White Farmhouse

January 15, 2020

diy shiplap do's and don'ts

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Do you have shiplap in your home? Do you want to install shiplap in your home? While some designers are saying shiplap is on it's way out, there are lots of us who would disagree. Shiplap has been around for over a century and there are reasons that we still love it's applications in our homes!


Do's and Don'ts of shiplap

There are hundreds of ship lap tutorials out there so this isn’t a full tutorial on on installing shiplap. Rather, we want to share some of the biggest tips we have learned along the way from personally installing it.

Shiplap back entrance


  • Consider the height of your ceilings when deciding the width of your planks.
  • Paint in between the planks as you are installing (seriously cannot stress this enough!)
  • Consider the material for the space it is being installed in.


  • Don't think shiplap will be a quick install if you are doing it by yourself for the first time.
  • Install shiplap in one tiny area of your home without trying to incorporate into other spaces as well. 

Consider this? 

Before you take the leap into the world of shiplap consider a few things! 

What do you have for baseboards and trim?
Is it better to start at the ceiling or floor with the shiplap?
Are you prepared to have to fix the holes in the wall when you are ready to remove the shiplap (because one day it will probably happen!)

DIY home office
Types of ShipLap

Even over the last year the variety of shiplap that has become available is so much greater than when we started a few years ago.


 The first room Britt shiplapped was her master bedroom. She had a local carpenter take 1” x 10” pine planks and plane them down until they were 3/8” thick. These planks did not have the routered edges but were just plain flat planks. The pine planks warped and bowed and if Britt didn’t have a headboard covering the majority of the planks she would be taking them down. Also the gaps between the boards is almost 1” in some places and there are no gap at other places. While these boards look okay it wasn’t the authentic feel she was going for.

Pine Boards
Milled Shiplap Planks

For Britt's next project she found another local carpenter that was able to mill out the traditional edges of ship lap. This carpenter started with 1” x 10” boards and planed them down to 3/8” thick but he also added the mitered edges. The mitered edges allowed the planks to slightly overlap and the finish looks like traditional shiplap that you would find in old homes. 

Deb added milled shiplap into her studio office and both her bathrooms. For her office space, her carpenter used 1"x 12" boards and metered the edges. This left a 10" profile when looking at the shiplap which was a beautiful size for this space. She also had custom shiplap wainscotting made for this room. For that, she had her carpenter mill 1" x 6" boards in half and then add a mitered edge. This left a profile of approx 2.5" which was displayed vertically below the horizontal 10" shiplap above. It looks amazing!

Milled Shiplap
MDF Shiplap

MDF products are becoming more popular because of their lower price point. This kind of shiplap is now easily accessible and comes primed and sometimes painted which is a nice add on. For a modern design or if you are working with a tighter budget this can be a great option. However, MDF shiplap lacks the character that a real wood product has. MDF is smooth and you are often limited to the width of planks available. 

 Also another major downside to MDF shiplap is water resistance. We would hesitate putting this product anywhere where there is high traffic or water may be present. This is MDF shiplap is installed in a bathroom and they will need to be very careful about how it is treated. 

Pre Made Pine Shiplap

A new product that we have been able to find in the last year is the traditional look of shiplap in pine and spruce wood. These planks are now available at most hardware stores and come in a 5 1/2" plank or a 8" wide and 1/2" thick. Deb installed these in her bathroom and they look great! 

We believe you are limited to these widths available at this time. 


OUr favorite shiplap

Overall we would recommend using a spruce or pine plank over MDF or ripped down plywood if it fits in your budget. Britt chose to custom make shiplap planks so that she didn't have to remove her baseboards and trim. Britt also loves the wider planks. Wider planks are more traditionally what you would find in an old home. Britt has 10 foot ceilings so the wider planks don't look as busy as a narrower plank would. The downside is that she relies on 1 person to make all of her shiplap. 

Deb's attic is one of her favourite spaces in her home and she used two sizes of shiplap! Check out more on her attic renovation here

Simple Home Style

Deb is loving the new spruce 8" wide planks that are available and they are authentic to her home that was built in 1904.  Although she has multiple widths in her attic, 8" for the small vertical knee wall and 5" on the slanted/vaulted ceiling. She loves mixing the sizes as it gives the space a bit more personality!

How To Pick ShipLap for your home

So when deciding what kind of ship lap you are going to install consider these points…
  1. What is your budget?
  2. How long do you plan to be in your home?

We are both in our forever homes and have no plans of ever moving. For us it is worth spending a bit more and getting a better finished product. However, if you are looking for a quick update to add some character to your home using MDF or ripped down will also do the trick.

How to decide the width your planks should be?

Consider the height of your ceilings! Britt has 10 foot ceilings and felt like doing narrow planks would create a look that was too busy. Britt wanted something that had a more classic clean look so she chose to source out wider planks that are 10” wide.

Deb has used a combination of 6” and 10” wide planks in her home and they look awesome because she has a home without an open layout concept. Deb also has narrower planks on her floors which brings us to our next point to consider.

What is your flooring?

Using shiplap planks that are the same width as your floor planks can look awkward, you need to create a contrast between the width of your flooring vs. the width of your shiplap. Another option would be to install skinny lap! Skinny lap are planks that are approximately 2”-3” wide. While we do not recommend doing a whole room with this wide of planks, using skinny lap on a feature wall can give your room texture and character! Skinny lap also looks great leaving the planks raw wood or painting them a darker colour.

check out some other shiplap ideas for you home here
Skinny Lap

Looking for an alternative to shiplap? Check out this unique modern wood feature wall from Joyfully Growing!

Our most important tip

The most important step for having a beautiful end project is to PAINT as you go! Pre paint all of the edges before they go up on the wall! Then once the board is nailed to the wall paint that edge again before the next board goes up. While this seems like a lot of extra work while you are doing it it will save you time when it comes to painting! And have you ever tried to paint a small crack? The paint drips out, you ruin paint brushes trying to cram the paint in and it will never look even.

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