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How to DIY a Shiplap Wall the Cheap and Easy Way!

Want shiplap but don’t want to pay the price for pre-primed and cut shiplap planks? Here’s how to DIY a shiplap wall the cheap and easy way!

This project was sponsored by HANDy Paint Products and their HANDy Roller Cup. As always, opinions are our own. See our full disclosures here.


I may not have planned it when we first moved in a couple of years ago. But for the longest time, I’ve wanted shiplap walls in the living room. The kitchen (which is opposite the living room) has shiplap walls, so it seemed only natural to carry it into the adjoining space too. And for some reason I really wanted it done before the Holidays this year! 

How to DIY a Shiplap Wall the Cheap and Easy Way

After looking at all the options – pre-primed & cut shiplap planks, tongue & groove (which we used on our old house bathroom walls) and good old plywood – this method seems to be the most cost effective way to add shiplap. You know, if you’re not lucky enough to live in Texas and have true shiplap walls hiding behind your drywall! 

how to diy a shiplap wall pin

Supplies

  • 8′ x 4′ x 5/8″ sheets of plywood (the number you need will depend on your space)
  • stud finder
  • pencil
  • 3 foot level
  • construction adhesive
  • caulking gun
  • nail gun
  • nails
  • paintable caulking
  • paint
  • small paint roller
  • paint brush
  • HANDy Roller Cup
  • HANDy Roller Cup Liner

Instructions 

Sourcing Cheap Shiplap

1. Go to your local building store, find the thinnest plywood sheets you can find (ours are 5/8 inches thick). Have each 8’x4′ sheet cut into six equal pieces, along the longer direction while in the store. Each cut piece will be approximately 7 7/8 inches by 8 feet long. Having it cut in-store will make it easier to transport and save you time once you’re working on the project at home. 

Preparing the Wall for Shiplap

2. Once at home again and ready to work, use a stud finder and a pencil to mark the studs on your wall. Mark across the wall at a few heights, so you know where the studs are as you work your way across and down the wall installing the shiplap.

3. Before you start to install your shiplap, check if your wall is square.  If it’s not, using a level, mark a level line for where the first piece of shiplap will be installed. Once the first piece is attached to the wall, you should be okay to continue installing the remaining pieces. But check from time to time throughout the installation to be sure you’re not installing your shiplap at an angle! 

Installing the Shiplap

4. Apply construction adhesive to the back side of your first full length (8 foot by 7 7/8 inch) piece of plywood. How much adhesive you use is up to you. We originally planned to apply more, but realized we’d use up an awful lot of adhesive that away. So, instead Dean just applied dots of adhesive every foot or so along the length of each piece. The plywood is light, so the adhesive is really just an extra means in addition to the nails to attach it to the wall. (We didn’t use adhesive on the kitchen shiplap wall.)

5. Starting at the top left corner of your wall, place the plywood with adhesive from the last step on the wall lined up tight to the ceiling or trim. Further affix to the wall with nails (using a nail gun) at the studs that you’ve previously marked. Again check for level/square before you nail it on, so you don’t end up with shiplap running on an angle. Even a slight angle will be noticeable because of the horizontal lines! 

man with caulking gun

That’s the look I get when I tell Dean to pose for a picture!

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5, working your way across your wall from left to right, top to bottom, cutting the lengths of plywood to fit as you go.

  • It’s best to vary your seams – or where your shiplap butts up together – so you have a varied look, rather than many seams together. Do this by cutting your pieces to different lengths as you go. See the photo below for where we placed our seams. 
  • Use a nickel to create the space/gap between each row of shiplap. 
  • Remove any outlet covers, etc. and make cuts in your shiplap to accommodate those.

Continue to apply shiplap until your entire wall is done. 

varying seams in shiplap

shiplap almost installed

Caulking the Shiplap

7. Caulk the side seams with paintable caulking where the ends of the shiplap meet the adjoining walls only. You don’t want or need to caulk the top where the shiplap meets the ceiling or the bottom where it meets the baseboard. Let dry.

What Color to Paint the Shiplap

Even though I knew I wanted shiplap, until we got into the project I was still undecided about whether to paint it white like the other walls on the main floor. Or if I wanted to paint it a dramatic black. If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen the poll I did when I was trying to decide. And y’all were so torn too! I had so many people give their answer in the poll and then message me saying “No wait, I’ve changed my mind!” 

IG poll white or black shiplap

Even after the poll, I was still undecided. The shiplap on the opposite wall in the kitchen is white. The island that is between the kitchen and living room is painted black. A lot of our other accents are black too. Sooo, I pulled the trigger and we went with black.

black shiplap wall modern farmhouse

black shiplap wall with scroll

black shiplap wall with kraft paper scroll art

modern country black shiplap wall

white dresser pine cabinet black shiplap wall

modern farmhouse living room with sectional

Now that it’s done, I love it! It’s so cozy and warm in person. And it looks especially lovely at night. 

Here’s a little video to show you how the whole space looks. This is much more what it’s like in person than the photos are. 

Painting the Shiplap

So, painting plywood shiplap is fairly easy. Once your caulking is dry, you can paint it. As I mentioned, we chose to paint our shiplap wall black. Sherwin Williams Black Magic to be exact. Most people will go with white. Although I’ve seen grey shiplap and even green or pink!

For painting the wall, I found the HANDy Roller Cup indispensable because it’s easy to hold in one hand while using the small roller to paint. It’s also easy to climb up and down a small ladder with and sit on the floor with to reach all angles. Plus the perfectly fitted liners make clean up a snap! 

ready to paint shiplap

HANDy Roller Cup

The easiest way to paint plywood shiplap is with both a brush and a roller. You need the brush to really get into the grooves/gaps between the shiplap rows. This is particularly true if your shiplap paint color is significantly lighter or darker than the wall color underneath. See how in the photo below you can really see the white paint color underneath through the gaps? 

painting the wall

But you don’t want to paint the whole thing with a brush! You’ll also want a small roller for easier painting on the surface of the shiplap. A job for which the HANDy Roller Cup is perfect for! 

black paint with roller in HANDy Roller Cup

HANDy Roller Cup

Even though I adore the black, if you know me at all, you know I tend to change my mind. I imagine that I’ll keep the wall black over the winter for the cozy factor…and then paint it white in the late winter or early spring. Lol. Who knows! 

modern farmhouse living room with christmas tree

What do you think of the black? Have you ever tried your hand at installing a DIY shiplap wall? Do you have a space that you have been dreaming of installing shiplap?

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Student love

I found my style and was able to bring our small space together by creating a cozy and inviting home...

Danae C.

I loved the lesson on color theory, and also THAT YOU TOLD US EXACTLY WHAT ORDER TO DECORATE IN!

Erica L.

My ah-ha moment was when I realized how much time and money we have spent in the past couple of...

Cheryl P.

I love your easy process to determine my style. I've also learned that my style has changed over the years and seasons...

Sheryl R.

Your explanation of paint colors was the light bulb moment for me! Your explanation would have saved us from painting...

Pat Jensen