Shiplap lends instant charm to interior walls. With the look of authentic wood, shiplap is easy to install in dining rooms, bedrooms, halls, or living areas, and it can be equally easy to remove. Shiplap is perfect for accent walls or wherever you wish to add a vintage, farmhouse, or traditional look.
What Is Shiplap?
Shiplap is exterior house siding that comes in long, horizontal boards that overlap each other at the long edges. A shiplap board overlaps the top 1/4-inch of its lower neighbor to create a joint that is weather-proof and stable.
Interior shiplap board brings the charm of exterior shiplap indoors, with a few modifications. Interior shiplap is made from softwood such as pine, hemlock, or a composite fiberboard, rendering it unsuitable for outdoors but perfect for interior use. Interior-use shiplap, too, is thinner than the exterior board.
Planks are stained and are artificially distressed for a lightly weathered look. Interior shiplap is milled with a tongue-and-groove shiplap edge for an authentic look. Random lengths give interior shiplap a pleasing, variegated look.
Basics of Shiplap Installation
Since shiplap is lightweight, it can be installed on interior walls in a number of ways: gluing it directly to the wall with construction adhesive; nailing it directly to the wall with finish nails or brads; or by first nailing furring strips to the walls, then nailing the shiplap to the furring strips.
The furring strip method helps to override minor wall imperfections, prevents damage to your walls, and is easier to remove.
Floor-to-ceiling vertical strips of one-by-three softwood are initially screwed to the wall, four screws per board. Each strip placement mirrors the placement of the stud below. Finally, the shiplap is nailed horizontally over the furring strips.
Equipment / Tools
- Hand saw with fine teeth
- Miter box
- Laser level
- Electric brad or nail gun
- Cordless drill
- Finish nails
- Stud finder
- Set of drill bits and drivers
- Interior-use shiplap
- Drywall screws, 2-inch
- 6 1-by-3s
Condition the Shiplap to the Room
Unbox and lay out the shiplap in the room where it will be installed to condition it to the room's temperature and humidity. Unwrap it from any outer plastic wrap. Give yourself room in front of the wall to work.
Prepare the Walls for Installation
Furring strips bridge minor wall holes and cracks, eliminating the need for patching these imperfections. However, if the wall has bulges or other protrusions, you should level them down. Use any number of scraping tools for this job: putty knife, five-in-one tool, or utility knife. Remove baseboards and any trim.
Identify the Studs' Positions
Using the stud finder, locate the positions of all of the studs on the wall. Mark the positions with the pencil. Studs should be located every 16 inches, on-center. So, for a wall that is 10-feet wide, generally, there will be six studs. Lay two marks: one about a foot below the ceiling and another about a foot above the floor.
Mount the Furring Strips
Dim the lights in the room. Turn on the laser level to project a vertical line. Run the laser line from the top mark to the bottom mark of each stud. Lay a one-by-three at the center of that mark. Since one-by-threes are actually 2 1/2 inches wide, the center point will be at 1 1/4-inch on the board. Begin with pilot holes, then drive four drywall screws per furring strip board.
Establish the First Row of Shiplap
Using the laser level, shoot a horizontal line onto the wall near the ceiling, then install the first row of shiplap according to that line. Ideally, the first row will run parallel or very close to parallel to the ceiling. Leave a 1/8-inch gap between the ceiling and the top of that first row.
Nail the Shiplap
If the tongue part of the shiplap is sufficiently wide, you can drive the nails into this section. The parallel row's overlapping tongue will cover the nails. If there is not enough room on the tongues, then face-nail into place with the cordless nailer.
Continue the Rows of Shiplap
Continue subsequent rows of shiplap downward from that first row. The ends of shiplap boards should always rest on a furring strip. Cut to length with the fine-toothed saw.
Install the Last Row of Shiplap
At the bottom of the wall, the last row of shiplap ideally will be parallel to the floor and about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch above the floor. However, it is only coincidental if this truly happens.
Generally, the last row might be higher than 1/4-inch or it might run at a slight angle to the floor. Re-applying the baseboard molding will usually cover up that gap. If the gap is too wide to be covered by the baseboard, rip a row of shiplap (cut lengthwise) to the desired size. Face-nail this last row into place.
How to Remove Shiplap From Your Walls
One benefit of installing shiplap with furring strips is that only a few holes are driven into the wall. To remove shiplap from your walls and minimize the damage:
- Pry off the shiplap with a pry bar and set aside.
- Remove any remaining brads or finish nails either with the claw end of a hammer or with pliers.
- Unscrew the drywall screws holding the furring strips to the wall.
- With a putty knife and drywall or spackle compound, fill the holes in the wall.
- After letting the filler dry, examine for depressions and fill again if needed.
- Lightly sand with fine-grit sandpaper to bring the filler flush with the wall.
Tips For Shiplap Installation
- Interior shiplap is generally installed in dry areas. If you wish to install the shiplap in bathrooms, sinks, or near wet areas of kitchens, make sure that it is either waterproof or that you apply a waterproofing treatment to the shiplap after installation.
- Maintain a 1/8-inch gap around the perimeter to allow for the product to expand and contract.
- While you can manually nail with a hammer and finish nails, it is highly recommended that you buy or borrow a cordless brad/finish nailer as this makes installation go faster with nail holes that are less visible.
When to Call a Professional
Interior shiplap installation is generally within the purview of most do-it-yourselfers, even those who have very little home improvement experience. However, you may wish to call a handyman service or contractor if installing large expanses of shiplap or if the shiplap needs to be waterproofed due to its proximity to moisture.