How To Install Shiplap -The Secrets To Create Beautiful Walls With Shiplap

Avoid these 10 common mistakes when installing faux shiplap

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1. Follow the correct order of operations

Install your faux shiplap before anything else in the room – meaning baseboard, crown, and trim. Unfortunately I made the mistake of installing my trim before my shiplap, so I had to notch my shiplap pieces with a jigsaw to make them fit around my windows and doors.

What a pain! This added a lot of time to my project…so avoid this if at all possible!

If you don’t want to rip out all your trim or baseboards before installing shiplap, it’s definitely doable, but will require a bit more patience and finesse.

Start your shiplap above your baseboards. If you have trim, very carefully notch out your shiplap with a saw and use wood filler/caulk to fill in the remaining gaps. No one will even notice from a distance!

2. Make sure your store rips your pieces to the correct width

The big box stores will rip your plywood pieces to 6 or 8 inches so they can be used as faux shiplap. However, sometimes they charge 25 cents/cut and when I got home I realized they ripped some of my pieces incorrectly.

While some strips were a perfect 6 inches, others were ripped to 5-3/4″ instead. That’s a huge difference. Others were off by 1/8″, so the cuts were all over the place.

My advice would be to bring a measuring tape with you to the store and double check their work. Once you’re moving along with the installation process, you’re not going to want to return to the store.

3. Remember to grab outlet box extenders!

Since shiplap adds bulk to your wall, you’ll want to extend the depth of your outlets with outlet box extenders so they remain flush with the wall.

These little blue boxes are super easy to install (just remember to turn off the power supply on your home’s electrical box beforehand). I forgot to buy them in advance and had to run back to the store in the middle of my work…not a big deal, but it did cost me about half a day’s worth of time.

4. Use Tile Spacers instead of Pennies

A lot of shiplap tutorials recommend using pennies as spacers between your boards of 1/4-inch plywood. I found pennies to be small and flimsy. They tend to fall out while you’re trying to hold your piece in place. My mom and I had a few laughs over that…in the beginning anyway. I ended up eye-balling a lot of my spacing in lieu of the “penny method” because it was too inconsistent.

My advice: use something a bit more bulky — tile spacers, actual tile samples, popsicle sticks or nickels!

credit: (left), rambling r
credit: (left), rambling (right)

5. Avoid Spreading Too Much Wood Filler Between Adjacent Boards

A little bit goes a long way. In fact, a lot of people don’t put any wood filler between adjacent boards and that looks pretty nice too. If you end up using too much wood filler you’ll know right away because it will look all clumpy when dry. Simply scrape off the excess with a putty knife.

6. Sand your boards very, very well

Hands down this was the biggest mistake I made. Lowe’s basically shredded my boards, leaving the ends all splintery even after we sanded them with a rough sanding block. A cursory sanding just wasn’t enough. As a result, I was left with boards looking like this:

*quietly sobbing in the corner*
*quietly sobbing in the corner*

The good news is that there’s usually a “good” side and a “bad” side to your plywood. Figure out which side has the cleaner edges and make sure it’s the one facing outward. Also, thoroughly sand your boards to remove every last splinter.

👉 Pro Tip: if you’re ripping the boards yourself on a table saw, place painter’s tape along your cut line. This step will significantly reduce tear out and splintering.

7. Make sure your ceiling boards are level and that your corners line up

I was very careful to ensure the boards along my ceiling were level (rather than flush with the ceiling), because ceilings are rarely level.

I did have to go back and rip down 6 boards, however, when I realized the boards in my corner weren’t lined up correctly:

Luckily the planks can be pulled back off fairly easily; once your board is off the wall, take a hammer and tap the nail back through the board to remove it. It’s a tedious but fixable problem.

8. Paint between your boards as you’re installing them

I highly recommend painting the top and bottom edges of your plywood as you’re installing them in order to avoid dark gaps between your boards. Yes you can go back and paint them later, but you’ll be a tad more limited on space and you’ll probably destroy your paintbrush from repeatedly pushing the tip into a narrow space.

9. Don’t apply adhesive to the back of your boards

Chances are, if you’re accident prone like me, you’ll make a small mistake somewhere along the line and need to pull the shiplap off the wall. Luckily, because the plywood is so thin, this is easy to do even if you’ve already nailed it to the wall. If you use an adhesive like Liquid Nails you’re going to have a harder time pulling it off. Also, you run the risk of ripping off layers of drywall. If you decide at a later date to remove the shiplap all together it won’t be a big deal.


8. Caulk and putty

After attaching the shiplap, clean your work area and put the power tools away. It’s time for the more tedious job of caulking the seams along the baseboard and the shiplap edges for a finished and professional look. You can also caulk around any windows, outlets or other unique features in your space.

After caulking, putty all of the nail holes on the shiplap. This hides indentations from the nail gun and ensures that the panels look smooth after you paint.

Finishing Our Shiplap Wall Project

  • Once all your boards are up and your trim is in place all you have left are the finishing touches.
  • We used vinyl spackling to cover nail heads. You could probably use different types of things for this, but this is what we had and it worked.
  • We also used this vinyl spackling to fill in between boards where the seams were a little too far apart. This worked well.  After it was dry, we came back and lightly sanded.
  • The final step was to come back with the touch up paint and cover any marks, nails, or any marks left by sanding or spackle.  Timeline Wood sells touch up paint in small 8 oz. cans. We highly recommend getting a can of this for your project. You will want it and use it.

Nail Gun Operation: Tips I Learned

  • Position the nail gun exactly where you want it and then hold it with just one hand.
  • Use your other hand to hold the back of the nail gun firmly in place so that it doesn’t move or bounce back when firing the gun.
  • Be sure not to cover the air vents because the gun relies on air to power the gun so spread your fingers and leave plenty of room for air to flow while doing this.

2. Prime the boards and walls

It’s important to paint the wall white before installing the shiplap so you don’t have to paint the seams afterward. You can also prime the plywood strips, which will save you time down the road.

I didn’t do that here, but it may help you with your particular shiplap project. I also had a white wall already, so I skipped this step entirely.

Square Plank Rounded Corner

Planked wood is straight and flat, this can create a real problem when ending on a corner that is rounded. What I decided to do was cut my shiplap slats a little longer than the end of my rounded corner wall. I cut them just far enough out that they were level with the wall as you went through the doorway. This left an odd little gap where the wall began to turn into the rounded corner. Through the years as a homeowner I have learned ho

Through the years as a homeowner I have learned how to patch holes in both drywall & wood pretty seamlessly.

2. How To Shiplap Around Existing Baseboards

  • Remove the baseboards, install your shiplap, reinstall your baseboards, or
  • Keep your baseboards, and install shiplap boards that are equal to or have a shallower depth. This way, your shiplap can rest atop your baseboards and won’t stick out.
  • Use whatever shiplap you want and ignore differences in depth where the planks meet the baseboard.

Baseboards for Shiplap

Baseboard choice depends on what type of shiplap you use. If you use a thicker shiplap, you will need a thicker baseboard.

In my kid’s bathroom, we removed the old baseboard and replaced it with 1 x 4’s to create a modern look.

For a traditional look, consider adding a thicker

For a traditional look, consider adding a thicker baseboard with more details.

In my bathroom, we used thin luan for the shiplap, so we were able to keep the old baseboards.


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