How to install shiplap

When we started to plan our office makeover, we knew that shiplap walls were in our future. And I am SO excited to tell you that the shiplap is DONE and it looks amaaaazing. Keep reading for how to install shiplap walls easily in your own home!

Why use Shiplap?

Shiplap is an amazing way to add some character and charm to your rooms.

Shiplap panels were traditionally used in the construction of barns, sheds and outbuildings, but thanks to Joanna and Chip (any fixer upper fans?! me too!!!), it has majorly gained popularity over the last few years.

We partnered with the Home Depot and Alexandria Moulding on our office makeover. We always knew we wanted to do shiplap in this room, and so using the Alexandria Shiplap was such a dream. The panels have a groove along the edge that allow them to overlap and fit snug together, are pre-primed (less painting – wahoo!), and have been made for the DIYer.

Supplies You’ll Need:

What is shiplap, anyway?

Joanna Gaines sitting in room with shiplap

Joanna Gaines sitting in room with shiplap | Joanna Gaines via Instagram

Before Joanna Gaines came on the scene, shiplap was a relatively unknown design feature. Now it’s inescapable.

Shiplap is wooden boards which are used for building barns, sheds, or other rustic buildings. The traditional version usually has grooves cut into the top and bottom (called rabbets) which allow the pieces to fit together tightly.

In design, shiplap can be installed as a decorative accent in just about any room on the walls or ceiling.

Next: Here’s why lots of people shy away from shiplap.

It’s not cheap

Shiplap | Magnolia Market

Did your home not come with shiplap walls hidden beneath the drywall? You’re not alone. That’s why so many home improvement retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot have started selling it to homeowners who are eager to copy that Fixer Upper look.

But your new design obsession comes with a drawback — it’s expensive. You’ll spend hundreds or even thousands more dollars outfitting your home with shiplap than you would painting everything.

Next: This is by far the biggest drawback to adding shiplap.

Shiplap attracts dust

Shiplap | Magnolia Market via Facebook

One major drawback of shiplap besides price? It’s hard to clean.

Practically no one wants to add extra dusting to their cleaning schedule, but if you put shiplap in your home, that might be exactly what you’re doing. The small gaps between each piece of shiplap are prone to collect dust, so you’ll have to spend a fair amount of time literally dusting your walls. Yikes.

Next: This is why it’s not great for everyone.

It doesn’t match every design style

Magnolia House bed and breakfast kitchen

Shiplap at the Magnolia House Bed & Breakfast | Magnolia Market

Just because you like the look of shiplap, it doesn’t mean you should go ahead and blanket your ultra-modern home with it. Shiplap has a distinctive look that fits well with farmhouse or shabby chic décor styles. And while it’s not necessarily taboo to mix styles, there are certain instances where shiplap will just look out of place.

Next: It could end up costing you money.

Not everything about shiplap is negative

Shiplap in a bathroom

Shiplap in a bathroom | Magnolia Market

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Of course, there are plenty of things to love about shiplap. It looks crisp and clean, plus it adds visual interest and architectural detail to your space. It’s a great way to add a ton of character to your room with minimal effort.

While there’s a possibility that shiplap will look dated in 10 years, it’s equally likely that it could become like clawfoot tubs and fireplaces — two classic home décor trends that have withstood the test of time.

Next: Here’s the bottom line on shiplap.

Good design means doing what makes you happy

Shiplap in a home on HGTV's 'Fixer Upper'

Shiplap accent wall | HGTV

So how should you decide whether shiplap is the right choice for you? You just need to follow your heart.

Great design isn’t about copying hot trends or intentionally avoiding them — rather, it’s about staying true to yourself and choosing items that make you happy to live in your home. If you love the look of shiplap and you don’t mind some extra dusting on occasion, then shiplap might be the right option.

Do what you love and your home will reflect your unique perspective!

Read more: These ‘Fixer Upper’ Home Trends Are a Total Waste of Money

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!

4. Level

We started from the ceiling and worked our way down for this project because we wanted a full board at the top rather than a ripped down top board. To start off, you’ll want to make sure to hang your first board perfectly level.

After nailing up the first board and making sure it’s perfectly level, you can take the next board and stack it tight to the one above it. This will keep things level all the way to the bottom. Depending on where you start, just continue your design by adding one plank at a time and one row at a time and working your way down.

How to shiplap | bathroom design accent wall

6. Paint Boards

When painting, we love to use our HANDy Pro Pail because you will want a mini roller and a brush and the pro pail fits both. It has a magnetic strip on one side for the brush to hang on and its large enough for a roller to sit inside.

Since the shiplap will probably be a statement piece that people’s eyes will be drawn to, you’ll want to make sure it has a nice finish. No drips or air bubbles. We prefer to use a mini roller because we like to roll one board at a time. We don’t like to roll over two boards at once because you want to ensure the boards look like separate boards.

We prefer to paint our boards after we hang them. We’ve painted beforehand a few times but we always end up having to go back and touch up spots from moving and hanging once they’re up, so now we just leave it until we hang.

Installation Tips

Ok great. We are all prepped and ready to go! And you are way ahead of the ball game here because you now haven’t made many of the mistakes I already made. You should be ready to install your “faux” shiplap now. So… here are a few more tips to get you through the installation process.

  • Use a big level. Make sure that you are going in a straight line. It’s deceiving using a level sometimes. And it’s really easy to just kind of eyeball it and not realize that the bubble is a tiny bit off. If you have a long stretch of wall to cover, the tiniest slant up or down is going to rear its ugly head. The worst part? When you get to the next wall, your plywood wont line up with the other wall and it will look mismatched. The second worst part? When you get to the bottom of the wall you’ll have to make a slanted cut in order to accommodate for your installation not being level. Making a slanted cut down the length of a board sucks… even if you have a table saw. So… take some extra time to do this properly. Repeat after me, “avoid slanted cuts at all costs.”
  • Start at the top and work down. I debated on this for awhile but finally decided to start at the top. I think it was the way to go, although it’s not a deal breaker. I just know that my walls are not perfectly level and I had some baseboard heating to deal with. It just made more sense to have those quirky pieces at the bottom rather than in the center of the wall. My outlets and switches are also higher on the wall, so it made sense to start closer to these areas to make sure I had the spacing right. I should note that I only put the faux shiplap on the bottom half of the wall.
  • Glue the backs of the boards. I didn’t want to do this… for obvious reasons, like, “what if I want to take it down? It’s going to be a nightmare to rip adhesive off the wall.” Well… when I installed the shiplap and used the nail gun to secure it, I got some gaps. Perhaps if you use thicker plywood than I did this wouldn’t be as big of an issue. I ended up nailing the sh!t out of some of the pieces to try to close the gaps. It kind of worked… but not 100%. If I had to go back I probably would have used adhesive to glue the wood to the wall… at least in the places that looked like they were bowing outward.
  • Know that you’ll have to repaint the wall. Even if you are like me, and painted the front and sides of the plywood before installing, just know that you’ll have to give it another coat of paint afterwards. Buy enough paint to do this. Then, while you’re installing it you won’t have to worry so much about the imperfections because you’ll know you’re going to paint another coat at the end. It will make your day brighter and you’ll be less stressed about it being perfect.
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Trim/Molding Tips

We are almost there. The shiplap is up and looking awesome! Now it’s time for some molding. This will really finish things off, right? You’ve got your miter saw and your expensive pieces of molding and you’re ready to go (my molding pieces cost more than the whole wall… yikes). Read these trim & molding installation tips before you get started.

  • Buy a little extra molding. Yeah, I know it’s expensive. But you’ll probably screw up or need a piece or two to practice with. So don’t be a cheapo like me and make sure that you have enough to cover yourself. Making trips to the hardware store this late in the game will suck the life out of you.
  • Paintable caulk is not the be-all-end-all. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve read that said… oh yeah don’t worry about the corners and stuff because paintable caulk will cover all the mistakes. This is true, to an extent.  But… don’t think that you don’t have to know how to cut corner molding. That 1/4” gap that you left will not just magically disappear with this paintable caulk stuff. It will look like crap and will drive you insane. So… spend the time making practice cuts until you have your corners as close as you can get them. Don’t heavily rely on the “magic caulk” to fix everything. It won’t. Oh, and keeping a little bowl of water with a balled up paper towel in it to wet your fingers as you caulk is KING. Seriously try this when you are caulking.
  • Fill in the nail holes. Well, unless you love the unfinished look that the nails give, I’d recommend filling in most to all of the nail holes. Use that fancy caulk to cover them. It will look more finished.
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Paint colors

I know someone will ask me this, so I’m going to just tell you know.

There’s tons of great colors out there, though… so don’t let me persuade you.

So, today we’ve learned that blog posts reading “Easy DIY Faux Shiplap Walls” are misleading. They should be titled “Easier than Real Shiplap DIY Faux Shiplap Walls.” This is a really fun project, and I don’t want to discourage ANYONE from attempting it. Not my intention at all. I think we are all capable. But, if you asked my honest opinion I would say that this is an intermediate project, and not one you shouldn’t take on without a miter saw, pneumatic nail gun and an orbital sander. Just follow all of my helpful tips for prepping, installing, and trimming out your shiplap and you’ll have a beautiful DIY faux shiplap wall in no time.

Just kidding… this took us 8 weeks because Clyde and I both work full time and have lives. And… I thought it was going to be done in a weekend like those “easy” blog posts said it would. Newsflash: it’s going to take longer than you think. But it’s going to be great. And the next time you watch Fixer Upper you can yell at the TV when they make all of this crap look so easy. Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions or more tips to add! I’d love to see your projects!

For your pinning pleasure…

Why DIY Faux Shiplap Walls Are Not Easy To Install |

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