How to get the perfect shiplap finish on your walls

Shiplap walls are a fantastic option if you want to add a touch of coastal charm or modern farmhouse flair to your home. As a long-time woodworker and DIYer in Chicago, I’m always looking for unique and eco-friendly ways to liven up living spaces. And let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like the rustic elegance of beautifully installed shiplap.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to DIY the perfect shiplap finish, from understanding the ins and outs of the material to step-by-step installation. Along the way, I’ll share some of my best tips and tricks for maximizing your shiplap walls’ visual impact and longevity. So batten down the hatches and prepare to set sail towards shiplap success!

Understanding Shiplap

Before we get into the installation details, let’s quickly cover the basics of this charming wall covering.

How to get the perfect shiplap finish on your walls

What Is Shiplap?

Shiplap refers to horizontal wooden boards with a channel on the edges of the top and bottom. This allows the panels to overlap slightly, creating a flush, even surface. The result is walls that look like the inside of an old barn or beach house.

Shiplap boards are commonly made from pine, but spruce and cedar are popular options. The wood can be sold pre-milled with the grooved edges, or you can create a DIY shiplap using simple boards and a router.

Rustic vs. Modern Styles

One of the things I love about shiplap is its versatility. While it has traditionally been used to add a rustic, country-style look to homes, shiplap has recently surged in popularity thanks to its clean, modern farmhouse aesthetic.

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Rustic shiplap typically uses rough-hewn boards, often made from reclaimed wood like old barn siding. This adds to the laidback, weathered look.

Modern shiplap is more refined, typically using smoother boards stained or painted in crisp, bright colors. This allows it to fit into contemporary spaces seamlessly.

Shiplap A Simple Way to Add Character to Your Home

Advantages of Shiplap Walls

Some of the many benefits of using shiplap for your walls:

  • Visual appeal: The overlapping boards create an eye-catching texture and dimension.
  • Customization: It can be painted or stained to match any color scheme.
  • Versatile installation: Works well horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally.
  • Durability: Solid wood stands up better to wear and tear than drywall.
  • Easy maintenance: It just needs occasional dusting and wiping down.
  • Enhanced acoustics: The wood helps absorb echo and ambient noise.
  • Increased home value: Shiplap adds character that homebuyers love.

Pre-Installation Tips

Careful planning and preparation are critical to a smooth shiplap installation. Keep these tips in mind:

Choose Your Room Wisely

Shiplap can work in just about any room, but I find it looks especially stellar in:

  • Living spaces like family rooms where you want a cozy vibe.
  • Kitchens and dining areas to infuse warmth.
  • Bathrooms for a spa-like look.
  • Accent walls in bedrooms for visual interest.

Calculate How Much Shiplap You Need

Measure the space and use an online calculator to determine the square footage. Then, buy 10-15% more for mistakes and waste.

Assess Your Walls

Ensure surfaces are flat, stable, and moisture-resistant. Shiplap should only be installed over drywall or plywood. Concrete or plaster walls will require additional preparation.

Pick Horizontal vs. Vertical

Horizontal shiplap has a coastal feel, while vertical boards create a more modern statement. Mixing directions can also be striking.

Set a Budget

Material and labor costs vary but expect to spend $10-$30 per square foot for a professional shiplap installation. Doing it yourself cuts costs

The benefits of shiplap

Step-by-Step DIY Shiplap Instructions

Now, let’s get down to the fun part – installing your shiplap! Here’s an in-depth, step-by-step guide:

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Tools & Supplies Needed

Gather these essentials before getting started:

  • Shiplap boards
  • Finish nails or wood screws
  • Hammer or drill/driver
  • Level
  • Stud finder
  • Tape measure and pencil
  • Jigsaw or miter saw
  • Wood filler
  • Primer
  • Paint brushes and polyurethane

Prep the Wall

  1. Remove any existing wall decor or outlets.
  2. Clean thoroughly and fill any holes with spackle.
  3. Prime walls to ensure shiplap adhesive binds appropriately.

Cut Shiplap to Size

  1. Measure wall dimensions and mark board cutting lines.
  2. Clamp boards securely to a work surface.
  3. Use a circular, jigsaw, or miter saw to cut boards to size.
  4. Test fit boards before permanent installation.
accessorize your shiplap wall

Install the Starter Board

  1. Mark a level line where the first board will go using a chalk line.
  2. Apply adhesive to the back of the board.
  3. Attach the starter board and check its level.
  4. Pre-drill and nail/screw every 16 inches along the studs.

Add the Remaining Boards

  1. Apply adhesive to the back of each board.
  2. Push boards flush together, overlapping tongues and grooves.
  3. Nail/screw each board every 16 inches along the studs.
  4. Use shims if any boards aren’t sitting level or flat.
  5. Continue checking levelness as you move up the wall.

Fill Gaps & Finish

  1. Inspect for any gaps and fill with wood filler. Allow to dry completely.
  2. Sand boards until smooth. Vacuum dust.
  3. Apply primer and desired paint or stain finish.
  4. Protect with three coats of satin polyurethane for durability.
  5. Caulk along the top and bottom edges for a polished look.

And there you have it – gorgeous, quality shiplap walls to enjoy for years! The improvement they’ll make to your home is well worth the effort.

How to Install Shiplap and Give Your Home a Fresh Look

Maintaining Your Shiplap

Like any wood surface, shiplap requires proper care and maintenance to look its best. Here are my top tips:

  • Dust frequently using a dry microfiber cloth or soft brush.
  • Spot clean as needed with a damp rag and mild soap.
  • Reapply protective finish every 2-3 years or as required.
  • Avoid excessive moisture and repair any leaks immediately.
  • Inspect for damage annually and re-caulk areas as needed.
  • Refinish walls if the surfaces become worn or discolored over time.
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You’ll be impressed by how well shiplap wears with the proper care. The natural patina it develops only adds to its rustic good looks!

Fixing Common Shiplap Issues

Like with any DIY project, you might encounter a few bumps in the road. Here are some quick fixes:

Uneven boards: Use shims during installation to level any boards that aren’t flush.

Gaps between boards: Fill small cracks with caulk or wood filler before finishing.

Split boards: Carefully replace damaged boards using the initial installation steps.

Improper nailing: Re-secure any loose boards with additional nails or screws in studs.

Discolored finish: Lightly sand and apply new primer, paint, or stain coats.

Warping: Remove warped boards and replace them. Allow proper expansion space.

Moisture damage: Address moisture sources, let boards fully dry, sand, and refinish.

With a little extra TLC, you can keep your shiplap-looking shipshape.

How to finish your shiplap walls like a pro

Final Thoughts

As you can see, installing shiplap walls is a gratifying DIY project with the proper planning and skills. It will add beautiful dimension and texture to your home and increase its functionality and value.

This guide will give you the confidence to achieve the perfect coastal-inspired shiplap finish. Remember to have fun with it! Choosing playful paint colors or unconventional arrangements is a great way to showcase your unique style.

Overlapping horizontal boards have graced homes for centuries, bringing comfort and elegance. Now it’s your turn to continue the tradition and set sail on your shiplap adventure. Let me know how it turns out – I’d love to see photos of your finished product!