Real Shiplap and Where to Use it

December 12, 2016

 While shiplap is certainly not “new,” its popularity has increased tremendously in recent years, thanks in part to the revival of farmhouse style and HGTV’s hit show “Fixer Upper.” Joanna Gaines, the show’s designer, is famous for her love of shiplap walls. If you’re considering this trendy look, there are a few things you should know.


First, know what it is (and isn’t). In a modern sense, shiplap refers to siding, ceilings, and walls made of wooden boards that interlock in a way that facilitates drainage and protects the structure. In some older homes, original shiplap can be unearthed under cheesecloth and wallpaper, but in new construction and on shows like “Fixer Upper,” wooden boards are often attached to a pre-existing  drywall. This technically isn’t shiplap, but it provides a similar look with minimal work.


The appeal of shiplap is obvious—it adds instant texture and dimension to any room. In new construction homes that lack character, shiplap can be added for a warm, rustic touch. The most common use of shiplap involves horizontal boards painted white, but the boards can also be installed vertically and painted a variety of colors to match your design. You can channel your inner-Joanna and install wood paneling accents virtually anywhere for a shiplap look, but only real shiplap should be used for exterior projects or in place of drywall, as tongue-and-groove can harbor moisture and deteriorate.


Real shiplap is made up of wooden boards with rabbets, or notches, that perfectly space the boards and keep water out. These rabbets are what allow the boards to overlap and create the pronounced crevices in the shiplap. For decades, this treatment has been used in areas with harsh climates, like the South, because of its excellent weather protection. That’s why this style is often associated with farmhouse, Southern or beachy interiors.


For homes with original shiplap, the treatment will likely cover the walls and ceilings, but if you’re DIYing the look, you should be able to mix and match as you wish. Small shiplap installations can also be used in cabinetry, hallways, above fireplaces and on accent walls. Deciding between real shiplap and wood paneling for accents depends on your style preference. While true shiplap is the design standard and has the iconic farmhouse look, other installation choices provide different looks. Paneling can be installed in a staggered pattern for a unique look or kept uniform. The crevices between the panels will also be less pronounced, which is more subtle in a room that just needs a small touch.


These DIY accents are relatively inexpensive and easy to create with wood glue, a nail gun, and caulk, so on the off-chance that this trend doesn’t last forever, the installation can be removed. If you live in an older home and want to achieve a shiplap look, be sure to check your original walls first. Who knows, you could unearth paneling that would make even Joanna Gaines jealous.


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