Farmhouse detail: shiplap walls

Shiplap! This stuff gets me excited. If you find yourself on Pinterest being drawn to shabby chic or cottage-like interiors, your boards are probably dotted with shiplap (like mine).

What is it? Shiplap is a type of wooden interior wall paneling identified by the distinctive channels in between the boards. Original shiplap is a hallmark of old construction houses, and finding it underneath your wallpaper or drywall is essentially the vertical equivalent of finding hardwood underneath your carpeting (which, coincidentally, we did during the shiplap project).

Fortunately, shiplap is infinitely easier to add to walls than hardwood is to floors. Johnny and I installed two 12-foot walls in our guest bedroom in a single day (with a second day for painting), a small time investment for what is turning out to be a pretty breathtaking transformation. Unlike Johnny's deck project (and many projects before the deck), I was fully involved in this one from start to finish, and - despite being momentarily knocked to the ground by an accidental board to the head (yes, really happened) - I had the best time!

DIY Shiplap | Married At Home


So here are our insights learned from our experience and mistakes as we transformed ourselves from shiplap novices into certified (not really, at all) experts:

  • First, find the studs behind the drywall before you begin and mark them with a vertical line all the way up the wall. This will be your guide for where to nail in the boards.
DIY Shiplap | Married At Home
  • Purchase pre-primed shiplap wood (ours was from Home Depot) to ensure a better result, and remember to trim down both ends for evenness and give the wood a quick sanding before nailing it up to smooth out any rough patches.
  • Definitely measure twice and cut once (sometimes we measured not at all and cut 3 times, oops...)
    • Meticulous measuring came into play most critically when we had to cut around the electrical plates and the windowsills. We definitely celebrated when those pieces locked into place!
DIY Shiplap | Married At Home
  • It is important to start with the bottom board and build upwards, notching the upper board into the lip below (called the "rabbet") to achieve that signature stacked look. Then, using a nail gun, put two nails on either side of each of your stud lines in both the top and bottom rabbets of the wood.
  • When installing the planks on two walls that meet at a corner, work to line them up as closely as possible to achieve perfect seams for continuous lines from one wall to the next.
DIY Shiplap | Married At Home
  • We learned that, especially in an old house like ours, the walls and ceiling are not guaranteed to be 100% straight, even when we knew our planks were. Use trim in the corners to cover imperfections in the alignment between the boards and the ceiling or walls.
  • Do check your planks before you purchase them to make sure that there aren't any obvious cracks or unwanted holes, but know that knots and imperfections are OK - they add character and visual interest to the wall!
  • Complete the project with two coats of a matte-finish paint to help achieve that rustic, cottage feel.
DIY Shiplap | Married At Home
  • Last tip - don't waste any leftover materials! Consider using any remnants you have left from cutting down the wood to cover a smaller space using planks pieced together with seams. (We ended up doing an accent wall in the living room this way!)

So here is a photo of our guest room before, and a preview of the almost-after results! (The FULL transformation can be found here and here!)

The Shiplap Project | Married At Home

"What's that... you started with carpeted floors and ended with hardwood?"

Well, yes, and that discovery (and what we decided to do with it) is a whole post or two in itself. This room does not look like EITHER of these pictures anymore - so click here and here to see the FINAL finished room and hear the story of the "buried treasure" we found in those floors!

Discovering Hardwood | Married At Home

P.S. If you like shiplap on walls, you will LOVE it on ceilings. We found this out for ourselves when we installed it on our sloped bathroom ceilings during our loft bathroom remodel. The result was just stunning!