Introduction: Simple Cheap DIY Shiplap

About: My name is Jesse and I'm 15 years old. I love electronics, engineering, and anything science related. In the future, I'd like to go to college and study either software, electrical, or mechanical engineering.

My aunt and uncle just bought a new house that was over 100 years old. It had been remodeled many times, and everything was falling apart. On most of the walls, there was ugly wallpaper that was peeling and falling off. So my aunt asked me to put up shiplap over the top of the wallpaper. I had never even heard of shiplap, let alone put it up. So after a little bit of research, here's what I found:

  • Shiplap is a common design used in a barn or a rustic look
  • It uses wooden boards laid on top of each other
  • Shiplap is an actual type of wood planking, but most commonly pine or oak boards are used.

Shiplap is a style of wood planking that has overlapping joints as shown in the picture above.

Honestly, putting up shiplap is not hard at all. All it takes is a little time and elbow grease (or a nephew that will do it for you :D)

In the next step, I'll line out what you need, different options for wood, and estimated time and cost.

Step 1: Supplies, Tools, and Time

The first thing to do is to line out what you will need and what you can expect time and cost wise.

My aunt went to the Home Depot and picked up some 1/8" plywood, but you could use anything from 1/4" down to 3/32" plywood. It also doesn't have to be plywood. Instead you could use MDF, normal pine or oak boards, or anything of the sort. Usually, you can wander through a lumber yard until you find something you like. Another very common option is to paint the boards, so you don't need to worry about the appearance of the wood.

Tools wise you will need:

Note it will be much cheaper if you just borrow all these tools. :)

*I used 1 1/4" 18 gauge finish nails, 16 gauge will work to. Anywhere between 1" - 2" will work just fine. Make sure you get the right nails for the right gun.
**If you are not painting the boards, I recommend you paint the wall behind the shiplap a dull base color so you don't see the wall you covered up.

Now comes the tricky part. My aunt spent about $215 on all her shiplap, but she covered quite a bit of space. If you're using 1/8" plywood, you should expect to spend about $0.30/ft². I would recommend measuring the dimensions of one wall to find the area (LxW), then use that wall as a base. For example, you measure one wall to find that it is 80ft². From there, you would look at the other walls and say, "Those walls are about half the size of this one, so they are about 40ft²". From there you can figure out how much you will need, and the cost. You should always get far more than you think you need, because it's a pain to run out and have to go get more.

When you do go to the store to buy some plywood (or whatever your using), the store most likely can and will cut your 4'x8' sheets down to the size you want. I did 6" strips, but I've seen 4", 8", and 10". Just make sure that when they cut the boards, they do so accurately. If not, the boards will not line up in corners and look a little funny. Ask me how I know that. :D

Time wise I spent about 20-30 hours to do an entire kitchen and part of a living room. In the kitchen, there were a lot of nooks and crannies that I had to cut the boards into specific shapes to fit in, but if your doing just a long, flat wall, it should go a lot quicker.

Step 2: Saftey

I'd like to take a quick second and talk a little bit about safety. Most of the tools you will be working with could potentially harm you very seriously. Safety glasses are a must when operating any saw or air gun. We can replace hearts, lungs, and many organs, but eye's are not on that list. Take good care of them.

Table Saw - The table saw is probably the most dangerous tool you will use. I have heard of a table saw kicking back a piece of wood through an 8 inch thick concrete wall. A piece of wood will not hesitate to go straight through you. Also, if a blade can cut through wood, it can cut through your hand. Respect the blade, and it will respect you. If you have not used one before, find someone who has to teach you.

Miter Saw - Same principles as the table saw. A blade can cut through you. Respect it, and don't work with it or put your hand near it unless the blade is fully stopped (never touch the blade unless the saw is unplugged). Fingers are a hard one to replace, and if you got them replaced, they wouldn't be the same (they'd be a plastic prosthesis).

Pneumatic Nailer - The nail gun that I have, when fully turned up, could send a nail straight through a 2x4 and out the other side. If that nail hits a metal piece in the wall, it could rebound and come straight for you. You wouldn't even have time to blink before you had a hole in your neck. Just be aware where the nail will come out. All nail guns have a safety button on the front, so when pushed against the wall, the trigger will work. If that safety is pressed or jammed, that gun could fire at any time, even into your gut.

Jig Saw - Jig saws are pretty safe. Just be smart and keep yourself away from the blade. It will cut you, even if it isn't on. Always treat a saw as if it is on.

If that scared you, good, and your ready to do your shiplap. If not, go find someone else to do it for you. You need to be scared to death of these tools, so you don't get too comfortable with them. It will keep your mind working and yourself focused. Just be smart. People use these tools all the time, and they are okay. You'll be just fine as long as you keep yourself focused.

Step 3: Putting It Up

When you put up your shiplap, you should start either from the bottom or the top, and then stick with it all the way through. Rarely are the ceiling and floor perfectly parallel, so if you start from the top and then the bottom, the boards will be crooked.

Here are the basic steps to putting up the first board:

  1. Take the longest board possible and put glue on the back if desired.
  2. Line up the edge of the board against a corner, and up against the ceiling or trim on the floor.
  3. Using the Air Gun (Pneumatic Nailer), nail in one corner, then go to the other side, and making sure the board is level, nail in the opposite corner.
  4. Nail every 6" without glue, or every 12" with glue.
  5. If you are doing paint, paint the top of the board and the back of the wall, as these areas will not be accessible after the next board it put up.

Next are the rest of the boards:

  1. Put glue on the next board in line
  2. Making sure the ends of the board line up with the one above it*, put a nickel on each end of the board and every 24" between it and the one above/below it.
  3. Nail in one corner, then the opposite, just as you did with the first one.
  4. Same as above, nail every 6" without glue, or 12" with glue.
  5. Again paint the top if you are going to paint the boards.

*Some people like the look of staggered joints, or purposely cutting the boards so the ends don't line up with the board above/below it. It does take more time, so it is totally up to you. The first picture will show you what staggered and unstaggered looks like.

Step 4: Edges, Paint, and Done!

When you come to an outlet/light switch, or a window/door, it can be a little tricky to get a section of the board cut out to fit the shape. There isn't a very good way to do it, except cut a small hole in the board, and gradually get bigger, checking after each modification.

Painting is pretty straight forward- just the same as any other wall. Just make sure drips of paint don't fill up the lines.

Take a step back, and appreciate your hard work. I've found having everyone you know come look at it makes you feel pretty good about yourself. :)

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