are going to be your best bet. If you are looking for a great tutorial on how to install a tongue and groove plank wall, check out Saw Dust Girl!
  • Faux Shiplap – so maybe you are looking for something a little less permanent? You have to check out how Eryn Whalen did her easy faux shiplap with a sharpie for $5!

Is it Hard to Do a Shiplap Wall

This is probably the most commonly asked question when it comes to DIY shiplap. When I installed my DIY shiplap wall, I did it all by myself. Now I will say mine only went up 3/4 of the way on the wall, and I would recommend getting some help if you plan on tackling anything going up higher than that. You want to be sure to get someone to help you hold those boards while you nail.

I would recommend this project for someone that is on the line between beginner and intermediate. While it is not a particularly hard  DIY project, it does take time and a little DIY knowledge.

What Kind of Wood do You Use for Shiplap

As mentioned before there are many ways to get that shiplap wall you are looking for. Some of the most common types of wood used to shiplap a wall are the traditional tongue and groove planks, MDF boards, and plywood. My personal experience was with plywood which I think is a really great and easy option. The one thing I would warn against when working with plywood is you need to make sure to sand very good or you are going to have tons of splinters!

How Do I Prepare for Shiplap

Well you are on the right track in preparing for your project just by reading this post! I recommend first deciding what type of wood you want to use and then researching the crap out installing shiplap with that wood type. If you decide to work with plywood you can check out my step-by-step tutorial here.

Your next step in preparing for your project is to plan out all of your dimensions and cuts. This will take the longest planning time but is an extremely important step you don’t want to miss.

After all this is done, just go for it! Don’t keep putting off that project, set a couple of dates on your calendar to knock this out. You won’t regret it I promise.

Is Shiplap Still in Style

Ok I will be the first to admit, but shiplap is very “trendy” and I normally don’t recommend always going for what is trendy. I will say that shiplap has been around for many years and doesn’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon. The reason I think this is one trend you shouldn’t be scared to add to your home is that it can work with almost all home styles, even if its a subtle and minimal add to your home. So what if you have a farmhouse or modern farmhouse style home? Well you are in luck, because shiplap will never go out of style in your modern farmhouse!

Does Shiplap Ruin Your Walls

So do all of those nail holes ruin your wall if you decide to make some changes down the road? Well the answer really is it depends. So recently I decided to remove some shiplap from my kitchen. Not because I don’t love it anymore (I still have it on my entryway accent wall), but because it really just wasn’t helping to achieve the look I was going for in the kitchen.

Since my shiplap was nailed in with brad nails, the only damage I had to the wall was a lot of little nail holes. This is an easy fix and all I will need to do is fill in those little holes. Now for you guys that decide to glue down your planks (I do not recommend doing this) you are going to have a whole new set of problems on your hands. In some instances you may even need to replace some of you sheet rock.

Looking for Other DIY Projects & Guides:

If you’re looking for more FREE home decor tips and tricks, the Creating a Timeless Home Guide will help you create a home you love that will never go out of style! Also check out a couple of helpful cheat-sheets to help you out along the way. The Decorator’s Cheat Sheet has all the home decorator’s measurements you need to design a room you love and the Guide to Picking Perfect Paint Colors will ensure you always choose the best paint color for your space!


This post contained some affiliate links for your convenience. For more info, please see my full disclosures here

Guide to Installing Shiplap Walls

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