Designers and DIYers from coast to coast are installing shiplap for its hand-crafted charm and timeless flare. From lakeside cabins and beach cottages to city condos and tiny houses, shiplap has achieved notoriety as a modern-day, much-loved material. Paired with the right pieces of furniture and accessories, it works in everything from a Craftsman bungalow to a sleek Seattle high rise. Great Guys Painting shares everything you need to know about hot and happening shiplap.

What is Shiplap?

When 90-degree grooves, called rabbets, are notched into the tops and bottoms of wooden boards that are then stacked horizontally, the overlapping pieces result in a shiplap panel. The rabbets allow the boards to fit so tightly together that they form a weatherproof seal. At the same time, the rabbets allow for the wood to expand and contract from season to season.

These days, shiplap is a hot and happening commodity that’s on the tip of every designer’s tongue. Anyone who knows Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper and Magnolia Home fame understands how she put shiplap on the map.

The History of Shiplap

The layering of rabbeted (notched) boards creates a tight, weatherproof and watertight seal. 1700 years ago, the ancient Vikings applied this layering technique to weatherproof their wooden ships. It wasn’t long after that buildings were constructed with shiplap to keep out rain, wind, and moisture. Traditionally, shiplap was a strong construction method that wasn’t meant to be seen and would have been covered with fabric or wallpaper.

Shiplap was so effective at keeping out the weather that before the advent of sheetrock, it was commonly used as a structure between a house’s framing and the exterior siding. Shiplap sheathing is often found under the wood siding of older homes and is now treasured as a to-be-seen wallcovering. It’s said that in just about any house built before the 1900s, if you tear off the plaster, to your delight you’ll discover shiplap underneath.

Is Shiplap Expensive?

If you can find reclaimed shiplap, you’ll pay a hefty price for the real thing. And it can be costly if you buy new lumber to replicate the original shiplap look. However, you can more cheaply mimic the look with MDF boards that are pre-primed, or with strips of plywood. Labor adds to the cost as well. Hiring a pro to install shiplap can add up quickly but you can save a bundle if you go with a shiplap kit or peel and stick (no kidding!) from a home improvement or hardware store. 

Is Shiplap Always Installed Horizontally?

Traditionally, shiplap was installed horizontally, but when the boards are installed vertically, a room will look higher, which in turn makes it seem larger. Horizontal installation can make a room appear wider. Just be aware that the horizontal application is a dust magnet. However, if you keep up with your regular dusting routine, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Shiplap Lends Itself to Many Design Styles

The texture and charm that shiplap adds to a blank wall is dramatic. When shiplap is painted white and then underscored by rich wood flooring, the look is fresh and cottage-like. For homeowners who seek a clean Scandinavian style, modern furnishings can be a stand out against natural wood shiplap. With the incredible popularity of the modern farmhouse, shiplap is almost a required feature. But it doesn’t always need to cover a wall – when installed on the back of shelving, open cabinets, or book cases, shiplap creates an attractive accent feature.

What’s the Best Wood for Shiplap?

Considering that original shiplap was designed to be weatherproof, cedar or redwood are best for resisting moisture, as in kitchen or bathroom applications. But if moisture won’t be an issue, shiplap can be made out of cheaper woods like pine. 

How Is Shiplap Installed?

True shiplap has grooves carved into the edges of horizontal planks and this interlocking method is what makes it weatherproof. DIYers can install shiplap if they have some experience in measuring, cutting, and nailing. And in cases where the shiplap is merely decorative, you don’t necessarily need to carve in the grooves. You can just overlap the boards, either vertically or horizontally. 

  • Precut faux shiplap is available at home improvement centers and hardware stores. Typically they come either in individual boards or in kits. 
  • One of the fastest and easiest installations is with peel and stick shiplap. Several companies sell real wood panels that can be attached to a clean, flat surface. The lightweight panels, usually about 3/16 inch thick, can be easily cut with a handsaw so no power tools are required. 

If you love the look and want to try installing shiplap on your own, you’ll need a power saw, nail gun, level, measuring tape, spacers, stud finder, chalk line, spackle, primer, and paint. 

What Are Some DIY Mistakes to Avoid?

Whether you go with real wood, pre-cut shiplap siding, or peel and stick panels, before you install, be sure to let the material rest for 2 to 3 days in the room where it will be installed. This will help prevent warping, curling, or cracking. Don’t let it rest in a garage or outside. The shiplap will need to adjust to the humidity and temperature of the room you’ll be installing it in. And be sure to keep the lumber flat on an even surface.

Before installing the shiplap – and this is particularly important for peel and stick – clean the surface that you’ll be installing it over. Wipe away dust and debris with a dry rag so that the adhesive will adhere. If you’re installing in a bathroom or kitchen, the walls may be grungy or greasy and you may have to wash them with a bit of detergent diluted in hot water. Be sure to let the surface dry completely before you install the shiplap.

Can Shiplap Add Value to My Home? 

Although insanely popular, shiplap isn’t a trendy fad that will come and go. It’s a timeless and versatile feature, like wainscoting or crown molding, that can add value to your home. Shiplap adds a customized look to otherwise generic and boring drywall or plaster walls, making your home more desirable and marketable.

Ready to install shiplap paneling and add some beautiful drama to a room? There are some great DIY choices or you can hire a professional contractor to install it for you. Either way, your home will have a finished and distinct look as a result. If you’re ready to hire a pro, Great Guys Painting can make your search fast and easy. We’ve already vetted licensed and insured shiplap installers near you who are experienced and trustworthy. Whether you want to create a charming feature wall or an entire room of shiplap, an expert and skilled craftsman can do the job right.


Find out just how affordable it can be to have a professional install shiplap in your home so you can get the look you’re dreaming of. All you have to do is ask for a free quote from Great Guys Painting! Get a fast quote now!