Shiplap: How to Install It | Start At Top Or Bottom?

What is this shiplap material that everyone is obsessed with? Before sheetrock was a standard in building homes, shiplap was used between the exterior and framing as sheathing. It was never meant to be exposed. Thanks to shows like Fixer Upper, exposing this material and painting it white has made this material popular in the design world. If you live in an older home, there is a chance there is shiplap behind your walls. But if you have a newer home, there are a variety of ways of shiplap installation to achieve the look. 

How To Install Shiplap

So, you’re wondering how to install shiplap in your home? First, here are the tools and materials you’ll need:

1. Tools and Materials

  • Table saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Nail gun
  • MDF
  • Level
  • Measuring tape
  • Sandpaper
  • HANDy Pro Pail
  • Mini paint roller
  • 3″ paint brush
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Caulk

how to install shiplap guide by construction2style

Download the Tools & Materials + Tutorial Guide: HERE

2. Find & Mark Studs

Next, you’ll want to determine where the studs are. Use a stud finder and mark off with a pencil where the studs are so you know exactly where to nail into the shiplap boards. Once you locate the studs and mark them with a pencil, take your level and make a vertical line on the wall where the stud is. This way you will know where the studs are all the way up the wall and the shiplap will never fully cover your mark.

3. Measure & Cut

Once you have the studs marked off it’s time to get those babies hung! For our wall, we used 1×6 MDF boards, but you can use any board dimension and type you want to match the look you’re going for. Figure out where your starting point is and measure from wall to wall to determine the length to cut your boards. Measure the boards as you’re hanging them up on the wall, doing a couple of boards at a time just in case the walls aren’t perfectly plumb.

4. Level

We started from the ceiling and worked our way down for this project because we wanted a full board at the top rather than a ripped down top board. To start off, you’ll want to make sure to hang your first board perfectly level.

After nailing up the first board and making sure it’s perfectly level, you can take the next board and stack it tight to the one above it. This will keep things level all the way to the bottom. Depending on where you start, just continue your design by adding one plank at a time and one row at a time and working your way down.

How to shiplap | bathroom design accent wall | construction2style

5. Hang & Nail Boards

One by one, nail your boards up; ensuring you are hitting your marked off areas on the studs with a nail gun.

People have been known to put quarters in between their boards to give a little spacing to your shiplap look, but we just butted and nailed them right up against one another. We’ve also heard paint stir sticks work great if you like the space and those sound a little easier to put in between your boards when hanging and nailing. However, Jamie likes a very clean look to his projects so he prefers butting them up against one another to avoid any wavy un-level lines.

How To Install Shiplap | construction2style

If you run into any electrical switches, the jigsaw comes in handy to cut around those boxes within the boards. To ensure a precise cutout for the electrical boxes follow these steps.

  • First, cut your board to length as if there was not a box there at all.
  • Next, hold that board up on the wall either above or below the box.
  • Mark on your board the left and right side of the box where it lines up on your board. Now you have the left and right or east and west measurement of the box. To figure out your up and down or north and south measurement of the box take a scrap piece of wood and place it next to the box. Mark off the top and bottom of the box on the scrap.
  • Then take the scrap and transfer those marks or measurements to the actual board. You should now have 4 marks, up down left right of the box.
  • Take your jig saw and cut out the rectangle that the 4 marks will make.

6. Paint Boards

When painting, we love to use our HANDy Pro Pail because you will want a mini roller and a brush and the pro pail fits both. It has a magnetic strip on one side for the brush to hang on and it’s large enough for a roller to sit inside.

Since the shiplap will probably be a statement piece that people’s eyes will be drawn to, you’ll want to make sure it has a nice finish. No drips or air bubbles. We prefer to use a mini roller because we like to roll one board at a time. We don’t like to roll over two boards at once because you want to ensure the boards look like separate boards. Taking a brush to paint the crack or separation between the boards might be needed as well.

We prefer to paint our boards after we hang them. We’ve painted beforehand a few times but we always end up having to go back and touch up spots from moving and hanging once they’re up, so now we just leave it until we hang.

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 7. Style

Lastly, it’s time to style those babies! Style the space with decor and accents that go with the overall look you’re wanting. In this space, we wanted to incorporate a modern farmhouse style and used these wooden mirrors and lighting to incorporate that look.

Shiplap Style | construction2style


Should I Start At The Top Or Bottom?

You can do either! We prefer to start at the top so you have a full board showing on top other than an awkward length board. You do want to make sure the board up top is perfectly level or it will throw off the rest of the wall. Some people suggest that starting from the bottom is easier because you can use gravity and it may be easier to level.