Shiplap has become a popular interior design feature over the last several years after seeing it used in the show Fixer Upper by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Installing shiplap in your home is much easier than you might think! This tutorial will show you how to get the classic shiplap look using plywood on the cheap.
I love adding shiplap to rooms as an easy way to incorporate texture and interest and elevate the space. It gives it just enough detailing to feel special without looking too busy.
Shiplap paneling actually got its name because the horizontal planks were originally used to construct boats. It was so great at keeping water out they began using it on exterior sheathing of homes. You’ll often find original shiplap planks in historic homes that are renovated and can be salvaged and reused indoors for added character.
But, if you aren’t so lucky to find shiplap in your home during a renovation, there are ways to DIY it.
When I was researching shiplap and what to get I realized there were lots of different options available to buy. There’s the pre-cut shiplap boards which can be quite costly, there’s tongue and groove that lock in together, and then there’s plywood shiplap.
Pre-Cut Shiplap Boards
The pre-cut shiplap is quite expensive if you’re doing a large wall and can be hard to find in stock in your local hardware store. One board alone of primed MDF can cost you over $5 and up for a single 8’ long board. This adds up fast!
Tongue and Groove
This shiplap connects together leaving a gap to create the shiplap look. Again, it gets really expensive and can go anywhere from $8 to $14 per board! Because they are pre-cut you can’t customize the sizes based on your project needs.
Plywood is sold in large 4×8 sheets and just requires the work to cut it down into the board size you need. You can get a whole sheet of plywood for around $30 and get 6-8 shiplap boards out of it. With a little extra labor, you can save a lot of money!
When you go to your local hardware store you’ll notice there are a few different plywood options. Make sure to get AC plywood or sanded plywood (which is pre-sanded on one side) and avoid the cheapest variety of plywood which is usually not sanded on either side. You want a smooth finish if you will be painting.
The plywood thickness is up to you based on your preference and project needs. They sell ¾” or ¼” thick.
Where do you buy shiplap wall planks?
Shiplap is sold at most hardware stores including Menards, Home Depot and Lowes. Personally, I prefer Home Depot or Lowes because they will cut plywood down into shiplap planks for you at no charge! This is great if you don’t have a table saw or if you want to save time. Just remember to measure ahead of time what size boards you need.
One thing worth noting is if you plan on using shiplap in a bathroom with a shower or tub creating moisture, you may want to consider using an MDF shiplap that will resist mold and warping better than a wood product.
How to Install Plywood Shiplap on the Cheap
Our kitchen island was the perfect spot to incorporate shiplap. During our kitchen remodel we had a custom island made. We wanted to do the trim detail ourselves and I thought the back side would look great with shiplap. It would give it some dimension and be easy enough for us to install ourselves.
Related post from our kitchen remodel: Everything You Need to Know Before Choosing White Quartz Countertops
We went with the cheaper route and purchased a 4×8 sheet of sanded plywood.
Start by priming your surface so no unwanted backing could potentially show through the shiplap plank cracks. We used a quick coat of white primer and called it good.
Next you need to measure and figure what size of planks will fit your space. Typically, shiplap boards can range from 5-8” wide. I wanted to make sure we had full size planks on our island and that the last board wouldn’t be cut short due to measuring. We figured out what size of planks and how many would fit perfectly on the back of our island, but it would be different depending on your project. Our planks ended up being 5.5” wide and we have a total of 6 planks.
Using a miter saw, we ripped down the plywood sheet into planks 5.5” wide. Remember, Home Depot will cut yours for free if you don’t have a miter saw!
We sanded each plank after cutting so they had clean edges. Because we used sanded plywood it didn’t take much to sand over the cut edges with a light grit.
Starting at the bottom, we measured the length for the first plank. Cut the plank down to size. Leveling the very first plank is key so that all the other planks are level. You may want a helper to help you hold the level and the plank to ensure it’s perfect before nailing it down.
If you’re doing long planks along an entire wall that are over 8’, you might want a longer level or a chalk line to ensure the entire plank is level the whole way and not angled. If the first plank isn’t level, none of the planks after that will be level. Take the time and make sure your first plank is completely level and it will make your job much easier as you go.
We used an 18 gauge brad nailer to secure it which are small and it goes much faster than pounding in nails with a hammer. If you don’t have a brad nailer, a hammer and nail will work just fine, it will take a bit more time 🙂
We measured each plank length as we went to make sure they were the exact size and nailed each board after making sure it’s level. A typical gap between shiplap planks is about the size of a nickel or ⅛” We slid a few nickels between each board as we went to keep the gap consistent.
Once you finish nailing all your planks, it’s time to fill holes. This part isn’t fun but it’s necessary and makes the overall look so much more professional! I used spackle and my finger and fill each hole. Once it’s dry after a couple hours, sand it smooth with a light grit.
Now you are ready for paint! I used a roller and primed and painted our newly installed plywood shiplap. You may need to use a brush to get into every little gap between each plank. It takes a bit more time to make sure the paint gets in each crack but it will be noticeable if it does not.
Making your own shiplap wall is pretty simple and quick and I absolutely love the extra detail it adds! It’s such a cheap way to elevate your home. For under $40 we added a cool feature to the back of our island!
You can add shiplap to literally any room in your home. From your headboard wall in a bedroom to a bathroom to a living room, DIY plywood shiplap will add so much character. If you’re looking for even more wood accent ideas, here are 5 different types of wainscoting styles and where to use them.