How to DIY Shiplap Without Spending a Fortune

Here’s a budget friendly way to DIY shiplap and it will look just like the real thing at a fraction of the cost!

After looking at all of the options for DIY shiplap you might just be overwhelmed on how easy or difficult a project this might be.

We have previously used tongue and groove shiplap for another project and this time we were considering our options– pre-primed & cut shiplap planks, tongue & groove shiplap or just a plywood material.

You can see how we used shiplap on a ceiling in our bedroom.

We decided to go with the inexpensive option of using a thin plywood and making our own shiplap.

This is an easy way to DIY shiplap instead of using the tongue and groove planks. 

This works great on a wall that’s already finished and is much less expensive than tongue and groove.

Since this wall already had drywall on it, this was a thinner and faster way to add shiplap to it!

Here’s a before picture of the wall.  It comes complete with a weird nook.

Bedroom niche before DIY shiplap

This is the only wall that the bed will fit against because the other walls have a doorway, a closet or a window on them.  So the nook doesn’t really work for this to be a bedroom.

If we were using this room as an office and could build in shelves right here and maybe a small desk it would be perfect. For now we can’t figure out how to use it well so covering it up is a better idea.

For now.

The Plan For DIY Shiplap

We are going to frame in this open space and add drywall to it.  Fortunately we don’t have to finish the drywall, just get it up there to enclose the space.

And then we can open the space up facing the other room – someday!

The other room is actually a bath that’s accessible from the outside of the house. It’s intended to be a pool bath I think, even though it’s a long way from the pool. It’s still great to have access to it from outside though. It’s a full bath so changing into swimsuits and showering is perfect.

So now you’ve seen the before that we started with. 

We just framed in the opening and added drywall to that small space. 

framed in niche before DIY shiplap

It wasn’t hard since we didn’t have to tape and texture it, we just needed the surface to match the outside.

We also took up the carpet before we started this project, but that’s another project altogether!

drywall over niche

Supplies for DIY Shiplap

Here are the basic supplies that you’re going to need for this project. 

Depending on the size of your project you may need additional supplies or more time to get it finished.

You’ll also need some basic tools like a ladder or step stool, probably some paper towels, and definitely eye protection.

Always wear eye protection when you’re working with tools!

Supply List for DIY Shiplap Wall:

  • Sheets of plywood (the amount you need will depend on the size of your space)
  • Circular Saw or Table Saw (either will work)
  • A jig saw or dremel tool (for cutting around plugs and switches)
  • Sandpaper
  • Stud Finder
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Finish Nail Gun or Staple Gun (or hammer if you really want a workout)
  • Nails or Staples
  • Wood Putty
  • Caulking
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush and Roller
  • Trim boards – depending on how you decide to finish your wall

Choosing Your DIY Faux Shiplap Material

If you decide to use plywood for your DIY shiplap here’s how we did it.

Remember that this method works better if you’re installing it over a surface that’s already finished.  The spaces between the boards will show so you want to be sure that there’s something behind them.

Alternately you can paint the wall behind your boards before installing them.

If you’re installing shiplap over framing, instead of a finished wall, then you’ll want to use the original tongue and groove style so that you have a nice sealed finish on your walls. 

That’s still a DIY project, just not the one we’re doing here!

The Plywood

You can find plywood sheets at your local hardware store. 

The key is to find the thinnest possible sheet to work with.

We like to use lauan, which is a very thin type of plywood. 

If you ask for it at your home improvement store they’ll know what you’re talking about.

The lauan sheets are typically 1/4″ thick and available in 4 x 8 sheets. 

Since we’ve completed this project we’ve now found a great alternative (think thinner and less expensive) and it is 1/8″ Eucalyptus that is white.  It’s smooth on one side and thinner, and bonus – it’s white! – so we feel like it’s also a great alternative.

Of course the eucalyptus wasn’t available when we did this project but it’s on our list for future projects.

Lauan is typically used for a floor underlayment, but it has a smooth finish to it so it’s much easier to paint than some other thin wood pieces.  It’s also much less expensive than a veneer type of wood like birch.

There are a variety of different types of thin plywood but what you’re mainly looking for is a smooth side to paint when you’re finished with a project. Of course we’re also always looking for something that’s budget friendly!

You may be able to have your wood cut in store.  If you’re planning to do this I highly suggest going on a weekday, or calling ahead to be sure they have someone available to help you. 

I would also double check the cuts to be sure that you’re getting straight cuts in the size that you want.

The large saws in the home improvement stores are meant for rough cuts so you may wind up with uneven cuts.  Have them cut a few and double check before you have all of your lumber cut!

We recommend 8″ strips and you can cut them on the short (4′) or long (8′) side of the board, depending on the design that you’re planning to use.

If you’re going with a traditional installation you’ll want the pieces cut in the longer direction.  If you go with the design that we used you’ll cut the pieces in the shorter direction.

The dimensions of our wall worked perfectly to have 3 columns of boards with trim in between. You may or may not love this look but it’s exactly what we were hoping for.

DIY shiplap project - 3 panels
3 columns of DIY shiplap with trim

Prepping Your Wall for DIY Shiplap

You’ll need to mark the studs in your wall to install your new wood.

The easiest way to do this is to use a stud finder. 

Nope, you can’t borrow mine.  I like to keep him busy at all times on all kinds of projects.

Once you locate the stud, use a straight edge and draw a line all the way down your wall to mark it. You’ll be surprised how much faster this project can go with those lines marked. All. The way. Down.

Once you’ve located and marked the studs you’re ready to add your shiplap strips.


How to Install Your Shiplap

Hold up a board and nail it to the wall.

Just kidding.

First you want to use your sandpaper to smooth any splintery edges on your boards.  This should only take a few minutes but prep work makes the finish work go so much faster.

Now hold your board up to the wall.

Then you want to be sure that your board is level!

This is so very important because when  you’re working with horizontal lines it can be really obvious if they aren’t straight. 

And most houses aren’t perfectly square.  In fact I don’t know of any house that is perfectly square so your job is to make it visually perfect.

Just assume that your wall is not perfectly straight and your wood may not be either so you’ll need to correct every few rows.

And those random spaces will make your shiplap look more authentic!

We used nickels for spacing when we first started.  Once we got going we didn’t feel like we needed to use the nickels anymore but it helped us get a feel for spacing as we were working.

Pro tip:  Don’t make your spaces too small between boards!  You’ll want to be able to get paint on those edges and using a teeny tiny paintbrush is pretty time consuming.

Start installing boards at the top of your wall and work downward.  When  you get to the bottom it will be less noticeable if you need to trim a board than it will be at the top.

Use your nail gun to secure your plywood to the wall at the stud markings.  You can put two to three nails or staples on each stud to secure your boards.

Installing DIY shiplap

Making Cut Outs

You will likely have to make some cut outs for plugs, switches, lights or any manner of things that might be on your walls.

My favorite tool to use for these is my Dremel with it’s flat blade but you can use a jig saw too. 

Just be sure to measure twice and cut once.  And then sand the edges before you nail it to the wall.

Now the fun part

Once you get going on this project it starts moving pretty quickly. 

We used nickels for our spacers and that left us plenty of room between boards.  I have seen other people leave a larger gap so it’s more a matter of preference. 

You can tape 2 coins together to make a spacer, but you’ll probably need 2-4 of them per board.

We didn’t have to keep using the spacers, once we got moving we could just eyeball the measurement and we were happy with that.

Be sure to check your level every once in awhile too though. 

If one of your boards isn’t cut perfectly straight it can get you out of line pretty fast.

If you find that your line isn’t level, stand back and look at it.  A very minor amount means that you should be able to correct it by shifting the next couple of boards.  If it’s major you might need to pull a few boards down and rehang them.

Finishing the DIY Shiplap

Once you’ve got all the boards secured to the wall double check that all of your nails or staples are set.  If any of them need to be tapped down this is the time to do that.

One tiny nail can make a huge mess of your paint roller if you haven’t done that before.

It also means you have to stop in the middle of painting, set the nail, putty the nail, wait for it to dry, etc.

I mean, that’s never happened to me before…..

Next, add the wood putty. 

Fill in all the nail holes with wood putty.

At this point you might wonder why it takes so many nails to hold up this lightweight board!

Optionally you can skip the wood putty.  If you like the more rustic look you can leave the nail holes and just paint over them.  This is more of a preference about how you want the finished wall to look.

Once your wood putty is dry you’ll want to run sandpaper over the entire project to be sure that you don’t have any splinters.

I highly suggest a power sander and just a quick once over!

Finish Your DIY Shiplap Project with Caulk

We opted to use trim boards down the sides of our project.

If you use this same style you’ll need to caulk around the edges of your project.  Where your shiplap meets the wall will need some caulking to give it a finished edge.

I always prefer to caulk before painting so that I can paint over the caulking.

Painting DIY shiplap

How to Paint Your Shiplap

So, painting plywood shiplap is fairly easy. Once your caulking is dry, you can paint it.

We decided to add trim boards and make a pattern for our shiplap so that it doesn’t look like the traditional shiplap style.

In a traditional shiplap installation the board seams are varied.  With this installation we made our seams match up and used trim to cover the edges.

This gave our daughter a little more creative design in this process, and it didn’t look like a completely typical shiplap project.  This made her a bit happier about the project.

I highly recommend using primer for your first coat of paint.  This is wood that you’re working with and it can have oils that won’t appear through your paint for awhile, and they can make your paint job look really bad.

So a coat of a sealing primer and then your choice of paint!

primer on DIY shiplap

Then the fun part!  Putting the whole room back together!

Molly (the dog) thinks that we did all this just for her!

But we’re super happy at how the DIY Shiplap turned out!  It really made a statement in this bedroom and our daughter couldn’t be happier about it.

If you liked this project you might also enjoy:

Be sure to follow me on Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest for more inspiration!

How to add faux shiplap to any wall in your home quickly and cheaply.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.