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Read this before installing DIY Faux Shiplap Walls

DIY Faux Shiplap Walls

Do you love Fixer Upper? Do you feel like you are channeling Joanna Gaines’s energy and know that your world will be a better place if you could just stare at some shiplap on the walls of your own home? Great. Keep reading to find out how to get those “easy” DIY shiplap walls installed… without getting divorced or ending up in a puddle of your own tears when it goes terribly wrong.

Faux Shiplap - start at the top and work your way down

Why did I do this project?

It all started when I began searching for cool ways to update my bathroom to make it fit my evolving style. I started by pinning bathroom ideas and inspirational photos. I noticed that I was gravitating toward dark/rich colored walls.

Who knew?

I’ve always been one of those bright and airy kind of gals. But… when I stumbled across this photo of a dark blue wall with a reclaimed wood headboard I fell in love.

Navy Blue Walls with Reclaimed Wood Headboard
How lovely is this navy wall mixed with the beautiful reclaimed wood headboard? Photo credit: Setting for Four

Dark walls for non-mansion dwellers

Let’s be honest. Painting a room in your house super dark blue is all well and fine if you live in a mansion. But I don’t. And I’m assuming neither do you.

Most of our houses/rooms are small. Painting a room this color without a wall full of windows would look like complete ass.

Why? Well, because dark colors actually absorb the light in the room, while light colors reflect it. If you don’t have a lot of natural light and paint a room dark, it ends up looking and feeling like a cave.

I don’t want to shower in a cave.

I decided that adding white wood paneling would give me the lightness the room needs, while allowing me to have the dark navy color I wanted. Any kind of paneling is great for breaking up a space… bead board, wainscoting and of course, shiplap.

But let’s get real. Real shiplap is out of my budget. That’s where the DIY faux shiplap walls came into play.

Will this look like real shiplap?

Yes… but don’t invite the shiplap police over

I freaking hate the word “faux” by the way. These walls look like shiplap. And if you love Fixer Upper, you’ll love these walls. But they aren’t the real-deal shiplap. So don’t go inviting the shiplap police over to assess them. Because you will fail and they’ll throw you into shiplap prison. I hear the walls are concrete there and you won’t be happy.

But seriously, for any normal person, this will give you the look of shiplap without a lot of heavy lifting or prep work. And you can tell your friends that they are real if you want to. Just make sure they aren’t undercover shiplap police and you’ll be fine.

Here’s a quick photo overview of my DIY faux shiplap wall installation. It turned into a bit more than *just* installing shiplap. We decided to give the whole bathroom a facelift.

Product / Material Links

This is not a tutorial… it’s better

I’m going to get real again. I’m not going to write a huge how-to tutorial on DIY faux shiplap walls. Why you ask? Well, you can google it and find like a million other posts. I didn’t invent this. Nor do I feel like writing something other people have already written.

So, I’m going to direct you to my favorite tutorial instead over at Sawdust 2 Stitches. Read what Corey has to say. She has good step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow.

But wait… don’t go yet. Make sure you read my post too. Why? Because after following this tutorial, I have some more recommendations. Some things that, man, if I had to rip the whole thing down and start over I would TOTALLY do it this way.

Haha like I would ever try this project again. Maybe… Not in the foreseeable future, though.

Anyway the rest of this post is good stuff. And if you learn from my mistakes it should save your relationships or marriages and/or sanity.

What do I mean by “this project isn’t easy”?

I read several blog posts with titles reading “EASY” DIY Shiplap Walls. What I think, is that the posts should say “EASIER DIY Shiplap Walls”. The only thing “easy” about this project is that it’s easier than reclaiming real, removing the nails, sanding and repairing it… all before you can install it in your own home.

I honestly don’t think this project is easy. Personally, I tend to see those “easy” posts and think…

“I’m an intelligent human being and this person with this mommy blog thinks this is easy, so if I can’t figure it out I must be a complete moron.”

And then I go on to try the project and feel like an even bigger moron because it came out all crapped up. So I would preface this project by saying it’s more in the “intermediate” skill category.

How do you know if you are an intermediate DIYer? Here’s an easy test: If you don’t own or have access to a miter saw, pneumatic nail gun and orbital sander, I’d say wait until you do before you try to tackle this.

Shiplap Wall Prep Tips

Ok, so you have your power tools and you’re ready to give this a go! Great! Here are some tips to get you started. After doing this project myself, I realized that I was so excited to actually see the shiplap on the walls, that I kind of skimped on the prep work.

I think that you shouldn’t.

Get the plywood cut at the hardware store.

I got the 24×48” pieces of 1/8” ply cut at the big box store. They sometimes aren’t happy about doing it, but they will if you ask nicely and slip them a five dollar bill (shhhh).

Just be aware that if you are getting the wood cut into 6” strips that you will get seven 6” strips and one strip that’s between 5-6″. Make sure you put that one off to the side and use it for the bottom where your walls are [probably] crooked. Don’t use it in the middle by accident.

Plan your shiplap around outlets and light switches.

Ok, so you’re adding anywhere from 1/8-1/2” to the thickness of your walls. Which means you’ll have to pull your outlets and light switches out of the wall a bit… so that the little metal lip rests on top of the wood and you’ll still be able to access them.

Well, that won’t work if the lip of your outlet lands in between the shiplap boards in one of those recessed/groove areas. Make sure that the top and bottom of your outlets have plywood to rest on.

And, while you are at it, measure how close you need to get the plywood to the outlet in order for the lip to catch on your wood. Going too far away from the opening could land you in a groove and you will be so sad.

Paint the wall first.

Yeah… this is probably a no-brainer. But, unless you have a paint gun and can spray both the wall and the shiplap once it’s installed, you’ll need to paint the wall behind where you are installing this.

Or, put up some pieces and see what your existing wall color looks like behind it. You may like the contrast and save yourself some time!

Sand the plywood before installing.

This is probably the #1 tip I have for you. Usually when getting the wood cut at the big box store, they are using a crappy, worn-out blade. It left a lot of my pieces with a tattered edge. I thought I wouldn’t mind this so much, but once I started putting it up I hated it.

I wish, wish, wish that I had sanded the edges first. This would have saved me so much time, because after installation I was trying to get in between my little 1/8” gap with a sander to smooth out those edges. It took forever… and I got tired and cried. Don’t be like me.

Paint the front AND EDGES of the plywood before installing.

So… I read this somewhere and I was so proud of myself for taking the time to paint the edges before installing. Once installed it’s a huge pain in the rear to get a brush into those gaps in order to paint them.

Unfortunately, I did not sand. After installing the shiplap, I had to go in there with a sander, thus sanding off the pre-painted edges of my wood. Then, I had to go back in with a tiny brush and touch up all those little edges. It sucked. This is the second time I cried during the installation.

Figure out your corners.

Ok… so how are you going to meet the corners of the plywood together? Are you going to run it all the way to the edge of the wall, then butt the next wall up against that? Or are you going to leave a little gap there and cover it with some molding?

DIY Faux Shiplap Corner
Make sure you know how you’ll handle the corners before you begin as it will change your measurements. I chose to leave a little gap and put in a nice piece of dark blue molding.

That’s really up to you, just make sure you know what you’re doing first, because it’s going to change the measurements you’re going to use. You don’t want to end up cutting all your wood long, then having to re-cut it. That sucks.

Installation Tips

Ok great. We are all prepped and ready to go! And you are way ahead of the ball game here because you now haven’t made many of the mistakes I already made. You should be ready to install your “faux” shiplap now.

Here are a few more tips to get you through the installation process.

Use a big level.

Make sure that you are going in a straight line. It’s deceiving using a level sometimes. And it’s really easy to just kind of eyeball it and not realize that the bubble is a tiny bit off. If you have a long stretch of wall to cover, the tiniest slant up or down is going to rear its ugly head. So, you’ll need a nice, long level for this project.

The worst part? When you get to the next wall, your plywood wont line up with the other wall and it will look mismatched.

The second worst part? When you get to the bottom of the wall you’ll have to make a slanted cut in order to accommodate for your installation not being level.

Making a slanted cut down the length of a board sucks… even if you have a table saw. So… take some extra time to do this properly. Repeat after me, “avoid slanted cuts at all costs.”

Start at the top and work down.

I debated on this for awhile but finally decided to start at the top. I think it was the way to go, although it’s not a deal breaker. I just know that my walls are not perfectly level and I had some baseboard heating to deal with. It just made more sense to have those quirky pieces at the bottom rather than in the center of the wall.

Faux Shiplap - start at the top and work your way down
It’s easier to start installing your faux shiplap at the top and work your way down.

My outlets and switches are also higher on the wall, so it made sense to start closer to these areas to make sure I had the spacing right. I should note that I only put the faux shiplap on the bottom half of the wall.

Glue the backs of the boards.

I didn’t want to do this… for obvious reasons, like, “what if I want to take it down? It’s going to be a nightmare to rip adhesive off the wall.” Well… when I installed the shiplap and used the nail gun to secure it, I got some gaps. Perhaps if you use thicker plywood than I did this wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

I ended up nailing the sh!t out of some of the pieces to try to close the gaps. It kind of worked… but not 100%. If I had to go back, I would have used adhesive to glue the wood to the wall… at least in the places that looked like they were bowing outward.

Know that you’ll have to repaint the wall.

Even if you are like me and painted the front and sides of the plywood before installing, just know that you’ll have to give it another coat of paint afterwards. Buy enough paint to do this.

Then, while you’re installing it you won’t have to worry so much about the imperfections because you’ll know you’re going to paint another coat at the end. It will make your day brighter and you’ll be less stressed about it being perfect.

Trim/Molding Tips

We are almost there. The shiplap is up and looking awesome! Now it’s time for some molding. This will really finish things off, right? You’ve got your miter saw and your expensive pieces of molding and you’re ready to go (my molding pieces cost more than the whole wall… yikes). Read these trim & molding installation tips before you get started.

Buy a little extra molding.

Yeah, I know it’s expensive. But you’ll probably screw up or need a piece or two to practice with. So don’t be a cheapo like me and make sure that you have enough to cover yourself. Making trips to the hardware store this late in the game will suck the life out of you.

Paintable caulk is not the be-all-end-all.

I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve read that said… oh yeah don’t worry about the corners and stuff because paintable caulk will cover all the mistakes. This is true, to an extent.

But… don’t think that you don’t have to know how to cut corner molding. That 1/4” gap that you left will not just magically disappear with this paintable caulk stuff. It will look like crap and will drive you insane. So… spend the time making practice cuts until you have your corners as close as you can get them. Don’t heavily rely on the “magic caulk” to fix everything. It won’t. 

But, keeping a little bowl of water with a balled up paper towel in it to wet your fingers as you caulk is KING. Seriously try this when you are caulking.

Fill in the nail holes.

Well, unless you love the unfinished look that the nails give, I’d recommend filling in most to all of the nail holes. Use that fancy caulk to cover them. It will look more finished.

Paint colors

Navy walls (BM Van Deusen Blue), white faux shiplap (SW Alabaster)

I know someone will ask me this, so I’m going to just tell you know.

There’s tons of great colors out there, though… so don’t let me persuade you.

Wrapping Up

So, today we’ve learned that blog posts reading “Easy DIY Faux Shiplap Walls” are misleading. They should title them, “Easier than Real Shiplap DIY Faux Shiplap Walls.”

This is a really fun project. I don’t want to discourage ANYONE from attempting it. Not my intention at all. I think we are all capable.

But, if you asked my honest opinion I would say that this is an intermediate project. It’s not a project to take on without a miter saw, pneumatic nail gun and an orbital sander. Just follow all of my helpful tips for prepping, installing and trimming out your shiplap and you’ll have a beautiful DIY faux shiplap wall in no time.

Just kidding… this took us 8 weeks because Clyde and I both work full time and have lives. And… I thought we would finish this in a weekend like those “easy” blog posts said we would.

Newsflash: it’s going to take longer than you think. But it’s going to be great. And the next time you watch Fixer Upper you can yell at the TV when they make all of this crap look so easy. Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions or more tips to add! I’d love to see your projects!

More DIY Projects You’ll Love

Why DIY Faux Shiplap Walls Are Not Easy To Install
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  1. Hi Amy and Chiane,

    I’ve done quite a bit of planking walls, using 3mm (1/8″) ply. It looks great and I really found it very easy to do, even though I’ve never done anything like it before. I’m about to start my lower floor now that I’ve completed the upper, but have been thinking of using 6mm ply. I just thought everyone used the 3, but have recently discovered I was wrong! Will it make any difference? No idea.

    A chop saw will cut straight lines across your planks, but a mitre saw is not only very good for cutting your planks to length, but can also cut angles on your planks if needed (eg if you were planking up the wall of a stairwell). Yes you can definitely use it for cutting your planks. If you wanted to cut your sheets of ply into strips yourself, you’d need a table saw.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Hello, Using 3mm vs. 6mm will just change the “depth” between the wall and the shiplap so if you are looking for a more dramatic look the 6mm would be the way to go. I don’t think it matters either way.

      Sorry I used chop saw and miter saw interchangeably. You are correct that the difference between the two is that a miter saw will cut 45 degree angles and a chop saw wont. And, yes cutting full sheets would require a table saw or a circular saw with a guide (or like I said having the hardware store cut the pieces for you).

    1. Hi Kim. It works just like painting drywall would. Just make sure you prime the wood and paint it. If you are still concerned you can also seal the paint with a clear polyurethane to protect it.

    1. Yes, a miter saw is the best tool if you need to cut 45 degree angles – the only time I needed to do this was with the molding, not the actual shiplap. Sorry I used chop saw interchangeably with miter saw (I’ve updated the post throughout so it’s not confusing). The miter saw like the one I referenced in the product/material list above is a good choice.

  2. It is beautifully done. Really a great tutorial. Thanks for sharing this.

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