How to Achieve the Shiplap Look

March 20, 2018

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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Is shiplap here to stay or is it just another decorating trend? Here today, gone tomorrow. Well, as most people know, shiplap didn’t make it’s first appearance on Fixer Upper. It has been around for many years.

So what is shiplap? Great question! Often times, shiplap is confused for tongue and groove. However, it is actually a piece of inexpensive wood, between 3″ to 10″ wide with a 3/8″ to 1/2″ rabbet on opposite sides of each edge. Are you still with me?  Don’t worry, there’s a picture below to make it a lot clearer…

Shiplap board. Tongue and groove board

(Above photo credit:

Historically, shiplap was used as exterior siding in colder climates. The rabbet cut would fit the boards together tightly and in turn left no gap for water to seep in.

Later when shiplap was used in the interior of a home, it was never meant to be exposed. Prior to the days of sheet rock, it’s primary purpose was to create a smooth surface for wallpaper. But not wallpaper as we think of wallpaper today. Wallpaper back in that time consisted of cheesecloth or muslin. The thicker consistency of this fabric hid the joints of the shiplap, creating a seamless surface.

Interestingly enough, the name shiplap actually derives from how people would acquire it. They would pull it off of the sides of large boats that had been wrecked in a local harbor. Hence the name, SHIPlap.

An old boat with shiplap on the sides careened on a grassy shore

Photo by The Enlight Project on Unsplash

With so many different ways to achieve this look, today people (including myself), use the name “shiplap” very loosely. Most wall treatments referred to as shiplap are in actuality, planked walls. But they still look awesome and deliver the look of shiplap. (Say shiplap too many times and it starts to sound a little funny 🙂  ). ….

Here are 4 different ways to shiplap (or shall I say, plank) your walls without actually using shiplap:

  • Tongue and groove boards; also known as carsiding. I personally, have never tried this method on any of my walls. However, I have used these boards as flooring in my younger boys’ bedroom. They are super easy to click together and apply….

Flooring being layed down using car-siding.

  • Pine boards; Depending on the look you are going for, any width of boards will do. I recently completed this technique in an alcove leading to our master bedroom. In an upcoming post, I will share a step-by-step tutorial on how to carry out this method. But for now, you can hop over to my Instagram feed to see more pictures of this area

Shiplap walls in an alcove. Gray sliding barn door at alcove entryway. White basket with a gray blanket in it. Pedestal stand with a light blue vase and cotton sprigs. Board and batten walls.

White Mini Goldendoodle puppy sitting in a metal basket on top of blankets. In front of a pallet board wall

  • Underlayment; I saved the best for last, in my opinion. 🙂 This is the technique I have used to achieve a shiplap look on most of my walls. It is the most inexpensive and easiest way to plank a wall. My favorite room makeover is my guest bathroom where I used this technique to shiplap all of my walls. I love how it turned out!! Follow this link to check out this awesome farmhouse bathroom remodel.

Guest bathroom remodel with shiplap walls, windmill, 3 baskets on the wall with towels in them, top of a toliet with a tissue dispenser on top.

Understandably, shiplap is all the rage. And thankfully, it is a timeless look. But most appealing is how inexpensive and easy it is to achieve the shiplap look. As always, please let me know if you have any questions. I love to help others realize how simple and fun these makeovers can be. No need to hire out for this one….you’ve got this!!

Until next time,

Happy building, my friends!!

By the way, I love chatting with you outside of my blog posts…through comments left below. Through following RepurposeLife on Instagram here. And my favorite…subscribing to RepurposeLife below. Of course, I would be overjoyed if we kept in touch all three ways!! 🙂







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