DIY Shiplap Walls
Recently, we got the wild hair to add some accents to the walls in some of our rooms. Although we picked the wall colors about 3 years ago when we built this house, we are just not loving the light blue we chose for the kitchen and master bath. Let me clarify, we actually do still like the color, but there is just too much of it. We had too many rooms done in that color, so we decided to change it up a bit.
We like to watch the HGTV show, Fixer Upper, and if you've ever seen it yourself, you are familiar with the term "shiplap." Chip and Joanna Gaines keep things surprisingly simple, yet never cease to wow with their finished product. Many of the homes they restore are from the turn of the twentieth century, so they have "bones" that more modern houses don't have. Often, they will tear into a wall, only to find shiplap buried inside. They pull the boards off, salvage them and end up using them as the main walls for a farmhouse look.
We like that look. We want that look.
Take a look at the video I made about this process below and keep reading the written article that follows for even more detail:
So, I set about trying to make a materials list to really tackle this project. One thing I didn’t want to do is remove trim in the rooms that would have the shiplap installed. These walls already have sheetrock, so that eliminated using actual tongue and groove boards for the shiplap as they would be too thick. They would not look right with the trim if installed on top of the sheetrock, in my opinion. We needed a material that was thinner, but would still give the effect that we were going for.
A few years ago, I had seen this done here and there, and people had used very thin plywood. That was always in the back of my mind, but when I saw Jenna Sue Design Co. do this, I knew it would work best for what we wanted. Jenna Sue Design Co. has a blog that I have followed for years, gleaning inspiration for different things. She put out a video a few months ago on her YouTube channel detailing exactly how she installed shiplap in her master bathroom using plywood.
Looked simple enough.
I calculated the number of full sheets I would need in order to cover the two kitchen window walls and all of the walls in our master bathroom. I believe that number was 8. Jenna Sue recommended keeping the strips to just under 8 inches, so 6 pieces could be cut from a full 4’x8’ sheet of plywood.
I went to Lowe’s to purchase all of the materials, and have them cut the strips on their large panel saw. They don’t charge for this, and once setup, it would make quick work of these cuts. I get all of my plywood loaded onto the cart, go to the back where they keep the saw only to find a sign on it that says, “Out of Order.” Well, that’s a bummer. I might have gone to Home Depot (even though it is much further from my house) if I had known that before loading up the cart. I have the tools at home in my shop to make all of the cuts, but it would take me much longer to do that at home than it would them in the store.
Below are the tools and materials I used for this project: (Affiliate links)
- 18 gauge brad gun
- Air compressor
- Purdy paint brush
- Table saw
- Stud finder
- 1 1/4" 18 ga brad nails
- Flush cut saw
Let’s move the conversation over to paint for just a few moments. Since we went with an off-white color for our trim, Sherwin Williams’ “Creamy,” we didn’t want to go with our original idea of just pure white for the shiplap. We felt like this would not be enough contrast at all, and it would end up looking like we tried to match the colors and just missed. Our next thought was a very, very light gray, since we are both very partial to that color, and since it could make the room look large and open, having some subtle contrast with the existing trim.
We settled on "Tempered Gray" by Valspar, a shade or two lighter than another gray that we used on some walls upstairs and really liked.
Initially, I thought this could all be done in a weekend. Yes, the entire master bathroom and half of the kitchen. Seriously. What was I thinking? It ended up taking A LOT longer than that. Even just cutting all of the plywood into strips took me couple of hours total.
I started in the bathroom. I didn’t have a way to bring the miter saw closer to the master bathroom (it was the furthest away from the shop as any point in the house), and I really didn’t want to go through the trouble of taking it around to the back porch. Therefore, I walked a lot. A lot. I was going to try to make multiple cuts at once, but soon found out that they would not fit and I would have to walk back to cut it again. I realized that I could only measure one, go out and cut it, come back in and then install.
1. Mark the studs on the existing walls. This will make it easier when you go to install the shiplap later.
2. Measure the size for the strips, and cut to fit, starting at the bottom of a wall, working up.
3. Sand the edges of your boards. I tried multiple methods, but it seemed to work best for me to hand sand with loose sandpaper on this particular material. When I used the orbital sander, it seemed to make the edges kind of fuzzy.
4. Install using an 18ga brad nail gun and 1 1/4 inch nails, trying to hit a stud as often as possible. If there is still some sag in between the studs, shoot in another couple of brad nails. This will draw it up to the wall and make it feel more sturdy. You’re not actually hitting anything with the brad nails except drywall, so if you put the nails in at an angle, they seem to grab a little better.
5. Use a couple of nickels as spacers in between the different rows of shiplap. Don’t put the plywood on the nickels too firmly though or you will have a hard time getting the nickels to come out. Trust me.
6. As you finish a row, have a paint bucket ready and paint the top of the previously installed row of shiplap and the nickel’s width of wall above it. This will save you time in the end once you go back and start painting it all. I tried it both ways, painting as I go and leaving it for the end, but painting as I went seemed to work the best for achieving the look I wanted. When I waited until the end, paint tended to get clogged in the gap, since it was so small. You don’t want this, because that shadow line is part of what makes this look so awesome. Also, I found it useful (as I did the kitchen later, having learned this lesson) to also paint next to the existing trim just a bit before you installed the shiplap. That way, if your shiplap didn’t meet perfectly to the trim (it hardly ever did…the trim varied a good bit, which was why I had to do so much walking and so many individual cuts), underneath would already be the finished color, and it would not stand out.
7. Keep going around the room until you have it all filled in.
There were a few places that I did have to cut around sockets or door frames. I used my bandsaw for most of that, but you could easily use a jigsaw. I chose to take a little extra time to cut partial pieces around a door frame or other things, because it left the shiplap pieces more whole, and I thought that looked better where possible. Also, if you have some large, wide-open walls, try to stagger where the seams will be. This will look nicer. There was one large wall in our master bathroom that I didn’t do this, and I still don’t like how the seam in that spot is the same across two heights of shiplap. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but trust me, stagger them.
Things I Learned
A Little Extra Paint Goes A Long Way
While doing the bathroom, the painting and touch-up took a lot longer than the kitchen. I learned that if I would paint about half an inch beside all of the existing trim, it would be a lot easier when I installed the boards. I would not have to try to get paint down beside the pieces, without getting any on the trim. Plus, if some of them were a hair short, it would not really show, since the wall underneath was the same color as the shiplap boards.
Straighten Your Sockets
If you use this method, you should not really have trouble putting socket covers back on. I did have one light switch that was a little deeper inset than the others, and it looked bad. I just took the cover back off and put some small wood shims under the switch housing to make it come forward a bit more. After that, the cover fits great!
Two Coats, No Matter What
No matter what paint companies tell you about the coverage of your particular paint, plan on doing at least two coats. I have painted a lot over the years and you can buy the $45/gal Valspar Reserve that has primer and paint all in one, claiming that you can get coverage with just one coat, or the cheaper Promar 2000 (which is the Valspar that I used) for about $22/gal, and you will still need to do two coats. I have tried this with at least four different brands and I have never achieved one-coat coverage.
Let me know what you think of this project, and I'd love to see if you put some shiplap on your own walls!