Cheap and Easy DIY Shiplap Wall – Here is All You Need

Shiplap is a type of wood that works as interlocking boards. It works similarly to tongue and groove, but it has a tighter and more overlapped fit. These wooden planks are designed to fit together smoothly.

The name shiplap probably came from its original use, as it was designed with the intent to keep water out of ships. These boards are fairly simple to install and are used in all types of homes, from modern ones to farmhouse-style houses, and ones that are more rustic in nature.

No matter what style of home you are using them in, true shiplap boards are not economically feasible. If you love their look, then using faux shiplap is a good way to move your DIY project forward.

You gain significant savings whether you are doing a faux shiplap wall, ceiling, or a full room. Here is a way to produce a cheap and easy shiplap wall.

Shiplap Wall Style

There are a couple of reasons to use plywood shiplap rather than real shiplap boards. The first, obvious one is cost, but the second is the weight and size of real boards. They run ¾” deep, which means when you use them, all the molding in a room has to come down. Your baseboards, crown molding, and any door or window trip all have to be removed. It can be put back on once the boards are in place, but it’s a significant amount of work. Plywood, in contrast, is just ¼” deep, so the molding can generally stay up, and then you can sit the board flush against it.

Shiplap Prep

a teal shiplap wall

As with any project, good preparation is a must. Make sure you have any photos with step-by-step instructions handy should you need them. Having a well-detailed step guide can save you time and money.

Once you understand those, then you want to pick a color of paint for your shiplap. That’s a priority, as you have to do a coat of paint of the same color on the walls first. There will be small gaps where the wall might be seen behind the boards, so the same color will help minimize the sight of those gaps.

The next prep work that needs to be done is some math. The plywood strips all need to be the same width so there are no odd strips that are at the bottom of the wall. Go from the crown molding to the top of the baseboard and then figure out a good height that will divide evenly into the plank wall height.

The same goes if you are doing a ceiling, but be mindful of angled ceiling portions or fixtures like lights and ceiling fan lamps that will need some navigating. Also, remember to take any space that might be between your boards into account, as that will skew your measurements.

Once you have figured out the size of the piece of wood strip you want, cutting the board into planks is the next step. The most inexpensive way to make do with shiplap is with fake wood materials. You can cut plywood board into strips is to use ¼” sheets of plywood. You can also use fiberboard as well.

Maple plywood tends to be smoother than most, so look at that option as well. You can get these plywood sheets cut at home improvement stores, but be wary of their saws. They tend to do rough cuts and can leave edges more jagged. You want a clean cut,0 so if you don’t think the store is up to the task, then either do it on your own table saw or try a contractor.

It is also important to prep the edges of the board that is going on your faux shiplap wall before they go up, so you don’t have to try and get in between the boards on your walls afterward. It’s much easier to do this when they are down and accessible.

It takes quite a bit of time, but it’s probably easier. The other option is to do it later, use some wood filler or wood putty in between, and then paint over that so you are not trying to get into the nooks.

Time for the Install

a white wall with mirror and gray drawer

Here is the part where you need patience, as with most DIY projects. This is one project that works better, with at least two people doing the work. Each board needs to be sanded and then the edges painted. Once each is dry, these boards are ready to go on what is going to be the planked walls.

You want to do this part right so you don’t have a board pop loose. Put the boards up with a nail gun if you can, simply because it is accurate and easier. You can use nickels or pennies as spacers to keep them even. It is essential that some nails go into the studs on the wall. Make sure you have a box of nails so you aren’t caught halfway without. Also, put liquid nails on the wall side of the board for extra grip.

The next step is to fill the nail holes and sand each one before you start with the coats of paint. This is where patience comes in.

Final Steps

You are going to have vertical seams since this is faux shiplap, so you want to fill those spots with Bondo Putty. It sands great and won’t crack as easily. Put it on, smooth it over, and then sand it when it is dry. This works great for corner seams as well.

Only mix a small batch at a time as it dries fast. Once this is done, you can dust off the planks, do some caulking as needed, then prime and paint. Make sure you buy a quality paint for the best results. A DIY faux shiplap wall is not a quick DIY project, but certainly one that is worth the effort.

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