Watch any home improvement show or read any magazine today and you’ll notice one recurring trend: shiplap. This look is certainly having a moment, but it can also be expensive. Since this look may not last, it may not be worth spending the effort and money on a temporary trend.
Today, I’ll give you the rundown on shiplap – what it is, how to use it in your home, and how to DIY shiplap walls for less!
What is Shiplap?
Before you install DIY shiplap walls, you should know what it is! Shiplap got its start as an exterior siding. What makes it special is that instead of flat planks, each piece of wood has a notch called a rabbet that allows it to lock together (similar to tongue and groove flooring). This creates a tight seal, which is what made shiplap an excellent outdoor material. While shiplap is typically made of an inexpensive wood like pine, the special rabbet detail can add a considerable cost.
The Look You’ll Get
Now that the technical stuff is over, let’s talk about the look. Indoors, shiplap is typically installed horizontally. Most often it’s painted white or light grey. These two factors can make your room feel larger and airier – perfect for a California beach or coastal style.
Of course, you can also leave your shiplap natural or stain the wood. This is perfect for a modern farmhouse or shabby chic room.
Shiplap can be installed on one wall as an accent piece, or in an entire room if it makes sense visually in the space. You can even take shiplap up onto the ceiling. Be careful though. You run the risk of shiplap looking like a drop ceiling if not done well! My suggestion is to only use shiplap for vaulted or cathedral ceilings to avoid your efforts looking cheap. If you have exposed beams on your ceiling, shiplap can be a wonderful addition.
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The Benefits of Shiplap
Other than looking great and making your home a trendy place, shiplap has some benefits. Obviously, covering your walls with wood will cover all manner of sins! Holes in the plaster or extra outlets can easily be covered by shiplap. I’m talking major holes here. Don’t install shiplap to get out of filling tiny nail holes!
Installing shiplap walls is also one of my favorite tricks for older homes. If your house was built before the 1950s, there’s a good chance your walls aren’t square, or are just plain uneven. Installing shiplap gives you the opportunity to fix those wrongs.
DIY Shiplap: The Process
Now that you know what shiplap is, it’s time to install. You’ll need a few tools for this one: a nail gun, a table or miter saw, a level, and some sandpaper.
As I mentioned above, shiplap is typically made of wood with unique rabbet notches. Make your installation inexpensive by using plywood instead! Not only is plywood less expensive, it’s also thinner. Shiplap can be pretty thick, which will add to the weight on your walls. Keep in mind that if you plan to stain your shiplap, you’ll want to select a wood with a nice grain. Otherwise, the kind of wood doesn’t matter.
Now that you have the wood, prep your walls! Because you’ll have gaps between planks of wood, it’s a good idea to paint the wall underneath the same color you’ll paint the wood. You can also take this time to identify the studs in your walls, to make your installation process easier.
While the paint dries, prep your boards by sanding them down. Even if you’re going for a more rustic look, you’ll want to sand down the roughest patches.
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This is where the level comes in handy. You should hang your first plank right at the ceiling line, but you still want to make sure your ceilings are level! Secure your planks in place, on the studs you found earlier, using your nail gun. Make sure your boards are secure, but keep in mind that you have to fill every hole after the hanging is complete.
To make sure you’re using consistent spacing between each piece, you can use spacers or nickels, which you probably have around the house.
As you hang the shiplap, be sure to stagger any seams. This will give your shiplap a more natural and organic look. Even seams look manufactured, or like cheap wood paneling. This DIY is low-cost, but not low-class.
As you approach the end of your installation, you’ll have to make an important decision. Do you want the shiplap to continue to the floor? Or do you want the continuity of baseboards throughout the room? This is mostly personal preference, but carrying shiplap to the floor will make it feel less like an art piece and more like a wall treatment.
If you don’t like the look of the plywood sheets at the end of your walls, you can cover them with quarter round. This is also personal preference!
Now that your shiplap is up, it’s time for finishing touches. Before you prime (or stain), take the time to fill and sand any nail holes you made along the way.
As you prime and paint, make sure you get between each plank with a small artist’s paintbrush. This might seem like overkill, but trust me. You’ll see every bit of unpainted wood if you don’t pay attention to these details now.
The last step? Sit back, relax, and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done
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As you can see, installing DIY shiplap walls doesn’t have to be a time- or money-intensive project. With just one trip to the hardware store, you can get all the supplies you need to add this trendy look to any room in your home!