Shiplap: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (Plus 9 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 one who popularized a shiplap wall treatment as a part of her modern farmhouse style. 

However, even after watching your favorite home improvement shows, searching Pinterest and consulting YouTube, you might still be wondering what exactly shiplap is and how it should be used.

Here’s everything you need to know about shiplap, including 9 stylish ways to use it in your home.

Let’s Start at the Beginning: What is Shiplap?

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. There are small gaps between the wood planks. 

Shiplap, no surprise here, is seaworthy. Years ago, it was used in actual shipbuilding. Shiplap wood planks were also sometimes used as exterior wooden siding, especially in harsh climates where keeping the wind and water out was of concern.

Unlike today’s trends, interior shiplap was originally not meant to be seen. The horizontal boards were used in homes before plywood and drywall were commonly used for interior walls. But the shiplap itself was usually concealed with muslin, cheesecloth or wallpaper.

Shiplap Today

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, shiplap planks help to create texture and warmth that works in both traditional and contemporary designs.

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

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.

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 If you are renovating, shiplap (faux or real) can be used to disguise outdated features like popcorn ceilings.

Where to Use Shiplap

Thinking of adding some dimension to your home with shiplap? Here are a few ways to do so that (we’re pretty sure) would be Joanna Gaines-approved! 

1. Ceiling Treatments

Shiplap looks amazing on ceilings! 

It’s a perfect way to add texture to an unexpected area of a room, and it helps create a spacious feel that draws the eye upwards and makes a room feel larger. In neutral paint colors, whitewashed, or left in its natural wood state, the visual interest created by a contrasting ceiling texture makes a truly custom design statement.

It’s also effective when used in combination 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.

2. Bathroom Walls

As a substitute for wall tile or 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 in 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

Using shiplap everywhere in a room can be 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.

You can also use shiplap in place of wainscoting to decorate the bottom portion of a wall. This is a great way to mimic a traditional look in a more unique, farmhouse chic way.

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 outdoor gear.

5. Backsplash

If you’re looking to create a casual, country-style kitchen, shiplap makes for a great backsplash. It’s especially effective as a counterpoint to solid surface countertops, as well as butcher blocks. It’s a great renovation project if your counters already have an existing short backsplash, and with white kitchen cabinets, it’s a gorgeous look!

6. By The Fireplace

An updated fireplace 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 compatible with gas or electric fireplace inserts. This look can be created with or without a mantel, and it also works well as a backdrop for a wall-mounted TV. Many renovators employ this technique as a way 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 an eye-catching 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 full shiplap kitchen pleasing to the eye.

8. Foyers and Hallways

Shiplap is a great way to add character to overlooked spaces, such as foyers and hallways. In a foyer, install shiplap vertically to make your ceilings appear higher and your entryway more spacious. In a hallway, install horizontal shiplap to direct the eye to a focal point, such as a door or window at the end of the hall.

9. Inside Shelving Units

Give a built-in shelving unit a brand new look by installing shiplap as an interior lining. It’s the perfect way to add depth and texture to a small reading nook, a wall alcove, or a small wall niche that you use to hold books or decorative items.

The Downsides of Shiplap

Now that you’re all excited to use shiplap in your home, it’s our duty to tell you about some of the disadvantages. Unfortunately, there are a few. 

Here are some of the downsides of installing shiplap wall paneling that you might want to keep in mind.


The main disadvantage to shiplap wall planks is that the grooves can be dust magnets, 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.

If you’re planning to add one or two coats of paint to a shiplap wall, it’s a good idea to paint the boards (and let them dry) before installing them.

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 Look Or Fleeting Home Decor Trend? 

Is shiplap a fleeting trend that could make your space feel dated in a few years? It’s possible. 

There’s been a lot of exposure to the concept, and for many, the modern farmhouse trend already feels worn out and overdone. But shiplap isn’t specific to “modern farmhouse.” It also works in traditional spaces as well as rooms styled with a coastal theme.

The key is to use shiplap in a manner that feels organic to your space, as opposed to installing shiplap as your core design theme.

We still love the look of shiplap, but we’ve loved other home decor trends in recent years that we loathe now. Remember millennial pink walls? Boho-chic rooms filled with indoor plants and rattan chairs? Yellow gold and rose gold kitchen faucets? They all had moments too. 

If You Love Shiplap, Go For It!

We love shiplap for its texture and versatility. It can make a small space feel larger, a large space feels cozier, and a traditional room a bit more modern. Plus, there are a variety of methods to install shiplap, many of them completely DIY friendly.

If you love the look today but aren’t sure you’ll love it tomorrow, there is a simple and super easy alternative to consider:

Shiplap wallpaper.

Like real shiplap boards, wallpaper is having a moment right now. Choose a shiplap wallpaper like this one from Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia line, and you can create the look of real shiplap in a non-committal way that hits on two trends at the same time.

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
  8. Hallways/Foyers
  9. Inside Shelving Unites

Patrice Devereaux

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