How to add shiplap walls for less

August 03, 2016

I've gotten so many questions about the planked/shiplap walls in our loft lately, I decided to give you a step-by-step process on how to do it. If you love the shiplap look on Fixer Upper than this is the tutorial for you! This is the same look but waaaaay less. 

It cracks me up that this look is called shiplap now -- yes, I know, that has been around forever but many of us called it planked walls for years. I've done it numerous places around our home and I'll link to those at the end of the post.  I've done it a few different ways and this one by far the cheapest and most customizable. 

Here's our large planked wall in the loft before I started the other walls: 
craft room with planked walls
I love it! 

Now REAL shiplap is not cheap: 
real shiplap prices

This is 12 feet so in terms of trim or wood, that price isn't too bad. But that wall above would have at least $150 (it's wider than what I used so not sure exactly how many I'd need) and it only cost me about $65 to do that huge wall. 

Real ship lap is thick and has tongue and groove that you use to "lock" them together: 
real shiplap

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Instead I use underlayment, or luan. It comes in four by eight foot sheets and you can have it cut down to whatever width you want. 

I find if I do 5 3/4 widths than I get get a full eight strips out of each board: 

underlayment for planked walls

I love that it is very thin and lightweight -- really easy to work with. I also love the look of it. When painted it has a slight wood grain. 

Here's a before shot of a wall that I finished up the other day. This is going to be fun spot in this room (I'll tell you more about that later): 
book nook out of closet

That's our book nook, one of my favorite spots in our house! As you can see we also keep the dress up clothes here. My son has mostly grown out of that but other kids love to use them so they will stay. :)

The first thing you'll want to do is paint the wall behind the wood the color you'll paint the planks. I am not picky about this -- it's one coat and done for me:
prepping for shiplap walls

Then you can use your pieces and start hanging them. I had my sheet of wood cut down at Lowe's. (Note: Most hardware stores have added a small fee to cut down items for you, but it's worth it to me!) 

When I install my boards I use a level to make sure each one is straight but the most important one is the first! Make sure that one is perfectly level. Then after that I keep using the level and adjust certain areas as needed. For spacing I use a penny: 
using a coin for shiplap spacing

You can use anything, this helps to keep it consistent. 

Here's another tip -- if you have a long expanse to cover I suggest you cut some pieces at the length of the studs. I marked on the wall where they were (for nailing them in anyway), but this also gave me consistent measurements for some of my boards. 

I did a very simple pattern based on the studs and kept it consistent -- one long piece, one cut about in half (at the stud) and then would rotate from left to right with a long piece/short one on the next row. I repeated that pattern all the way down:  
luan planked wall

Cutting your wood will make it go further. If you cut each piece the length of the wall that is great, but you will have a TON of scrap that will go unused. I find cutting them makes it so I can use almost every bit of the luan. 

And you cut at the studs so that the end of each piece is secure when you nail it in. If the end of your cut is not at a stud then the wood may not always hold flat against the wall. Again, this stuff is pretty thin so that's not a huge problem. 

Some putty to fill holes (sometimes I just leave them because I like the look) and few coats of white with a roller is all you need to finish it off: 
white shiplap wall with spacing

This actually needs one more coat, and the door trim needs to be painted, and that small wall needs to be done…but you get the idea. ;) 

I will add a couple of smaller trim pieces up on top to finish off the wall as well. 

I love this look (as you know if you've seen the rest of my house) and it's becoming extremely popular because of Fixer Upper. Here's a look at that wall (mostly) finished up:
closet turned book nook

Do you see my little addition down at the bottom? This is going to be our Disney wall with photos and mementos from our trips and I wanted it to be FUN. I found a fairy door online months ago and had to get it: 
fairy door in baseboard

I think it's adorable and I have a couple more additions to that to finish it up too. :) (You can see the finished Disney wall here!)

Here's a look at the other side of the room with the finished "shiplap" walls:
loft with built ins for craft storage

If there is anything I didn't cover that you have questions about please let me know! Overall this is a simple DIY project, it just takes time. You will need at least a handsaw to cut the boards as you install and I use a nail gun to put them up. As I've said before, I would not use glue unless you are positive you will never take them down. You'll be left with a mess if you do!

Here are some other shiplap/planked wall projects I've completed over the years!

Our family room fireplace:
gray and marble fireplace

A stained accent wall over the basement kitchenette: 
stained shiplap wall

(That's one of my favorites!)

On our basement stairs I used simple wood planks that come in packages (these are thinner widths): 
wood stained planked wall

I also used these in our powder room renovation
white planked wall bathroom

Those are easy to use as well but often many of the pieces have huge knots in them and I end up taking a bunch back. The luan is much cleaner and easier to work with. :) 

Have you added this look to your home? Feel free to add links in the comments if you have. You can see this beautiful craft room/office reveal here

You can save this project by pinning this image for later:
white shiplap walls with farmhouse door trim

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  1. Invaluable info - thanks so much! I am doing this in my son's room very soon so really appreciate all the details. Your space is looking so great! :). Sending a link of this to my dad now - aka my 'plank cutter'. Ha!

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! I'm wondering if you have any problems with paint filling in your spacing gaps. Worried about that!

  3. What size nails did you use to get through the luan and drywall and into the studs far enough to be secure? Trying to convince my skeptical husband this can be done without glue. Thanks!

  4. Love! I'm eyeing our garage hallway for some planked walls - it's a dark space so hoping to lighten it up!

  5. Turned out lovely! Thanks for the tutorial ♥

  6. I am laughing about how everyone calls it shiplap now instead of planks too! I still call it planked walls! I love how your loft turned out!

  7. Your loft looks so incredible, love plank walls. As I type my comment am printing out project. Would so love to put those up in our mudroom, would be good room to practice in as would only do 3 small walls, break up just having painted walls. If I have to buy luan little at a time for our budget. Love idea of doing that in our mudroom. Also wouldn't that be a kind of insulation for a room? Mudroom gets really cold in winter, our back door is in this room.
    Think nailing boards is much better idea than gluing as you said.
    Hope you have fantastic time at Haven. Happy daze

  8. Thank you so much for this! I love this look and really want to do a wall in our bedroom, similiar to the one in your basement kitchenette. Just found you...I think through Pinterest...really love your posts and blog! Have a good day.

  9. I love the look of planking and the clean lines of painted woodwork and trim.. Unfortunately, my husband is 'anti-painting" I'm also not sure how it would translate in our 1970's rambler. Sigh... maybe in our next home when we are empty nesters...

  10. I've done this in our powder room, essentially using the same technique. I love the look! (Not sure the link will work...couldn't seem to paste a pic)

  11. Oh my goodness Sarah. You have just saved my sanity. I am wanting to do a "shiplap" wall in my dining room but didn't want to use thicker boards. Why didn't I think of luan?! That will be perfect. I love all the projects you've done with the shiplap! Oh and I love the fairy door, such a cute idea.

  12. What stain did you use for the gray on your basement wall?

  13. I love this idea... Maybe for the entryway. I love your blog and would love it if you could check out mine!

  14. Question for you- where does the first board go? If you are doing the entire wall, do you start at the bottom and work up and then use a molding around the edges to hide the shorter plank at the top or visa versa and at the bottom?

  15. I love plank walls! Just adds so much character. We recently remodeled our master bathroom, I wanted to plank the whole bathroom...hubby vetoed that idea, but I did get one planked wall. I love how it turned out!


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