Learn how to install vertical shiplap on a wall in your home with these step-by-step instructions.
Tell your friend you’re going to install shiplap in your home and most likely they’ll give you their opinion. Chances are good they either love it or hate it. But shiplap is here to stay.
And if you peruse Pinterest or check out any home magazine, you’ll see that most interior designers use shiplap in many of their room makeovers.
While we often think of horizontal shiplap, there’s another shiplap that is very classic and equally refined. When you install vertical shiplap on a wall in your home, it adds depth and visual interest.
Vertical shiplap walls give the room a fresh and updated look that’s both stylish and inviting.
When remodeling my master bathroom a few years ago, I knew I wanted more than just a vertical shiplap accent wall. I went all in and added vertical shiplap to multiple walls.
I love how it not only creates an illusion of height, but it also makes the room feel larger and more open.
Vertical shiplap is a great way to elevate a space and give it a timeless look. Not only a very easy DIY project that doesn’t take a lot of time, but also a very cost-effective project too.
Determining What Boards to Use
Deciding on what kind of boards you’re going to use for your DIY vertical shiplap wall can be a bit overwhelming. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know if you’re making the right choice. Let’s break it down…
Shiplap has an overlapping joint, called a rabbet joint. It overlaps the edge of the next shiplap board. This results in grooves between the boards.
Made from various materials, including pine, cedar, and even MDF, shiplap is a more budget-friendly option.
But of the three most common materials used for a shiplap look, real shiplap falls in the middle in regards to price.
Source: Home Depot
Car siding, also known as tongue and groove siding, creates a tight, seamless joint that hides nails or fasteners. With less of a gap between each board, car siding gives walls a smooth and continuous look.
Primarily made of pine or cedar, car siding is a more expensive option, when it comes to adding vertical shiplap boards.
Install Vertical Shiplap on a Wall with Plywood
The most budget-friendly way to install vertical shiplap on a wall is with plywood. Less expensive than traditional shiplap boards, plywood is a great way to save money when adding DIY shiplap accent walls.
Start by choosing a good quality 1/4″ thick plywood sheet, and have it cut into strips of your desired width at the hardware store. This saves time and ensures uniformity.
When installing, leave small gaps between the strips to mimic the shiplap style.
I have used this technique on several of the walls in my home. You truly can not tell the difference between my real shiplap walls and this plywood, money-saving method.
I used this technique in the black wall below….
Quality of the Boards Matter
Aside from the type of board to use, the quality of the board is important too.
When picking boards for a vertical shiplap wall, go for ones that are straight and free of big knots or splits.
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is a good choice for a smooth finish and is budget-friendly.
If you prefer real wood, pine or cedar are great options. They’re durable and add a nice, natural look.
Install Vertical Shiplap on a Wall | Step by Step Instructions
Materials Needed for Vertical Shiplap Wall
- 20 Nickel Gap shiplap boards (6 in x 8 ft)
- Brad nails 1 1/4″
- Wood filler
- Sanding pad (220-grit)
- Wall outlet spacers
Tools Needed to Install Vertical Shiplap on a Wall
- Nail gun
- Table saw or Circular saw (Optional)
- Miter saw (Optional)
- Jig saw
- Rubber mallet
- Measuring tape
Tools Needed for Removing Baseboards
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Step 1: Removing Baseboards (Optional)
I have been gradually replacing all of my baseboards and trim throughout my home.
Wanting a more modern, up-to-date look, I’ve been changing out my builder-grade trim for a thicker craftsman trim. It is amazing the difference this one easy change can make to your home.
When installing a new wall treatment, this is the perfect time to upgrade your baseboards.
You’ll especially want to make this change if the bottom of the boards are sticking out further than your baseboards. This is not a good look and will stand out like a sore thumb.
If this is the case, or you’ve decided to update your trim, removing your baseboards is very simple. Here’s how I do it…
- Use a utility knife to cut the seal of caulk at the top of the baseboard. Run the knife along the top of the length of the baseboard; pushing down as you go.
- If using the Trim Remover Tool, put the tool on top of the trim. Use a mallet to hammer the tool behind the trim piece. Then work your way along the trim piece, using the tool to pull the baseboard away from the wall. (I highly recommend using this tool. It will eliminate damage to your walls and make the job easier overall).
- If using the crow bar, place the sharp edge on top of the baseboard. Using a hammer, pound the crow bar behind the trim piece. Once it’s a significant amount of the way down behind the board, pull the crow bar to pull the trim away from the wall. Once again, work your way down the board, until it is removed from the wall.
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Of course, you’ll want to do this around the perimeter of the entire room. I wouldn’t advise changing the baseboard on just the accent wall and leaving the rest of them the original boards. Baseboards should be uniform throughout the entire room.
We’ll discuss in Step 6 how to install the new baseboards.
Step 2: Prep the Wall
Aside from removing all of the baseboards (if you choose to do so), you will also need to remove any outlet covers.
Step 3: Measuring the Wall
To ensure you get the correct number of boards needed, it’s important to accurately measure the wall where you’ll be installing the shiplap.
Here’s how easy it is…
- Measure the Height of your wall: Start from the floor, extending the tape measure straight up to the ceiling. This is your wall’s height. Record it. Check at different spots to ensure the wall’s height is consistent.
- Measure the Length of the wall: Measure the wall’s width from one end to the other at the top and bottom. Record the longest measurement. This accounts for any unevenness.
- Calculate the Area: Multiply the height by the width. The area is crucial for knowing how much shiplap you’ll need.
Let’s work through an example….
Let’s say our wall is 8 feet tall and 10 feet long and we’re using 6 inch wide boards. We’ll divide the length of the wall by the width of one board.
For example: 10 feet (wall length) ÷ 0.5 feet (board width) = 20 boards.
This means you need 20 boards side by side to cover the 10-foot length of the wall. And each board should be 8 feet long to run vertically from the floor to the ceiling.
Pro Tip: Consider buying extra boards to account for any mistakes or adjustments. Especially if the wall has any unique features like wall outlets or irregular shapes.
Another Tip: If you don’t have a table saw, miter saw or circular saw, have Home Depot cut your boards for you when you purchase them. Be sure to take your measurements with you.
Step 4: Paint Before Installing Your Vertical Boards
We’re almost ready to install our first board. But beforehand, I highly recommend painting the outer edges of all of your shiplap.
It’s much easier to paint it now than when the project is finished. It can be very time consuming to paint in between all of those grooves.
Step 5: Install Vertical Shiplap
If you didn’t have your local hardware store cut all of your boards, I advise you to cut them as you go.
Ceilings and floors are rarely straight. Nor are they level most of the time. So, measuring as you go, will ensure your cutting the right lengths for each of your boards.
Placing Your First Board
For your first board, you’ll want to choose a corner. Which corner does matter.
You’ll want your first board to have the tongue side against the corner.
The reason for this is, the tongue side is easier to align and keep straight against the corner. This helps ensure that your starting point is perfectly vertical, which is crucial for the rest of the installation.
Starting with the tongue side of the board against the corner also creates a better fit for the remaining boards.
As you add more boards, they will fit more snugly and securely into the tongue of the previous board. This creates a smoother, more uniform look.
You’ll also want to use a level to ensure your first board is straight. The first board sets the stage for the rest of the project. It’s definitely the most important board.
Once it’s level, you’re ready to attach it to the wall. Using your nail gun, drive 2 nails spaced apart at the top, bottom and middle. Drive your nails in diagonally for a firm hold.
Source: Pure Salt Interiors
Opinions Vary–But Here’s How I Attach My Boards
If you search the internet, you will see varying opinions on how to attach shiplap boards.
Some say, you need to use Liquid Nails. Others say furring strips should be attached to the wall first. And still others say, you need to mark all of the wall studs before you begin.
My personal opinion AND experience (after several shiplap projects) is that none of these are needed.
To ensure your boards stay in place, simply drive your nails diagonally into the board. For further assurance, you will naturally hit a stud every 3rd or 4th board as you work your way along the wall.
Your shiplap boards aren’t going anywhere. Having completed many shiplap projects over the years, I have never had an issue with boards falling off the wall, much less becoming loose. It has never happened. They are as secure as the day I nailed them in.
- Liquid Nails will ruin your drywall.
- Furring strips are a waste of money. Not that they’re expensive, but why buy them, if you don’t need to?
- Using a stud finder to mark the studs is a waste of time.
Of course, if you feel better taking all or some of those precautions, by all means, please do. Peace of mind is everything. I’m just sharing with you my experience….which encompasses several shiplap projects.
Ok, now that I ran that subject into the ground, let’s move on… 🙂
Working Your Way Down The Wall
Now you’re ready for your next board. Continue to work your way down the wall. Following these steps:
- Inserting the tongue into the groove
- Using the mallet to ensure the board is snug in place
- Securing the board to the wall. Using your nail gun, nail 2 nails spaced apart at the top, bottom and middle of the vertical board.
Working Around Wall Outlets
When you come to a wall outlet, you’ll need to cut around it, using your jigsaw. Here’s how I do it:
- Turn off the power to that outlet and remove the face plate.
- Measure the position of the outlet relative to the board you’re about to install. Include both the height and the width.
- Mark these measurements on the board, clearly indicating the area you need to cut out. I usually mark the area I’m cutting out with an X.
- Use a jigsaw to cut out the marked area. Be precise to ensure the outlet is a snug fit into the cutout.
- Before securing the board, place it against the wall to ensure the outlet fits through the cutout. Make any necessary adjustments.
- Once the fit is correct, install the board as usual, making sure to nail it securely into place.
- You might need to slightly extend the outlet so it sits flush with the new shiplap surface. This is done by adding spacers.
- Once everything is in place and you’re satisfied with how it looks, turn the power back on.
How to Place the Last Board If It’s a Tight Fit
We’ve now come to the end of the wall. Attaching the last board of your vertical shiplap, when it’s a snug fit in the corner, can be a bit tricky. But with the right approach, it is manageable. Here’s how I do it:
- Carefully measure the remaining space where the last board will go. I like to measure at both the top and bottom in case the space isn’t perfectly even.
- Based on your measurements, trim the last board to fit. Go with the smaller measurement. For example, if the top of the wall has a 3″ wide gap that needs filled, but the bottom is only 2 1/2 inches, cut your board to 2 1/2 inches.
- You’ll need to use a table saw or circular saw to rip your board (cut it lengthwise). If you don’t have either of these, it’s not ideal, but a jigsaw will get the job done too. You can use caulk to cover up the edges since they most likely will not be straight. A little bit of caulk, and no one will ever know.
- Before nailing it in place, do a dry fit. Place the trimmed board in the space to ensure it fits well.
- If it fits, you’re ready to nail it in.
And voila! You’re vertical shiplap wall is finished. Onto the detail work! This is where the finished product comes together!
Source: Pure Salt Interiors
Step 6: Finish Work
If you removed the baseboards, you’ll naturally need to replace them with the new ones. I like to use 6-inch wide pine boards for all of my baseboards. I love the thick craftsman look it gives. That finished custom look is oh so good!
Simply cut your 6-inch wide pine wood boards to fit. And attach using your nail gun with 2 inch nails.
Vertical Shiplap Wall Finishing Touches
And now you’re ready for the finishing touches.
Use wood filler to cover up all of the nail holes. With a putty knife, fill all of the holes and let dry. Then run over the dried wood filler with a 220-grit sandpaper block or a palm sander.
Run a bead of paintable caulk along all of the edges. This will get rid of all of the imperfections and give it a seamless finished look.
And finally you’re ready for paint. For my shiplap in my master bathroom, I chose White Moderne for my paint color. I love the contrast of the two different shades of white. (The walls are Moderne White….almost the same name, but the hue is different).
And that’s it! From the first step to the end. A full tutorial on how to install vertical shiplap on a wall. Whether it’s your first time taking on a shiplap project or you’re a shiplap pro, I hope you learned something new.