5 Things You Should Know Before You Use Shiplap In Your Home

The nitty-gritty on Joanna Gaines' go-to accent.

Open Kitchen with Shiplap Walls
Tailored shiplap walls made of paint-grade wood contrast with the rough-hewn floors and ceiling. The wall's subtle hue (Lambswool by Pratt & Lambert) keeps the space feeling both casual and antique. Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Shiplap is having a moment. It's a go-to accent beloved by some of our favorite designers (Fixer Upper, anyone?), and its popularity is undeniable. Whether it's raw and rustic or painted and polished, using shiplap is an easy way to add interest to an interior wall. However, shiplap didn't get its start inside. Shiplap is a feature that comes to us from the design traditions of homes in harsh climates. It was often used on the exteriors of homes in forest or coastal settings characterized by challenging weather.

Shiplap can stand up to most anything, and now it can be found everywhere. It's been adopted and adapted in homes across the country—and on television, of course. You're sure to notice some shiplap-accented walls if you turn on any of your favorite design or home renovation shows. You may be inspired to follow suit.

If you want to use shiplap in your home, there are five important things to keep in mind.

What Is Shiplap?

It's important to know how to identify shiplap. While shiplap may look like plain, run-of-the mill wood panels, that's not the whole story. If you nail plain wooden boards to a wall and call it shiplap, that's not quite accurate. There are long wooden boards involved, but genuine shiplap actually has overlapping grooves that fit together to make the design weather-tight.

You can identify shiplap by the overlapping "rabbets," or grooves, in each board. It's a design feature that gives the panels their tight spacing and sturdy, weather-resistant characteristics. These grooves also ensure that you get the telltale thin stripes in between each board—a feature beloved by homeowners seeking to use shiplap in their spaces.

What's the Downside?

Because of the tight-fitting design, repairing damage can be difficult. Any extreme damage to panels will necessitate removing the full panel and replacing it, though this is a concern for exterior siding use more so than for interior use.

Cleaning shiplap can also present a challenge. The gaps between the boards collect dust, so you will have to use a microfiber cloth or the brush attachment on your vacuum to clean them regularly.

Can You Paint It?

Another top tip regarding shiplap? You can paint it. Painting shiplap opens up a treasure trove of design possibilities. White shiplap walls will always be a classic, but what about green? Or beige? The color wheel is the limit. Shiplap does need to be painted a little differently than regular walls. You need to apply thinner coats of paint so you don't fill in the gaps between the boards.

How Can You Design With Shiplap?

While it's classic and subtle and charming by nature, shiplap is nothing if not versatile. It has a lot of design possibilities. It also looks great in modern and contemporary spaces. Though consensus says that horizontal is the way to go, you're also welcome to experiment with vertical or diagonal configurations. See? As versatile as can be.

If a room full of shiplap overwhelms you, it doesn't need to be on every wall. Try it on an accent wall, as wainscoting, or inside a built-in bookshelf. It's also good for covering what you don't like about a room, like a paint color gone wrong, hard-to-remove wallpaper, popcorn ceilings, or cosmetic eyesores. Don't use it to cover structural damage though, as that will just cause problems down the road.

Can You Use Alternatives?

While shiplap itself is a distinct design feature, you can also find other, non-grooved strategies (like planks and panels) to achieve the same look. Though if you fake it, you'll have to find another term for it because without the grooves, it's not proper, honest-to-goodness shiplap.

Shiplap will be what you make of it—and it couldn't be easier to make it vibrant, inviting, and a perfectly customizable accent for your space.

Are you a fan of shiplap? This design feature has more than a few devotees in the Southern Living audience, and we think it's a lovely way to brighten up a room.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is shiplap more expensive than drywall?

    By comparison, shiplap is twice as expensive as drywall. Faux shiplap, such as plywood, is less costly. 

  • What do you need to know before installing shiplap?

    Shiplap does not insulate a room as efficiently without drywall installed behind it. Additionally, shiplap may create an echo if installed improperly. It can be costly and time-consuming if you need to replace a part of the wall to make it more visually appealing. Shiplap also attracts dust.

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