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How to add a beautiful DIY shiplap wall for way less money!
Shiplap walls look lovely in both modern contemporary homes and those that have a more traditional farmhouse style — they are so versatile!
True shiplap is made with tongue and grooves and is more expensive than I like to spend. I’ve found a way to create these wood plank walls with a MUCH less expensive wood option.
I’m sharing this easy shiplap tutorial and more examples of this planked wall look here!
This is the same shiplap look made with thicker tongue and groove boards, but for waaaaay less.
It’s funny that this look is called shiplap now — it has been around forever but many of us called it planked walls for years.
I’ve planked the walls around our homes in a few different ways, and this method is by far the cheapest and easiest to install.
Here’s a look right after installation:
I love it!
Now REAL shiplap is not cheap:
This is 12 feet so in terms of trim or wood, that price isn’t too bad.
But that wall above would have at least $150 and it only cost about $65 to do that huge wall with my method.
Real ship lap is thick and has tongues and grooves that “lock” them together:
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Instead I use wood underlayment, or luan, to create my shiplap accent walls.
It comes in 4×8 foot sheets so you’ll get WAY more by cutting them down, opposed to buying them individually.
Also, this stuff is so thin, it’s just less expensive overall:
You can see here that luan has a bit of a wood grain look that looks great when painted.
You can also find thin plywood sheets with a stainable wood surface if you want the look of true wood grain. (See my examples below for one that uses that option.)
I love that it is very thin and lightweight — it is really easy to work with.
Step 1: Prep and cut down the luan sheets to create your shiplap.
You’ll need a table or circular saw to cut down the long lengths if you do it at home.
Thankfully the big box stores have large saws that will cut these with ease.
Most hardware stores will cut these large sheets into strips for you — as long as they aren’t too narrow.
Some stores have added a small fee to do numerous cuts, but it’s worth it to me!
You will also need a hand or miter saw to cut down the boards to the lengths you need. I find if I cut them to around 5 3/4″ width, I can get get a full eight strips out of each board.
You’ll want to do a quick sanding down the side of each board to eliminate any splinters from the saw.
The face of the wood is smooth and does not need sanding before paint.
Step 2: Prep and paint the wall behind your shiplap
That’s our closet turned book nook, one of my favorite spots in our house!
Then paint the wall you’ll be covering the color (or a similar color) of the planks.
Step 3: Install your strips of shiplap
I usually start my shiplap at the top, so I can hide any shorter pieces behind the baseboards.
When I install my boards I use a level to make sure each one is straight, but the first board is the most important!
Make sure that first one is perfectly level. After that use the level and adjust certain areas as needed.
For spacing I usually use a coin:
You can use anything as your spacer in between the boards — this helps to keep them all consistent.
I find a penny, quarter or nickel give the perfect amount of spacing!
I use a nail gun to attach shiplap to the wall. I do not recommend using any kind of adhesive unless you are positive you will never take them down.
You’ll be left with a mess if you do!
Here’s another tip — if you have a long expanse to cover, I suggest cutting some pieces at the length of the studs.
I marked on the wall where the studs were with painter’s tape and then cut numerous pieces to each length needed.
Use a stud finder to locate and mark your studs before starting!
I created a very simple pattern based on the studs and kept it consistent — one long piece, one cut about in half (at the stud) and then would rotate from left to right with a long piece/short one on the next row.
I repeated that pattern all the way down:
Cutting your wood will usually make it go further — if you install full lengths you’ll often end up with a lot of scrap that will go unused.
I find cutting them to hit at studs allows me to use almost every bit of the luan.
If the end of your cut is not at a stud then the wood may not hold flat against the wall. Again, this stuff is pretty thin so that’s not a huge problem.
You will need to cut out your boards to fit around outlets and light switches.
To do that, measure where the hole for the outlet is, then measure or trace the size onto the luan with a pencil.
Your boards should be placed behind the outlet or switch mounting bracket, against the wall. Not in front — you won’t be able to remove the outlet later if you cover the screw and/or bracket.
Step 4: The finishing touches
Add wood filler in the nail holes (sometimes I leave them without because I don’t mind the look) and let dry.
Then roll on a few coats of paint to finish it off:
I later added a couple of smaller trim pieces up on top to finish off the wall as well.
I love this look and it’s become extremely popular over the years because of Joanna Gaines and her Fixer Upper television show!
Do you see my cute little addition down at the bottom?
If there is anything I didn’t cover that you have questions about please let me know!
Overall this is a simple DIY project, it just takes time.
Here are some other shiplap/planked wall projects I’ve completed over the years…