How to Install Shiplap in 4 Simple Steps

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A simple, step-by-step shiplap installation tutorial. Learn an easy method for how to install shiplap made out of plywood strips! 

This post was originally written on January 24, 2018 and has since been updated.

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Faux shiplap is all the rage these days – I think we can thank Fixer Upper and Joanna Gaines for that. πŸ˜‰ No only does it add fabulous farmhouse style to a space, but shiplap installation it is actually quite easy!

If you’re interested in installing some faux shiplap in your home, this tutorial will show you a simple and affordable method for how to install shiplap using plywood strips.

As I’m sure most of you know by now, I too am a huge fan of shiplap. Since the start of our home remodel in 2016, I’ve added shiplap to just about every room in our house!

We have used two different types of shiplap in our home – the first being a formal-ish style of tongue-and-groove planks (as shown in our master bedroom below) and the second being a more rustic/farmhouse style of spaced plywood planks (as shown in our master bathroom above.)

Both types are stunning and add major style to a space, but I thought I’d teach you all how to install shiplap out of spaced plywood strips – the less-expensive and, in my mind, the prettier of the two shiplap installation methods!

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HOW TO INSTALL SHIPLAP
IN 4 SIMPLE STEPS

For a printable copy of the materials and instructions, scroll down.

MATERIALS:

4×8 sheets of 1/4″ underlayment plywood
Crown Moulding
Primer
Caulking
Spackle

TOOLS:

Paint Brush
Paint Rollers
Putty Knife
Stud Finder
Measuring Tape
Table Saw
Jig Saw
Sander
Nails & Nail Gun
Pen, Sharpie & Paper
2-3 Nickels (for spacing the boards)

DIY Faux Shiplap Install FAQ

Before we get to the tutorial, let’s review a few common questions people have about installing shiplap.

Does shiplap go over drywall?

While true shiplap was actually a drywall alternative created to make installing wallpaper easier, the commonly recognized “faux shiplap” can (and should be) installed over drywall.

Be sure to find the studs behind your drywall with a stud finder and nail the shiplap into the studs through the drywall.

Do you start shiplap from top or bottom?

If you don’t have a purposeful line (see below for details) then we recommend installing from the top down. Since you’re likely installing floor trim, having a full board at the bottom isn’t as visually important as having a full board at the top.

Either way is easy – it’s more of a visual decision.

How do you finish shiplap corners?

There are many options for finishing shiplap outside corners, so it depends on how formal you want the finish to look.

We chose to just butt-joint our boards together at the shiplap corners and then fill and sand the shiplap joints at each corner before painting. It looks nice, but is an easier solution than finishing the shiplap corners with trim or moulding.

If you choose to do moulding on the shiplap outside corners (which we’ve also done in our kitchen) be sure to put a piece on each side of the shiplap corner and use a mitered (45 degree) cut to join the trim pieces.

Do you paint shiplap before or after installation?

As you’ll read down below, we recommend both!

Painting the edges of your shiplap boards and the seems between them as you install is much easier to do ahead of time. But the major priming and painting should be done after all the installation is complete and you’ve caulked all the seams and filled all the nail holes.

How to Install Shiplap Instructions

STEP 1: Cut and Sand Shiplap Strips

The first thing you need to do is prep your shiplap wood strips. We purchase the basic 1/4″ underlayment wood from Home Depot and the cut it down (the long way) into just under 6″ strips.

shiplap

We’ve tried having Home Depot cut it down for us, but ran into a lot of issues with them being uneven, so if you have a table saw and can cut them yourself, that’s what we would recommend.

After they’re cut to size, you’ll want to sand down all the faces and edges to get the wood splinters off before installing.

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STEP 2: Mark Studs, Measure, Cut and Install the Wood

The next thing you want to do is go around the room with a stud finder and mark where all the studs are.

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I find it easiest to locate the stud, measure from the edge of the wall to that spot, and then mark it about every foot from the floor to the ceiling using my tape measure and that measurement.

After you get all your studs marked, your next step is the wood installation. To do this, pick one wall in the room as a starting point.

In some rooms you’ll want a line of your shiplap to line up a certain way with something else in the room (like the top of the tile work in our case) so be sure to think that through and start with the wall that contains that line.

Begin by measuring the boards you’ll need for the entire wall and marking them down on a notepad. We usually have a note page that looks like this:

34 1/2″
34 5/16″
34 1/2″

It’s important to measure each board individually as you move down the wall because changes in the angle of the wall or thickness of the texture can all affect the size of board you’ll need.

Once you have a full wall’s worth of measurements, cut all your boards and sand their cut edges.

To install, start either at your purposeful line or against the floor or ceiling. We typically start at the ceiling for rooms without a purposeful line because having a full board at the ceiling is more visually appealing.

Install the first board by nailing it into each stud on the wall.

Paint the seam between the boards (using the paint color you’re planning to paint the shiplap with – this is so the seams don’t look odd once everything is painted), and then fill all the nail holes with spackle.

For the next board, space it off the last one using nickels and repeat. Do this until your whole wall is complete.

Here’s an action shot of Chris doing our shiplap installation above the tile (our purposeful line) in the bathroom. πŸ™‚

 After you have one wall completed, use its seams as a guideline for installing the next wall and then continue to work your way around the room.

You’ll quickly realize that there are lots of places where the wood will need to be notched or holes will have to be cut for things like windows, doors, outlets, etc. We recommend using a jig saw to complete these cuts.

When you have a wall that’s longer than 8′, you’re also going to run into shiplap joints between boards in the same row. We recommend offsetting these joints along the wall and just filling/sanding them really well before painting.

The last thing you want to do before moving on to painting is caulk all the corner seams.

I like my seams to look like they go all the way around the room, so after I apply caulking up the corner I go back with a putty knife and clean it out each of the seams.

Caulking shiplap corners is a finishing piece that’s really important – don’t skip this step!

Here’s how our room looked after all the wood had been installed:

STEP 3: Sand, Prime and Paint

Give the spackling and caulking about 24 hours to dry before moving on to the sanding.

After you’re confident it’s all dry, go over the entire room with a power sander.

You’ll want to primarily focus on sanding down the spots where you’ve filled holes, but it’s also a good idea to give all of the wood one final sand down before you paint it. Caution – it’s gonna get dusty!

Chris ended up opening the window completely, setting up a fan to blow the dust out the window and wearing a face mask to help breathe.

Be sure you clean the room thoroughly after you’re done sanding. Wipe down all the walls with a rag and vacuum/sweep all the dust out.

Once all your wood is sanded down nice and smooth, it’s time to paint!

Start with a stain-blocking primer (it helps keep the coloration from the wood from seeping through) and then give it 2 thick coats of paint.

We typically use a standard 9″ roller like you’d use to paint any large wall or surface.

Here’s how our room looked after primer:

And then after paint:

STEP 4: Trim

Your last step to finishing off the shiplap is installing trim along the floor and ceiling.

For the floor, use whatever floor trim you’ve got throughout the rest of the house.

For the ceiling, we’ve done both 3/4″ quarter-round and crown moulding. If you have a little extra in your budget, go for the crown moulding! It looks SO PRETTY. But, I like the quarter round too, so either will look nice.

We highly recommend that you paint your trim before you install it.

Then, after you’ve nailed it all in, go back and fill in all the holes.

Final step is to sand down the spackling and touch up the paint. Now, you should have a stunning room of faux shiplap!!

Here are our two bathrooms – both of which have shiplap walls like we’ve just discussed. πŸ™‚

Sources for this bathroom can be found here.
Sources for this bathroom can be found here.

I hope this tutorial teaches you how to install shiplap and gives you the confidence to install some stunning shiplap in your own home!

As promised, here are the printable instructions for installing shiplap:

DIY Shiplap Walls

DIY Shiplap Walls

How to install faux shiplap using plywood strips!

Active Time: 1 days 6 hours
Total Time: 1 days 6 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Cost: $100

Tools

Instructions

  1. Cut your plywood into 6" strips the long way, resulting in 8 strips that are 8' long.
  2. Use a stud-finder and sharpie to mark all of the studs (from floor to ceiling) on the walls where you're installing shiplap.
  3. For each wall, start by measuring each row's length and cutting boards to those dimensions.
  4. Start at the ceiling (or a purposeful line) and install one board at a time by nailing into the studs, painting the seam, and filling the nail holes.
  5. Space the boards using nickels and continue installing until all walls are complete.
  6. To install around windows, doors, outlets and such, cut holes in the shiplap boards using a jig saw to enable it to fit around the obstacle.
  7. Caulk all the corner seams and verify all nail holes are filled.
  8. Sand all of the walls smooth, prime and paint.
  9. Lastly, install floor and ceiling trim.

Notes

Be sure to install door and window trim BEFORE the shiplap wall treatment so you can install the shiplap around the trim.

Ceiling trim can be basic shoe moulding or crown moulding.

For outside edges, either butt-joint the shiplap boards and fill the seam or install mitered trim on both sides of the corner to hide the seam.

Let me know if you have any questions about this simple method for how to install shiplap!

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20 thoughts on “How to Install Shiplap in 4 Simple Steps”

  1. Do you cut the boards at certain lengths so if it’s a long walk you don’t have the butted up boards in the same spot all the way down the wall? Does that make sense?

    • Sharon, you are exactly right! We do it similar to flooring where we start one row with a full board and work our way to the end of the wall then use the left over from the last board on that row to start the next row. It’s definitely best NOT to have the seams all on the same vertical line. Also, we don’t like to see seams so we’ve always filled and sanded them along with the nail holes. πŸ™‚ Hope this helps!

  2. What if you want a more distressed/stained finish, as opposed to paint? I like that the underlayment plywood is thinner and less bulky, but how would we achieve the look of barn wood using the plywood?

    • If you want to leave the wood natural, I’d recommend using thicker plywood with a nicer finish – like a poplar or birch. You could probably stain the 1/4″ plywood, but you’d have to be really careful not to splinter it because the inside layer is a bit red in color. For barn wood, you could stain it with a grey stain and then white-wash/distress it some to give it the worn look. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Amber! Of course – we did simple butt-joints at each of the outside corners, making sure that the most visible side of the corner was the side that covered the other. So in each of the outside corners there is one “end” of the 1/4″ plywood exposed. It actually looks just fine, and if you’re concerned with the end being visible you could caulk or spackle it before painting too. πŸ™‚ I hope this helps!

    • Hi Jennifer! We have it in both of our bathrooms (the guest bathroom for over a year and our master for about 6 months) and we’ve not experienced any warping! I hope my tutorial helps you get the look, it’s my favorite. πŸ™‚

  3. We’ve had issues in the bathroom with moisture and the pain yellowing. I did a stain block under the wood and on the wood shiplap then painted. Any suggestions?

    • I would say using quality paint is really important – and then maybe just reapplying a fresh coat each year or two? I haven’t noticed it in ours, but it’s only been a few months. Another thing you could try is a matte polyurethane as a sealer after a fresh coat of paint!

      • Benjamin Moore has a primer called fresh start ,it works well even on pt, pressure treated wood ,to stop the color from bleeding thru or fading under paint .as for the nail holes u can use painters putty #53 mix it with whiting or a little flour .it’s an oil base putty that won’t shrink and the whiting or flour helps keep it from being to wet .it works great .

    • Thank you so much! Wish we were closer so we could work with you on your place. I guess not installing shiplap, but other things! πŸ˜‰

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