Shiplap 101: Three different ways I've shiplap-ed

Shiplap 101: Three different ways I've shiplap-ed

I've watched home makeover shows ever since I can remember...  and it all started for me with TLC's "Trading Spaces" when I was 12.

Does anyone remember this show? This was back when TLC truly was "The Learning Channel" not the.. learn-something -extremely weird that you're not sure you wanted to know.. channel (like people who eat lightbulbs or drink nail polish on my strange addiction, what in the what!?) I loved watching how families would swap houses for two days and makeover each other's spaces with the help of a designer. Hilda was always the extremely "out there" designer and part of me loved watching the reaction of the people whose houses she decorated, even though I would be terrified if she were the designer of my room. (Does anyone remember when she glued straw to every wall in a master bedroom? Or filled the inside of a bedroom's floor with sand from wall to wall??? Did those families stay friends after that??) It was TLC's Trading Spaces that made me want to be an interior designer when I was a kid. However, my father convinced me to go the teaching route because of promised summers off with my non-existant children, and because he felt that an art major would make it hard to land a job. So I made it my goal that if I wasn't going to study interior design- I was going to save every penny I could from teaching and make my house the home I've always dreamed of.  As I transitioned into adulthood HGTV came along and became my new addiction.

Four years ago Joanna Gaines entered the game on HGTV and changed our lives forever with her amazing designs and SHIPLAP. Watching her show made me want to wave her "shiplap wand" and shiplap every wall in my house. The only problem was- A) I didn't have a Chip in my life to put up the shiplap for me (sorry Shad... you are cuter than him though : P ), and B) Shiplapping an entire room would not only be time consuming but expensive. 

I also secretly worried that this would go out of style down the road. So instead I've settled on focal walls in my home: 2 in living room areas, 1 in a bathroom cove, and the backdrop of our fireplace. In addition I've convinced two clients to let me shiplap walls in their homes as well. 

Here are some before & afters: 


I've used a wide range of products based on the following factors: 

1) How much do I want to spend? 2) What look am I going for? 3) How easy is it for me to complete the project?

When I start down the DIY road, all three of these factors weigh in heavy for me, but you have to determine which is the most important to you. For me, keeping the cost down use to be the most important. Most often times if the cost is to be kept low, one of the other three factors has to take a hit, and it's usually the "ease" of the project. Lowest cost doesn't always equate to the easiest or fastest project. Over time, I've learned that sometimes if you spend a little more money, you save a lot more time. I'll go over all of these factors with the following three products I've used to achieve the "shiplap" look. 

My Decor Formula for a shiplap wall is: 

Shiplap Product (choose from below)+ Stud Finder + Level + Pencil + Nail Gun + Liquid Nail+ Spackle + White paint or Stain 


The Products+ Pros/Cons: 

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Product 1: is 4ft x 8ft underlayment plywood from Home Depot. There are many different grades of this plywood, each with it's own levels of smoothness. In order for this to work as shiplap, you have to have Home Depot cut it down to 6 inch strips for you with their plywood cutter. This will yield you 8, 8 foot boards, but only 7 of them will be useable- due to the 1/8th of an inch saw cut on each one, this will leave your 8th board thinner than the rest. Therefore, you're getting 7, 8 foot boards for between $10-$14 in total. I used three plywood boards for wall pictured above totaling $38. You then have to paint the boards on the edges and front side prior to putting them up.  That's because you will see the top and bottom edges of each board in the gaps, and it's a pain in the butt to paint those edges once they're up. I used nickels (meaning 5 cents) to space each of the boards on the wall when putting them up to make sure they were even. (You'll also have to do a final coat once they're up- because they will get marked when installing them.) Something to keep in mind too is that if you are installing this on a wall that has a lot of plumbing behind it- it may be best to go with longer boards (12 footers) like product #3, so you are sure to nail this into studs and not hit any pipes. I had to create a pattern as shown above because this wall was 13 feet in length, and boards are not sold in that length. 

Pros: Budget conscious (I used three plywood boards for wall pictured above totaling $38.) 

Cons: Time Consuming: You have to sand the sides of the boards for even edges after they are cut and then you have to roll paint on the edges of these boards prior to installing them. This involves setting up "horses" outside and having your  yard look like a shiplap painting factory. 

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Product 2: Is 1x6x8ft tongue and groove boards (also sold in 10ft and 12ft boards for more $)  that lock in to one another when you are putting them up. What I love about this product is how easy they are to put up. You start with your top piece that you have to shave down to a flat edge at the top with a table saw in order to start with a piece that doesn't have a "tongue". Once you have your first board up, the rest is super easy: you just lock the next board into the last and put your nails in the wall. I also love this board because if you're looking for a more rustic look- these boards show the knots of the wood. You can then either stain it in the color of your choice or you can paint it. Some of the knots in the wood can be seen once you paint this product- so if you are looking for a completely smooth board and a cleaner look you might want to go with product #3. This product is best for staining or if you're looking to do a whitewashed look. 

Pros: Easy to install, Best for staining 

Cons: Not as easy to paint as product #3, Can be expensive if you are doing a large area. (This wall used 17 boards at 10 ft each equaling to around $150 for the wall- read on to find out why this wall cost us way more than that in my "Don't" section :P ) 

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Product 3: Is 5.25 x 12ft Radiata Pine Tongue and Groove Whitewood Board Ship Lap, also sold at most Home Depot's. I used this product in my upstairs bathroom "cove". It's also the product featured in the before & after pictures above in my client's before and after living room (with the light blue walls). It was by far the easiest product to use, being that I was going to end up painting this bathroom cove white anyway. What I love about it is how smooth it's texture is, coupled with how easy it was to install. I cut all my boards prior to installation to prevent multiple trips down to the saw in my garage. Once all the boards were cut, I was able to put up 19 rows of this on three walls of this cove in under an hour total. (However, spackling holes and putting a final coat of paint extended the length of this project beyond that.) 


Pros: Easy to install, Smooth texture, Easy to paint

Cons: It's already primed, so if you are looking for the stained wood look- you have to use an un-primed product. It's not available for pickup at all Home Depot locations and shipping is expensive. 

Tips/ Do's

#1 Make sure you mark where all your studs are first and draw lines down the wall with a level. This will ensure that when you are nailing your boards in, that you stay along the stud the entire time and don't hit any pipes. If you don't already own a stud-finder, you should definitely invest in one- It's around $15 at Home Depot, and will save you the disaster of hitting an electrical wire or pipe. I started on my bathroom project by doing just that. 

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#2 If you are using products 2 or 3, make sure to cut the first board down on one side in order to have a flat edge against your ceiling or molding. You will have to use a table saw for this step. 


#3 Put liquid nail on some, if not all of the boards. I learned this trick from my friend Dani's husband HK. I asked him- what do you do if you have a pattern going on a wall and you aren't able to nail and end of the board into a stud? He said he used liquid nail behind the board to ensure it stuck to the wall. I've done it ever since. Don't overdue the glue- I apply it with a caulk gun in a swiggly line (if that makes sense). This especially helped on my wall in the bathroom that was on the opposite side of the shower. I was not about to put a hole in a shower pipe by accident, so I put glue on the entire board and only nailed it in at the far edges. 

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#4 When using tongue and groove boards, I put two nails in each board down each stud on the wall- however you need to nail your top nails first (marked in X below). Slip your next board under the last, then put your second nail in the board above. This makes it much easier to slide your next board under the last. If you put both nails in the top board, it makes it too tight against the wall and then you'll have trouble slipping the next tongue into the groove. 

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#5 If you are painting your board white- spackle the nail holes and sand them down til they're smooth before applying your final coat of paint. 

#6 If using the plywood shiplap method- use nickels to space your boards. This will create a uniform and even space throughout your entire project. 



#1 Don't work alone, especially on longer walls. It's near impossible to work alone- you need someone to hold up the one end of the board so you don't nail in boards crooked. 

#2 Make sure when using the nail gun, you nail it in straight and not on an angle. Shad and I learned this the hard way. We got down to the very last nail on the stained wall behind our couch. Shad nailed it in on an angle and hit a water pipe. Needless to say, our $150 wall turned into $400, with a late Sunday night call to a plumber to come fix our leaking pipe. 


Paint/ Stain Colors

What color to stain?

The above wall pictured was stained in Dark Walnut to match our floors. However, if I could do it all over again I would go a shade or two lighters- Provincial or Walnut, because when the sun goes down, the wall appears a lot darker. 

What color to paint the shiplap?

If you're looking for "off-white"- my go to color is Dove White by Benjamin Moore. It's not a white, white, but it's not too yellow white either. It's perfect for an off-white color. (The sitting room with plywood shiplap is painted in this color.) 

If you're looking for a great pure white- my go to color is Decorator's White by Benjamin Moore. It's not stark white- it's a tad lighter and just perfect. (My bathroom cove is painted in this color.) 

You can ask for either of these color's in other paint brands at Home Depot or Lowe's. They can match it for you. 


If you enjoyed this post or if you have any questions/comments, please feel free to comment below. 

Thank you for reading!

:) Barbra 

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