Shiplap Walls: What To Use & FAQ

FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.

It’s no secret, I love shiplap walls. I have for a very, very long time. I decided it might be helpful to write a post specifically about this shiplap and my previous experiences with this type of wall. I will offer the answers to questions many of you had.

I am so happy with our wall. It has made quite an impact already on our home! It isn’t the first time we’ve used paneled walls, as I mentioned, so I can tell you more about it from our experience in our past homes, too.

I’m not a DIY’er so this isn’t an actual step-by-step tutorial or comprehensive guide, but I can answer some FAQ and offer tips about what we’ve used and where. You’ll also find some photos of our walls and the material we selected for each project.

FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.

Let’s talk about shiplap walls!

You might think Joanna Gaines invented horizontal shiplap from the fanfare it gets thanks to HGTV’s popular show Fixer Upper. As talented as she is, she didn’t invent shiplap. It was originally a material under old plaster walls and used as siding on barns and buildings and has been used decoratively for years.

It can be an effective architectural feature in homes of any age and style, so it’s really a versatile look for the farmhouse fans to those designing more modern spaces. It can work just about anywhere! For those of you who aren’t sure about white walls, you can of course paint it any color you want.

natural wood plank walls

Our beach house walls were shiplap, but a beautiful unpainted natural wood. This shiplap was installed by my parents, maybe in 2007 or before.

While shiplap is actually a specific type of material, I feel like everyone calls any type of planked walls shiplap these days. We’ll use that term in this post since it’s so popular. But don’t let the popularity of it scare you off. Planked wood walls predate Fixer Upper and I don’t think it will likely go away after Fixer Upper airs its last show. If it worries you, keep it classic by using quality wood and installation methods, or just use it on a wall or two and you can change it down the road if you feel the need.

vertical tongue and groove paneling on cabinet backs and sides

Where and when can you use planked molding?

We installed vertical tongue and groove planking on the backs of our open shelves and the sides of cabinets in our 1930s Tudor. We selected a style that matched some original woodwork. The remodel was pre-blogging so maybe 11 years ago? Excuse my early blogging photo, above, but at least you can see a snippet of it! In the 1920’s house we owned before that (in the 1990s) we had planks put on the ceiling of a bathroom. Our 1920’s living room in the house before that had original planked walls and ceilings!

Planked wood felt right in all eras and all the various ways we’ve used it.

kitchen open shelves painting white

FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.

We installed the same pine tongue and groove planks horizontally both in the back of open cabinets and on the walls in our brand new Craftsman style house in 2012.

FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What optional wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.

What wood to use for planked or shiplap walls

The planks in our previous house were thick and long pine boards bought from a lumberyard. You can see the actual pine tongue and groove boards we used, above. Do you see the two little notches on each board in the middle of the plank? If you install them with the two notches facing out, they have a “beadboard” groove and if you install them backwards from that they have a “V” notch in them rather than the beaded look. I like the “v” notch with tongue & groove.

The planks were installed both horizontally and some vertically throughout the main floor of that house. I really loved the chunkiness and the character of the real wood and the craftsmanship of the tongue and groove boards. But, that’s not that material we chose in our next house! I’ll tell you about what we used and why next.

Let’s get back to talking about our new shiplap wall in our current 1950s dining room! Here we went with a different material, look and installation than we have used before.

DIY Shiplap MDF Wall Boards

MDF baseboard molding for shiplap walls

We used a 5 inch (1/2 inch thick) MDF (medium density fiberboard) baseboard molding as our plank material. It’s more affordable than wood, but really perfect for this type of installation. There might be even cheaper options, but this is already cut, primed, takes paint easily, and you can choose the right width for your job. It is also apparently easy to work with (or so I’ve heard, says me, the happy non-DIY’er).

I’m not sure if that is the EXACT board the contractor chose (above), but it’s pretty close. That’s the picture we sent to the contractor from Home Depot.

Shiplap walls MDF random length installation

Plank Walls with Staggered Board Installation

Rather than using one long board the length of the wall, we used a more staggered random length design. It just felt more original and less modern to me for some reason in this house.

The boards were nailed (nail gun) and glued very close together (I don’t believe the contractor used spacers at all) so the grooves between are less pronounced (nice for not accumulating dust, I suppose!). With a small room, a smaller groove feels more subtle overall in the space, so I like the effect.

FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.
I also like that the wall feels in line with the vibe of an older house. I was really happy that the paint seeped between a few of the board grooves because that’s just how old house paneling and trim looks. It’s never perfect! Character makes it feel even more authentic to the age of the house, but it doesn’t feel too rustic or out of place.

Side view of shiplap paneling, corner piece - The Inspired Room. This post answers FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.
How to Finish the Edges of Shiplap Boards

How did we finish the edge of shiplap at the end of the wall?

I took a few pics so you could see what we used.

Edge of Shiplap Wall Paneling. This post answers helpful FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.

It’s not super easy to see, but there’s a small end cap corner piece that finishes it off and the caulking and paint makes it look really nice.

I really love when shiplap actually wraps around the corner, as ours did in our old kitchen (see the photo of the old kitchen shiplap above for the corner piece that connected the two shiplap walls). But for now our shiplap just ends with that one wall. It really looks fine that way in the room though because you don’t focus in on it, especially if your wall color next to it is the same color like ours is.

FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.
On the other side the planks just run right to the other wall. Caulking makes it feel like they just disappear into the wall, rather than as if they were applied on top of a wall.

What if you don’t have crown molding or you have baseboards?

Shiplap walls laid horizontally work even when there isn’t crown molding to finish it. The top board is installed right up against our ceiling and caulked (it was installed the same way in my old kitchen). If you installed the boards vertically you’ll likely need a finishing trim of some sort at the ceiling.

Also, you might have noticed that our contractor removed the baseboard trim and reinstalled it over the planking. I think that looks really nice. We just left the baseboards in place in our old house so the planks overlapped a bit, which was fine too.

The Inspired Room Mug Rack
I switched the side my lamp was on in between photos to test it out, so pardon the mid-post switch haha! I was playing around with having just one lamp so I could put my mug rack on one side and couldn’t decide which side I liked best. So, ignore me and my indecisiveness! :)

A few more random thoughts on installing shiplap

Planked walls give “weight” and architectural texture to a room. The planks can even fool the eye into thinking the wall is taller or wider or both. Ironically, the planks make our wall feel taller, somehow, even though the planks are horizontal!

One thing I really like about the more subtle look of less space in between planks and the random lengths on the wall is that it doesn’t seem to scream LOOK AT THIS NEW PLANKED WALL WE JUST ADDED. Rather it is just there quietly looking good in the background.

We only planked just the one wall (so far, anyway) in our dining room. We may plank the entire room at some point, or we may not. That’s another budget friendly thing about planks, you can do one wall at a time if you want or need to. But even if you only want one wall, that’s cool, too.

FAQ on installing DIY shiplap walls. What wood or MDF to use for shiplap and what to do with the corner edges after install.

We definitely will do more planked shiplap walls (or ceilings) in our house! I love it.

Hope that helps answer some of your questions! I know it was long and a lot to read, you might want to pin it and save it to refer to again! If I missed anything you wanted to know, feel free to ask away in the comments. 

shop-my-house-the-inspired-room-blog

ROOM SOURCES >>

Navy & White Swirls Lamp

Glass Cabinet (ours is taupe)

White & Rattan Mirror

Mug Rack

Stool (inspired by these)

Mugs (many sources, a few are here and here)

Plant Basket

And as always, you can find more sources in my shop!

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Comments

  1. I love your new ship lap walls in your dining room! I also,love the blue and white accents with the lamp and cup holder and cups! So pretty! Enjoy your room! Can’t wait to see the whole room with your new light fixture!

  2. This Northeastern girl never heard of shiplap before Fixer Upper. And, as ever, that old stuff marked with generations of wear and tear makes my heart beat just a bit faster.

    Painted white, of course!

    ;-}
    Linda Stoll recently posted..For When You Just Know That Something Good Is In the WindMy Profile

  3. We are getting ready to shiplap a wall in our entry way so perfect timing. I definitely will pin this! Thank you!

  4. Melissa, didn’t get a chance to respond the other day but your post of shiplap brought back such wonderful memories and reinforced why I like country so much. I recently got a chance to see pics of a family reunion in Texas a couple of months ago in the country on farmland that has been in my mother’s family forever. My mom’s dad, who was a farmer, of course, had super design skills as well as carpentry skills. He built a house for my grandmother and himself which I have memories of but we were just toddlers. Later he built another house for a brother and sister of my grandmother, neither of whom married but both of whom agreed to stay and farm the land. After my grandmother died, we sold their farm and my grandfather came to Houston to live with us. But until I was well into high school, we spent a couple of weeks every summer at my grand aunt and uncle’s home and I loved, loved, loved that house. First, it was perfectly oriented to the four directions with plenty of windows but all in the right places to get the best of the sun and never the worst. And it was as open a floorplan as I’d ever want (living room/dining room) and so airy, with a host of clever features (like a two-sided cabinet that had a door in the kitchen in which to store the clean dishes and a glass door in the dining room from which you could easily set the table), but my biggest favorite were the plank walls, nothing really, really fancy but in every room of the house and each room painted a soft pastel color. Joanna Gaines wasn’t even a gleam in her parent’s eye yet back then. Thanks for reviving those wonderful memories twice – your wall looks beautiful and totally natural, your styling is so fresh and inviting, and I want to be sit in that room with you and have a cup of coffee from one of those beautiful cups. Thank you for a marvelous treat!

  5. Good article! Did the outlets and light switches need to be modified?

  6. Sue McDermott says:

    Great post!!!! Just the info I have been looking for. Super informative.Thanks so much :)

  7. GREAT post!! Super informative. Just the info I have been hoping to find.
    Thanks so much and love your wall.

  8. HeatherB says:

    Melissa~

    Where did you get your dining room console/cabinet? I love it, and have been wanting something similar for my home and have been unable to find anything that I like…so many look cheap but aren’t, if you know what I mean.

    Thanks.

    • Yes! I searched forever for one that wasn’t cheap looking or ridiculously expensive. And trying to find one that wasn’t tiny!! It’s from Restoration Hardware. Usually their stuff is super expensive but now and then they seem more reasonable and the quality was totally worth it. Mine was on sale so that helped, too! I actually loved it so much I got two, one with glass doors and one wth solid for a different room.
      Melissa recently posted..Shiplap Walls: What To Use & FAQMy Profile

  9. Great post! Very good information. We recently purchased a 1947 ranch-style and are in the process of renovating. We are planning on using ‘shiplap’ on a majority of the walls and had already settled on tongue and grove planking; however, after your post we may rethink that decision.

    I would like more of your opinion on the vertical option of paneling. Our living room is long 23′ X 11′ and I am thinking about doing the living room in vertical paneling to give it height, but I am still undecided because I love the traditional look of the horizontal paneling. Any advice?

    • I have considered vertical in my living room since we have such a long wall in that room. I just need to decide if I want to switch directions in the next room. I think I’m ok with that but still thinking. But surprisingly the horizontal also gave a feeling of height in the dining room so either way I think it helps!
      Melissa recently posted..Shiplap Walls: What To Use & FAQMy Profile

  10. I love planked walls and ceilings. Curious if planking the ceiling helps muffle sound or increases it.

  11. Loved this post! I’m planning on putting shiplap in several rooms so your review of the different materials you have used was very helpful, especially using the baseboard molding. I would have never thought of doing that.

  12. Hi Melissa, thanks so much for this post. It is so useful! I LOVE the plant basket!

  13. Jennifer says:

    Can you tell me how you finished the shiplap or specifically
    what paint you used (color/sheen)?

  14. Any pointers on shiplap ceilings? Seems like a good solution to the popcorn ceiling painted by the prior owner. Ugh!

  15. Love it! I agree with you! “Shiplap” has been around forever! I’m glad you shared earlier photos. I’ve been a fan of planked walls since I was a small child and saw some in my aunt’s home. I think what some people are afraid of is like how the 70’s faux wood paneling was soooo popular and is now so undesirable. I think that the really fake stuff will always be a trend. But well done, well thought out design decisions revolving around plank walls will stand the test of time.
    Rachel recently posted..Make Room For What You LoveMy Profile

  16. I love your shiplap! We did some shiplapping in our guest bathroom, and I am totally smitten. :)

    I actually had a question that is unrelated to shiplap, but it is related to the color white (LOL)…we have white kitchen cabinets and we just had white quartz countertops installed (there are some gray flecks in the countertop). I am really struggling with what to do for a backsplash. I LOVE white subway tile, but I am wondering if you think that will be too much white-on-white-on-white? Should I be adventurous and do a pop of color? There are so many options. Let me know your thoughts!!

    P.S. Your post about “traps” was so timely. Thank you for inspiring us to love the homes that we have, and be thankful for how God has blessed our lives with SUCH abundance.

    • Thank you! I don’t think it would feel like too much white (of course, I can’t actually see your room), especially if you love it! But if you are uncertain, maybe try a few other options just to see what you like the most with the counters and surrounding space. I like to walk around the room and to and from other rooms to picture what I would be happy with. Have fun with your refreshed kitchen!
      Melissa recently posted..Bedroom Refresh ChallengeMy Profile

  17. It sounds like you have a problem with “Fixer-Upper”, why is that? Love your shiplap wall.

  18. Marilyn Lundberg says:

    I understand what you mean about Joanna Gaines and shiplap. She certainly didn’t invent and and she would be the first to admit that. She has just
    helped to make it very popular because so many viewers have fallen in love with the way she has used it in her designs. You truly have a talent for making a beautiful home. I am so enjoying watching you transform your current home.

  19. Jenni Jeffers says:

    Thank you for the courage to pursue doing the shiplap wall. I was extremely concerned about putting it up as well as dealing with the cost but was something that I have been wanting to do for over a year. I was still struggling with the cost as we had just bought this new house and had zero money, however I went on a search to Lowe’s to find a good wood product and found that bead board planks from Lowe’s, that were 10 planks for $10, when flipped over mimic the look of shiplap. They are already tounge and groove and fit in nicely and while they are not as wide as most shiplap, it is a very resource full and inexpensive way to decorate your wall. I’ve started a trend in my neighborhood with this discovery and it looks pretty good but would never have even had the courage to do this without your article!!!

  20. Hi! We are building a new home and my husband is concerned on how you trimmed out your doors. He wants a change in the trim and the shiplap so there’s some depth in the trim around the door. Did you have to fir out your doors?

  21. Do you think shiplap can end before the wall ends? We have a breakfast nook in a very open concept home so the nook runs into the kitchen but I’d rather just do the nook…. not sure if it’d look funny to stop it with some kind of end piece..
    Thanks!

  22. So a purely technical question. Do you still insulate and then face the wall with sheetrock and then apply the wood over that or does this just totally replace the sheetrock?

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