Easy and Inexpensive Shiplap Installation Guide

Easy and Inexpensive Shiplap Installation Guide


Posted by Alicia Sell


If you have ever watched Fixer Upper with Chip & Joanna Gaines, you know what shiplap is.  If you haven’t watched their show, you should – they’re a lot of fun. To summarize -shiplap is wooden boards that are stacked horizontally on a wall. Old homes (especially in the south) were built with old  pine boards as a cheap and easy home construction tool.  A lot of older homes have shiplap hidden behind the plaster walls.  Nowadays, people are taking off the plaster to expose the shiplap or, in newer homes, install shiplap as a decorative finish.  It is a great way to add some texture and visual interest to walls that are otherwise pretty plain.



Here is a picture of shiplap that we recently installed as part of our bathroom renovation project.

The beauty of shiplap is that it doesn’t have to be perfect.  You can leave the nail holes exposed, the wood unpainted, etc.  It adds great visual interest and texture in any room.  Or, you can sand it down and put a nice glossy paint on and it has a completely different look.  It can be a chair rail or you can run it all the way up to the ceiling. It is extremely versatile.

When Randall and I decided to do shiplap in our bathroom renovation, we had no idea what it would cost and/or how difficult it would be to install.  The good news is that it is really easy and inexpensive! Here is the method we used for our project.

Cutting wood boards

For our shiplap project, we went to Lowe’s and purchased 4 feet x 8 feet pre-sanded sheets of plywood that were 5.0mm thick.  You can have Lowe’s cut the planks into whatever width you would like.  Again, there is no right or wrong with shiplap.  It can be whatever length and/or width that you want.  For our project, we made the plywood boards 8 inches wide x 4 feet long.


Once you have the boards cut, gently sand the edges where the cut marks are as-needed to remove any splinters.


Starting at the base of the wall, install your first board. Use a leveler to make sure that the first board is straight.  Don’t rely on the molding to make sure it is straight, because depending on how old your house is or how well it was built, there is a good chance it isn’t perfectly level.  Making sure the first board is straight is critical to making the project successful.  Use a brad nail gun to attach the boards to the wall.


If you have a stud finder (I could insert all kinds of jokes here but Randall edited this story), you can use that to make sure you are getting some of the nails into the wall studs.  If you don’t get all of the nails into studs that is okay.

Spacing Your Boards

To space the boards, you can use pennies, nickels or any other coinage that will give you consistent spacing. There are all kinds of other fancy tools you can purchase, but the coins worked like a charm.  The kids were willing to let us borrow some nickels from their piggy banks for this project.


After installing each board, we quickly painted the edges and the wall to give it a more finished look.

Working around outlets

If you have to make cuts to go around objects such as outlets or cabinets, use a jigsaw. One thing we hadn’t really planned for was that adding the shiplap around outlets added some additional thickness to the wall which caused the outlets to be too recessed.  To fix this problem, you can just get a box extender at any home improvement store. Easy peasy. (That is a professional construction term that I am happy to share with the Button Jar readers.  You are welcome.)

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The finished look

Once the shiplap is installed, you can choose to either leave the nails exposed or you can spackle the nail holes with plaster using a putty knife.  Again, there is no right or wrong with this.  It just depends on what look you are going for.  We decided to fill the nail holes before painting and gently sand them so that we had a smooth finish. Yes, that is me sanding.  Randall leaves all of the fun jobs for me!

Painting shiplap

If you decide that you want to paint the shiplap, I would recommend using a 4 inch or a 6 inch roller.  Avoid big rollers that absorb a lot of paint because they can create a lot of paint bubbles in between the boards. You still will get some paint bubbles, but they are easy to pop with a putty knife so that the spacing between the boards is crisp and clean.  You will probably need at least two coats of paint.

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So that’s it!  For our bathroom, we used three sheets of plywood ($13/each) and about a half gallon of paint ($60).  So, total cost for this project was just under $100 – not too bad!

Here is what our finished project looks like! Now Randall wants to put shiplap everywhere in our house.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more shiplap down the road, but we won’t go too crazy!


Do you have shiplap in your house?  We would love to see your pictures!  Share them with us via email at buttonjar3@gmail.com or on Instagram (follow our page so we can see your posts and add #buttonjar.)


2 thoughts on “Easy and Inexpensive Shiplap Installation Guide

  1. Petia says:

    This looks great! I wouldn’t use it in the bathroom though. My main concern is the mould that would appear behind the chiplap trough the spacing. Have you pre treated the wall before installing? The paint used for bathrooms have silicone in it that prevents moulds and fungus. I would paint the wall with that before installing the chiplap.
    Again great work and the bathroom looks perfect. Hope you’ll enjoy it for a long time

    • arsell58 says:

      Thank you for your comment, Petia. This is a really good point and I should have mentioned this in the post. We did make sure to use paint that was specially treated for bathrooms on the wall that is mold and mildew resistant. It is also a good idea to purchase lumber that is pre-treated as well to safeguard against any potential mold issues. Thanks for bringing this up for our readers!

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