What Is Shiplap and Why It's so Popular?

Shiplap is rustic yet modern. It's informal but will make a difference in formal homes too. Shiplap is an enigma to all those who haven't incorporated it into their home yet. But what is shiplap? And why is shiplap popular? We have all been in the situation where we keep hearing the same name popping here & there and feel like a fish out of water. There are all sorts of shiplap ideas to decorate your home. So, let us get started.

What is shiplap?

Shiplap is the grooved wooden boards which have been broadly used in the construction of sheds, barns and country houses.

what-is-shiplap

Confuse shiplap with tongue and groove? Here's the deal: shiplap is not tongue and groove. It's not wooden panels nailed to the wall either. Why one can easily get confused?

If you view shiplap at a distance, what you see is flat wooden paneling consisting of many horizontal boards with a tiny gap between them. But that's very similar to tongue and groove! So, what's the difference?

The distinctive feature of shiplap profiles is the type of joint. There is a rabbet (that is a groove cut) at the upper edge and opposite lower edge of each board. This leaves a recessed part and a protruding section allowing the edge of a board to lap over the edge of the following board. What's the bottom line? The boards are connected to create narrow or wide gaps between them while tongue and groove board profiles are cut to create a slot/pocket to enable interlocking. And so their connection is tighter.

feature-of-shiplap-profiles

Why shiplap is so popular?

This building material once used to clad only exterior walls has made a huge leap indoors and keeps growing in popularity over the years. People demand it. Interior designers use it broadly. And when we start asking why, we end up with a rather large list of advantages. 

What are the benefits of shiplap?

Function & glamour wrapped up in one package 

The overlapping boards make shiplap watertight. This was one of the main reasons why it was used in the construction of exterior walls in the first place. Fighting moisture even indoors is a big deal. Shiplap is durable and can take a beating without losing its beauty. And here is the kicker, normal wear builds-up more character.

Its rustic style makes it perfect for cottages, traditional homes, and Craftsman interiors. But wait, there is more. Its flat surface and clean texture make shiplap ideal for modern decor too. Stain it if you love the earthy feeling. Paint shiplap black for a dramatic effect. Opt for white if you like a sense of freshness. Or jazz up the space by painting it gray or green. 

It works well with all interior styles

The elegant and versatile character of shiplap make it the perfect choice for all home interior styles. Whether you opt for transforming your place into a modern, traditional, or industrial home, it will do the trick. Just pick the right color and the rest will fall into place. So, it's not a solution for country homes only. Blend shiplap with brick or concrete and see your place transformed into a contemporary home. It matches perfectly with all types of stones but marble too. Whether you have an urban home, a loft, or an eclectic style, it will blend right in. 

Shiplap can be used in all applications

Shiplap goes well indoors and indoors. Apart from its durability, it blends nicely with the natural environment since it is made of wood. No wonder why it's the dominant material for exterior siding. Indoors, it's an excellent solution for walls, ceilings, and kitchen islands. 

Decorate easily and without breaking the bank

Shiplap is easy to install and costs less than other materials. Intrigued? Although installing shiplap requires some carpentry skills, it would be a fairly easy home improvement task for DIY enthusiasts. As for its price tag, it's affordable and will only need painting unless you prefer it unfinished. This is also an option. 

Two shiplap installation tips before you get started. 

  • Shiplap is usually installed horizontally. This makes rooms feel more expansive. However, if you like to make a room look taller, you can install vertical boards. 
  • You decide the distance between the boards. You can install the boards really tight - right up against each other, or maintain a channel. The latter is preferable for a more airy feel. 

What is shiplap paneling?

To understand what shiplap paneling is, think of beadboard wainscoting. If you are not familiar with wainscoting, it is the panel running the walls horizontally. It usually covers one-third of the surface although many panels cover the entire wall. Aesthetically speaking, shiplap and beadboard are cousins. Although beadboard is now found in monolithic sheets, it is traditionally installed in a tongue and groove style. They both feature horizontal (or vertical) boards with grooves.

shiplap-paneling

Want to know what the best part with shiplap is? It is usually made of a more durable wood and you get to decide how wide the gaps between the boards will be. With that said, let's move on.

What is shiplap made of?

Shiplap is made of hardwood or softwood and is usually ¾'' thick while the width of the boards ranges from 6'' to 12''. I guess, you are now wondering: hardwood or softwood? Well, let's see.

Hardwood is often a tropical wood, which is dense and extremely durable because the trees take longer to grow and learn to adapt to the temperature fluctuations. Typical hardwood used in shiplap applications includes oak and poplar. 

And here's your turn to ask: are softwoods softer and thus inappropriate for shiplap? No. The range of hardness varies among hardwoods and among softwoods. And some softwoods are actually pretty dense and very strong. Cedar and pine are excellent examples used in shiplap manufacturing. The bottom line? Either wood type will be great; it all comes down to your taste (and budget).

Why do they call it shiplap?

The name has everything to do with how boats were built. It was important for ships to be watertight and so horizontal planks rabbeted so that the edges of each board would overlap the edges of the adjacent board were used.

why-do-they-call-it-shiplap

How did shiplap end up in the construction industry? Here's where it gets more interesting. 

  • One version of the story is that builders witnessed the effectiveness of shiplap boards in the shipping industry and applied them in the construction of outbuildings, especially in harsh climates where there is a high need to protect properties from the elements. 
  • Another version of the story is that people built their homes with the shiplap boards found in shipwrecks washed out in the ocean beds and when they realized how durable they are, they made shiplap the dominant material for exterior makeovers. The rest you know. Shiplap was introduced to the world of interior design much later. 

How much does shiplap cost?

Shiplap prices range from $2.50 to $7.00 per square feet. Prices vary because they are affected by a number of factors. And so you shouldn't take the average costs for granted but take all factors into account and find pros to give you quotes. Which are the factors that influence shiplap prices?

  • Geographical location / zip code
  • Square feet
  • Vendor / company
  • Type of wood
  • Season
  • Tools, supplies
  • Installation labor

It makes sense that not all wood types used to make shiplap cost the same. Expect to pay around $2.50-$3.50 per sq. ft. for hardwood, $2.50-$7.00 per sq. ft. for cedar, and $2.75-$3.75 per sq. ft. for pine. But then again, you will notice that prices fluctuate between companies/vendors and between locations. Hence, it's wise to do some research and get multiple estimates from contractors

When it comes to shiplap costs, it's important to remember that you don't pay only for the boards. You will also need additional materials (underlayment, nails, paint, primer etc.) and most likely a contractor for the installation. So, if you want to install wall paneling, you need to ask about the shiplap walls cost which will be shaped by all above factors plus the labor. 

A helpful advice? Prefer to shop in the late fall or early winter, when most construction projects and home improvements are put on hold until the spring. You might get shiplap at lower prices. 

Where to use shiplap?

What makes shiplap an attractive choice for exterior and interior design solutions is its versatile character. It can be used in every room indoors and cover all or some exterior walls. It makes an excellent ceiling decoration and is broadly used to clad kitchen cabinets & islands, backsplashes, or even floors. Use a nickel (or two) as a spacer between the boards and get the best pantry, cabinet, or wall makeover. So, to answer the “where to use shiplap” question with one word: anywhere. Let me tell you about it. 

Shiplap siding for interior walls

shiplap-siding-for-interior-walls

The warmth of wood and the distinctive looks of shiplap siding made this architectural element one of the most popular options for interior walls. When you opt for interior wall paneling, nothing beats the charm of shiplap. 

With the choice of painting it white for a more minimalistic approach or jazzing it with color for a friendlier effect, you can easily meet your home style requirements. But that's not all. You can also just stain it to create a warm feeling and enhance the Scandinavian home style or respect the historic value of an old home. 

The good news is that it can be used anywhere around the house. You can cover all walls or use shiplap for an accent wall to create a welcoming living room design. Don't forget that the gaps between the boards can be wide or narrow to create a different architectural effect while the width of the boards does not have to be the same size either. You can blend narrower and wider boards to make the room more interesting. 

Shiplap siding for exterior walls

shiplap-siding-for-exterior-walls

Shiplap has been used as an exterior material to cover sidings for a very long time and mostly in natural tones. Today, the world of design offers a handful of solutions to meet all décor styles. Opt for chocolate tones to match the green window casing and give an industrial feeling, choose raw wood for a rustic character, or paint shiplap siding white for a modern splash. No matter which colors you prefer, you can install shiplap siding to all or some exterior walls. 

Shiplap flooring

shiplap-flooring

Shiplap makes an excellent flooring option due to its durability and easy installation. If you like the idea of installing wooden flooring, shiplap will give character to any room. The only drawback to shiplap flooring solutions is the little gap between the boards that will easily collect dust and dirt and will be harder to clean. But then again, you have the choice of making the gaps wider (for easy cleaning) or keep the boards tightly connected. 

Shiplap ceiling

shiplap-ceiling

Shiplap looks great on the ceiling. It adds texture and can be used either to maintain intimacy in rooms with high ceilings or give a country character to the space. It creates architectural interest, depth, and a sense of human scale in cathedral & vaulted ceilings. Paint the shiplap ceiling white to give the impression of a larger room and make it brighter. If you prefer a farmhouse interior, you can simply stain it or leave the boards exposed to their natural tone.  

Conclusion

Shiplap has come a long way since it was first used to construct boats and exterior walls in the countryside. It found its way into the urban interior style rather quickly and has remained a dominant architectural material ever since. Although it's not the new guy in town, it's still as popular as all old values are. Warm to create a cozy atmosphere, versatile to be applied anywhere, and inexpensive to meet the high interior design expectations of even the tighter budgets, shiplap is here to stay.

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