How to Shiplap Using Underlayment-The Easy Way

September 13, 2023

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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While writing last week’s post, I realized I don’t have a good tutorial on how to shiplap using underlayment. As I shared last week, this is my favorite go-to when adding shiplap to any of my walls. I have tried other techniques, but this one is by far the easiest and the least expensive….

DIY Shiplap accent wall with a floating shelf and picture

Interior design trends tend to come and go. Here today, gone tomorrow. Color blocking on walls…Anyone? Anyone? Ya, that trend lasted about 15 minutes. But there are some trends that are here to stay.

Shiplap with it’s clean lines, subtle texture and visual interest is what we like to call evergreen, in the interior design world.

Believe it or not, shiplap was around long before Joanna Gaines “introduced” it to all of us on Fixer Upper. :) A very simple and inexpensive way to add character and a custom look to a boring wall, shiplap isn’t going anywhere.

But isn’t shiplap for farmhouse style homes? Yes. However, when done right, the look of shiplap can take on a modern and polished element.


DIY Shiplap Accent Wall

Modern farmhouse was my vibe at one time. And up until recently, I had a few shiplap walls to prove it. But I have since removed those shiplap walls and replaced them with…shiplap walls. Only this time, with a much more modern twist.

Materials Often Used for Shiplap

Throughout the years, I have used a variety of different materials to add a faux shiplap wall.

  • Plywood sheets
  • 1×6 Pinewood boards
  • True shiplap boards
  • MDF
  • Carsiding (tongue and groove planks)

All of these mediums work great for a DIY shiplap wall. However, I have found a great way to add a DIY shiplap accent wall that is low priced and easy to install.

Underlayment is my go-to for shiplap planks. Shiplap using underlayment is affordable and easy!

What is underlayment? Think of very thin plywood. It’s actually what’s put on top of the subfloor before adding a wooden floor. Ranging in thickness from 1/4″ to 1/2″, I prefer to go with the thickest underlayment.

Where Can Shiplap Be Added?

Any room you wish to add visual interest and depth is a great room to tackle a shiplap wall project.

Consider adding a shiplap accent wall to your

  • Master bedroom
  • Dining room
  • Living room
  • Fireplace

Maybe you have a small wall or a cozy nook that needs some character added to it. Consider adding horizontal or even vertical shiplap.

Shiplap wall with an abstract artwork on it

One of my favorite places to add texture and interest to is the wall that often goes unnoticed. The ceiling.

When doing a room makeover in my home, the ceiling is always part of the design plan. There is so much untouched real estate up there that can have an instant WOW factor. Don’t forget your ceiling. Another great place to shiplap using underlayment.

Here’s a look at my master bathroom ceiling. Isn’t that black just stunning and unexpected?

Black ceiling with white walls in a bathroom

Make a Plan for Your DIY Shiplap Accent Wall

Before starting any project, it’s always a good idea to have a plan.

Of course, you need to know which wall or walls you plan to tackle. But also, how many faux shiplap boards you’re going to need. Or, in our case, how many underlayment strips you’re going to need. (Plywood strips will also work great in place of underlayment. Either one will have the same custom finish look).

How To Determine How Many Boards You’ll Need

To figure out how many underlayment strips you’ll need, we first have to do some math. Super easy math. I promise!

Here’s the step by step breakdown to ensure you don’t overestimate or underestimate how many planks you need:

  1. Measure the length of the wall you wish to shiplap. Round up to the nearest foot.
  2. Measure the height of the wall. Round up to the nearest foot.
  3. Multiply these two numbers together. You now have the area of the wall.
  4. Divide the total area of the wall (in feet) by the total area of the underlayment 4 foot x 8 foot sheet (32 square feet).
  5. The resulting number is how many 4 x 8 sheets of underlayment you will need.

Here’s a quick example:

  • The wall I wish to shiplap is 10 feet long and 8 feet high.
  • Therefore, my first step is to multiply these two numbers together. 10 times 8 is 80 feet. The area of my wall is 80 square feet.
  • Underlayment comes in sheets of 4 feet by 8 feet. Therefore, the area of one sheet of underlayment is 32 square feet.
  • I take my total shiplap wall area and divide it by 32. So my math is 80 divided by 32. The answer: 2.5 plywood sheets needed.
  • Home Depot is not going to sell me half a sheet of underlayment. Haha! So, therefore, I will round up. I’ll need 3 sheets of plywood or underlayment to complete this project.

Now that’s some easy math right! Let’s move on into the project.

Mudroom with diy shiplap accent wall--shiplap using underlayment

Materials Needed for Shiplap Using Underlayment:

Tools Needed:

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Step One: Prepare the Wall or Walls

The very first thing I do when adding a DIY shiplap accent wall, is remove my existing baseboard. Over the last few years, I have been replacing my old baseboards with new, up-to-date modern baseboards.

So, step one for me in any accent wall project is to get rid of the builder-grade baseboard and replace it with a new baseboard. It’s amazing what this simple step will do for a room. Instant upgrade, every time.

Once the baseboard is removed, I make sure the wall is smooth and ready for paint. I then paint the wall the same color I plan on painting the shiplap planks. After a coat or two of paint, I’m ready to move onto the next step.

Step Two: Find the Wall Studs

When possible, it’s a good idea to attach your shiplap boards into a wall stud. To make this really easy, I mark all of my studs before attaching my first board.

Running your stud finder across the wall, mark every stud. Since you’ll be covering the wall with wood, you’ll want to make your markings on the ceiling, not the wall itself. This way, you’ll still be able to see the markings as the whole wall becomes more and more covered.

Cut underlayment into strips. I like to cut mine 6″ wide…making the strips 8 feet long and 6 inches wide.

Black fireplace with floating shelves next to it

Step Three: Cut Your Boards for Shiplap Using Underlayment

Now you’re ready to cut your boards. Using your table saw or circular saw, rip each 4’x8′ sheet of underlayment into six inch wide strips.

Whether to rip your boards the long way on your 4×8 sheet or the short way, is dependent on the look you want.

For a more modern look, rip your boards the long way. This will give you 6 inch wide planks by 8 feet long.

For a more rustic look, rip your boards the short way. Resulting in planks that are 6 inches wide and 4 feet long. I like to go ahead and rip all of my boards prior to starting my project.

Shiplap using underlayment for DIY Shiplap Accent Wall

Step Four: Attach the boards for Shiplap Using Underlayment

The big question: Where to start?

Top or bottom of the wall? There’s really no right or wrong answer.

Starting from the bottom will make things a little easer, since you won’t be fighting against gravity. Starting from the top will ensure that you have a full board up high, where the eye is instinctively sure to go.

For me, I start from the top, for this very reason. I want my top board to look its best. Most of the bottom board is usually covered by furniture, making it less noticeable.

Starting from the top of the wall, measure the length of the board needed. Once again, how you place your boards will be determined by the overall look you are going for.

For a modern look

For a clean line, more modern look, you’re going to want one continuous board going across the entire span of the wall.

Most walls are longer than 8 feet. Therefore, you’ll need to be sure to butt the ends of each 8 foot board flush against one another.

Working your way to the end of the wall, you’ll cut the last piece to fit. Attach each board using a nail gun with 3/4″ nails.

Try to hit studs whenever possible. When this is not possible, drive your nails in at an angle. This will ensure a more secure hold on the board.

Some people prefer to use Liquid Nails. While that is an option, I prefer not to attach my boards in this way. There may come a day, I want to remove a wall treatment. Liquid Nails, or any glue for that matter, is not kind to your walls.

Honestly, these 1/2″ underlayment planks are not heavy. I have never had an issue with them falling off my walls or bowing out, if I am unable to attach them into a stud.

But wait, what about the seams? We’ll get to that when we’re at the finishing stage of this project.

Black shiplap wall with a table and decor in front of it

For a more rustic look

For a more rustic look, you’re going to want to stagger your boards.

Starting from the top of the wall, left hand corner, attach a 2 foot plank. Then a 4 foot plank. A 2 foot plank again. Repeat this pattern to the end of the wall. Cut that piece to fit. Use what’s left from that last piece to start your next row down. Starting once again, on the left hand side of the wall.

Use your nail gun to attach each board to the wall.

Working your way down the wall

Every row of boards will have a space between it and the next row of boards. There are a few options available for creating this space.

  • Nickels. Nickels work great as spacers. Simply place a few nickels between your top board and bottom board. This will create a space between the boards. Using your nail gun, attach the board and then remove the nickels. Move onto the next board and repeat.
  • Tile spacers. This is one I haven’t tried. But I can see how tile spacers would definitely get the job done. If you have them on hand, I say go for it. But if they’re an extra purchase, they’re probably not necessary.
  • Leftover piece of underlayment. This is the technique I use every time. Works like a charm! Grab a scrap piece of your 1/2″ underlayment. Place the 1/2″ thickness of the scrap piece between the top and bottom board. Attach with nail gun. Work your way across the span of the wall and repeat.

Bathroom with free standing tub

Source: Celtic Custom Homes

Step Five: Working around electrical outlets

Inevitably, you’ll be moving along the wall quickly and then an abrupt stop. Electrical outlets require a little more detail. But they’re not hard to get around.

  1. Turn off the power to the outlet.
  2. Remove the face cover.
  3. Using your shiplap board, measure and mark where the outlet space needs to be.
  4. Using a jigsaw, cut the shiplap to fit the outlet.
  5. Ensure that your board fits over the outlet.
  6. If needed, use an electrical box extender to make the outlet flush with the shiplap.
  7. Re-attach the face plate and turn the power back on.

Long hallway with runner rug and brick wall

Source: RW Anderson Homes

Step Six: All the finish work for Shiplap Using Underlayment

Wood Filler. When the accent wall is finished, you’re ready to start filling all of the nail holes. Using wood filler and a putty knife, work your way across and down the entire wall.

Once the wood filler is dry, smooth out all of these spots with a 220-grit sandpaper.

Caulk. Use caulk for all of the imperfections. A few places you’ll want to be sure to run a bead of caulk along are:

  • Where the shiplap meets the corner of the wall
  • Down along the baseboards
  • All along the ceiling

If you’re going for a modern look, use caulk to fill in all of the gaps between your boards–where you butted them next to one another. The finished look should appear as though it’s one continuous board spanning the length of the wall.

Another option is Bondo in place of caulk to fill in these gaps. Either technique works great.

Check out this post for tips on how to caulk.

Paint. And now, you’re ready for paint! Underlayment has a tendency to soak up paint. Be sure to use paint with a primer in it. Or prime the shiplap wall first and then paint.

Pro Tip: If you are adding shiplap to walls that join together, it can be helpful to add a 2×2 strip. This piece of wood tricks the eye into not noticing if any of the boards do not line up perfectly. This is, of course, optional.

Bathroom with DIY shiplap accent wall for shiplap using underlayment post

Pro Tip: Another technique you can use to ensure your boards line up perfectly, when shiplapping two adjoining walls, is to work in sections. Attach 4 rows of shiplap on one wall and then move over to the adjoining wall and attach 4 rows of shiplap. Ensure that the boards meet up perfectly. And make sure they are level. Repeat this until you finish both walls. This method will provide a more modern look than the method mentioned above.

How to Attach Vertical Shiplap

If the modern look is what you’re going for, vertical shiplap is a great choice! When applying vertical shiplap all of the same steps apply except for one.

It’s a good idea to start in the middle of the wall. And work your way left and right from there.

  1. Find the center of the wall.
  2. Using a level, attach your first shiplap board.
  3. Use your spacer of choice and attach your second board next to your first board.
  4. Work your way along the span of one side of the wall. And then the span of the other side of the wall.
  5. Be sure to use a level to ensure that every board is straight before attaching.

Bathroom with two mirrors and white countertops/ black cabinets

And that’s it! So simple, right??!! Whether you’re doing a vertical or horizontal shiplap wall, it will make a statement. And best of all, you didn’t have to hire it done! You did it!!

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

Be sure to Pin This Post to your Pinterest Board for later…


Until next time,

Happy Building, Friend!!

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More Accent Walls to Check Out:

37 Trending Kitchen Accent Wall Ideas and Inspiring Design

Easy How To Build a Mid Century Modern Accent Wall

4 Easy Steps to DIY a Wood Slat Accent Wall








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