It is no secret around my house that feature walls of any kind are my favorite DIY projects. In particular, a good shiplap feature wall is near the top of the list. I am sure you are familiar with shiplap; it has been all the rage since Joanna Gaines first stepped onto HGTV, and they've only become more popular as farmhouse-style homes gained a following. I’m here to tell you, however, that shiplap isn’t reserved for farmhouse styles alone. It can very easily put a modern spin on a space, and I myself happen to love a modern shiplap look. Whether you are going for modern or rustic, shiplap is here to stay, and it is an easy way to elevate a space.
There are a few different kinds of shiplap, but for the beginner looking to find a totally doable wall paneling DIY, I recommend Nickel Gap tongue-and-groove shiplap. These types of boards provide you with a classic shiplap look and easily snap together in order to even spacing (nickel gap spacing, to be exact).
DIY Shiplap wall: What you'll need
If you are in the market for this DIY, I recommend the following supplies in order to make your process seamless:
- Nickel Gap tongue and groove shiplap
- Miter saw
- Nail gun (finish nailer or brad nailer is ideal)
- Palm sander
- Stud finder
- Paint (optional)
DIY Shiplap wall: Instructions
Here's how I create the shiplap walls in my own home, with tongue-and-groove shiplap.
Step 2: Mark your studs
The first thing you will want to do for this project is mark your studs. I recommend using the stud finder to decipher where your wall studs are and drawing straight lines with your level all the way up the wall. These will be covered up by the shiplap boards, and it is way easier to find studs through your walls than it is to find studs through your walls and your shiplap boards. So don’t skip this step.
Step 2: Create a level base to work from
Once you have your studs marked, it's time to start hanging your boards. You will need to decide if you want to start at the top of the bottom of the wall. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong choice here, but I usually start at the bottom, simply because it is easier to ensure that a board is level while your feet are firmly planted on solid ground.
There really isn’t much left to do except to start nailing those boards into your studs, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure that your first row is level!
If you are familiar with DIY, you know that most walls are not straight or level, and assuming so, you will land you with a crooked shiplap wall if you do not level off your first row of shiplap. This means, even if you have a baseboard that visually looks like it's level, it's still important to level your first board. If there is a gap between your shiplap and the floor or baseboard, you can always fill it in later with spackle or painters caulk.
Once you're sure your first shiplap board is level, use a brad nailer to nail into studs along the lip of the board to secure. Nailing along the lip will save you time from having to fill all your nail holes later, because the nails will be hidden. You will want to continue hanging boards flush against one another until an entire first row is complete.
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Step 3: Paint the lip between boards
After the first row is hung, there is a step that you don’t want to miss. If I am painting the shiplap (which I always do), I paint the exposed lip of board in between rows. This step isn’t completely necessary, but it is a lot easier to paint the gap when it is exposed than it is to go in with a small paint brush at the end. Just a little time saver that I like to incorporate into the project.
Step 4: Stagger and nail
Once your paint is finished, you can move on to the next row. You will see that the tongue and groove boards kind of clip into each other. Make sure you have them pushed together all the way. If you don’t push them together as much as you can, you may end up with uneven gaps. You will continue this process all along the wall.
One thing to note - your boards will likely be shorter than your wall, so I prefer to stagger where I start my shiplap rows. The staggering of boards isn’t crucial, but I always try to make sure that there aren’t two vertical lines where two boards met right on top of each other, simply for aesthetic. So if the first board started all the way at the right edge of the wall, I'll start the next board a bit off center, or in the middle. Then, use a miter saw and measuring tape to cut the pieces at the end of each row to fit.
Continue to level and nail, level and nail, and before you know it, you will have a beautiful wall covered in shiplap! Trim pieces around the border of the wall are sometimes a nice touch, but again, not something that is totally necessary.
- Keep reading: How to paint a room--the correct order to DIY for a professional finish
Step 5: Fill in holes and gaps with spackle
The easy part of shiplap is actually hanging it, but the following steps are just as important. Once hung, you will want to fill any nail holes and gaps in your wood boards with spackle.
Once the spackle dries, I recommend sanding it down, and repeating this process in order to ensure that your seams appear hidden, and your boards appear seamless. A more rustic look may allow for seams to be exposed, but I personally love a seamless look. Once all seams and spackle is sanded down, you will want to wipe down the wall so that your wall is free of any dust or debris. Finally, you can go ahead and paint the planks. You can use a regular wall roller for this, but mind the gaps, as paint will sometimes pool in it.
Once all is painted, there really isn’t much left to do except admire your handy work! Good job! You just build a beautiful shiplap wall that will bring you a little extra joy every time you walk past it. Shiplap makes a statement, and with the right tools, can be a great starter-DIY!
About our expert
Liz Hartmann is a mom, lover of all things DIY, and creative thinker who chronicles her home renovation adventures on her blog, Miss Liz Did It. She's DIYed everything from faux marble countertops and shiplap walls, to woven headboards and bunk beds. Follow her on Instagram at @MissLizDidIt.