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Shiplap: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (Plus 7 Ways To Use It In Your Home)

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If you’ve ever watched a renovation show on HGTV, you’ve heard about shiplap. Joanna Gaines from “Fixer Upper” is most often identified as the individual who popularized a shiplap wall treatment as a part of her modern farmhouse style. However, even after watching your favorite renovation shows, searching Pinterest and consulting YouTube, you might still be wondering what exactly shiplap is and how it should be used.

Let’s start at the beginning!

True shiplap is most often defined as a type of siding where boards are joined together with a rabbet joint, a groove that creates a 90-degree notch between boards resulting in tight and weatherproof cladding. Shiplap, no surprise here, is seaworthy. Years ago, it was used in actual shipbuilding. You might also find shiplap used as exterior wooden siding, especially in harsh climates where keeping the wind and water out was of concern.

Interior shiplap was originally not meant to be seen. The horizontal boards were used in homes before plywood and drywall were commonly used for interiors, and the shiplap was covered with muslin, cheesecloth or wallpaper.

Today, many designers and homeowners are enjoying uncovering shiplap paneling in older homes and installing it in newer homes. Its versatility has contributed to its popularity. Used either horizontally or vertically, the wood creates texture and warmth in more traditional interiors and clean, fresh lines for a contemporary design.

There are a variety of ways to create a shiplap look in your home, ranging from the use of true shiplap boards, MDF planks, adhesive wood paneling, or even using peel and stick wallpaper.

Shiplap is also popular because if you are building, it can be installed faster and easier than drywall. If you are renovating, shiplap (faux or real) can be used to disguise unattractive features like popcorn ceilings.

However, if we are honest, the use of shiplap in today’s homes is more about form than function. We don’t want cookie-cutter interiors, and no matter what our design style, we want visual interest and an organic feel to our home’s interior design.

Where to use Shiplap

Thinking of adding some dimension to your home with shiplap? Here are a few options. 

1. Ceiling Treatments

Living room with shiplap ceiling and brown beams
Hendrickson Photography / Shutterstock.com 

Shiplap can be especially effective with rustic ceiling beams. The contrast between the smooth shiplap surface and the natural color and texture of stained wood beams creates warmth in high-ceiling rooms.

It can also create a sense of spaciousness used by itself. Your eye is drawn upwards, and your room appears larger.

The ceiling is also a wonderful place to use shiplap that is natural wood or painted. The visual interest created by the contrast of finishes makes a truly custom design statement.

2. Bathroom Walls

As a substitute for wall tile as a decorative treatment, shiplap can make a small space appear larger. Used either vertically or horizontally, the lines create a sense of motion that will direct your eyes around the room. It is often used as a substitute for beadboard, which has smaller grooved sections and can create a “busier” feel to the room. When used in place of tile in dry areas of the bathroom, it creates additional texture, making the room appear less sterile-not to mention fewer grout lines to deal with!

Related: 35 Bathroom Essentials That’ll Spice Up Any Washroom [Guide]

3. Accent Walls

Many times, using shiplap everywhere in a room feels like way too much of a commitment to a particular design style. Never fear; we have an approach that works well in many different settings. An accent wall of painted shiplap can provide a focal point with both texture and color, which can make your design concept feel much more complete than just simply painting one wall of the room. Try visualizing this approach on the wall behind your headboard.

4. Mudrooms

One of the most popular home interior areas for shiplap is the mudroom. If you are lucky enough to have one, effective use of shiplap can help make a busy, potentially chaotic space feel orderly. Combined with built-ins, cubbies and wall hooks, shiplap helps create a highly functional landing spot for kid, pet and work gear.

5. Backsplash

If you’re looking to create a casual, country-style kitchen, using shiplap for a backsplash can be an effective addition to your room. It’s especially effective as a counterpoint to solid surface countertops, as well as butcher block, and can even work well as a renovation project if your counters already have an existing short backsplash.

It also isn’t as great a design commitment as doing the ceilings and/or the walls, and it can work effectively with white kitchen cabinets.

6. By The Fireplace

An updated fireplace and mantle just makes a living room complete. One technique is to use shiplap above the mantel, installing the treatment from mantel to ceiling, keeping the fireplace surround intact. This works well if your home has a lot of traditional décor features, such as an attractive mantel and pretty fireplace tile or brick.

Another strategy is to completely clad the fireplace area from floor to ceiling with shiplap, creating a more modern and streamlined look, very compatible with gas or electric fireplace inserts. This look can be done with or without a mantel, and it also works well for a wall-mounted TV. Many renovators employ this technique if they want to change out a fireplace surround that feels dated and too traditional. 

Related: How To Select The Best Curtains, Drapes Or Window Treatments

7. Kitchens

It stands to reason that using shiplap in your kitchen helps create that “heart of the home” feeling. In addition to the backsplash idea covered earlier, a full-on approach to shiplap in the kitchen can add warmth and drama at the same time.  

Additionally, using shiplap to clad features such as the range hood can help tie in design with functionality in a very attractive way.

If there is one room where your design vision is to have shiplap on all four walls plus the ceiling, the kitchen is the place to consider. Appliances, windows, upper cabinets or open shelving all serve to break up the space and can make a shiplap kitchen pleasing to the eye.

The Downsides of Shiplap

Yes, it was completely unfair to get you all excited about using shiplap in your home without telling you some of the disadvantages! However, learning from others is how we roll here at Chattersource.

Dust 

The main disadvantage to having shiplap is that the grooves can be a dust magnet, especially when the boards are installed horizontally. In fact, our research shows that it is the biggest issue for homeowners. So, if you are going to install shiplap, be prepared to dust the boards frequently so that allergies are not aggravated and your home environment remains clean.

Hard to Paint 

Painting shiplap can be a challenge. If your roller or brush is overloaded with paint, it can seep into the space between the boards and disguise the beautiful textured appearance of both vertical and horizontal shiplap. Painting the boards requires patience and a steady hand.

Moisture & Warped Boards  

If shiplap is not properly installed and moisture seeps in behind it, the boards can warp or rot. This makes for an expensive and messy repair, so steps to avoid this include expert installation and avoidance of damp areas.

Also, if replacement of a single board is needed due to damage or warping, it is not a quick and simple fix.  

Timeless Or Cliché  Home Decor Trend? 

From a design perspective, it’s appropriate to consider whether shiplap is a cliché that might make your space feel dated in a few years. There’s been a lot of exposure to the concept, and for many, the modern farmhouse trend feels worn out and overdone. The key here is to use shiplap in a manner that feels organic to your space, as opposed to creating a theme.

Go For It!

If the negatives don’t feel insurmountable to you, and you love the texture and versatility of shiplap, you are in a good place. You can make your space feel larger, cozier or even more contemporary, and there are a variety of methods to install shiplap, many of them completely DIY friendly.

You might also be interested in: 12 Indoor Trees For A Happy Home [Green Thumb Not Required]

Places To Add Shiplap To Your Home: 

  1. Ceiling Treatments
  2. Bathroom Walls
  3. Accent Walls
  4. Mudrooms
  5. Backsplash
  6. By The Fireplace
  7. Kitchens

Patrice Devereaux

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