Faux Shiplap⎜The Budget Friendly Way

DIY Faux Shiplap

Faux shiplap is such a popular feature and one of my most asked about topics. Its such an easy and budget friendly way to add character to any space. Installation goes pretty quickly with the right method and proper tools. There are numerous ways of achieving a faux shiplap look. I’ll talk about the methods I’ve tried and what I’ve found to work best.

What You’ll Need

1/4-in Underlayment

Stud finder

Brad Nailer 

1 1/2-in Brad Nails



Tape Measure

Miter Saw

Hand Sander



Things To Consider

First lets talk about why I feel underlayment is the best option. You can purchase  4×8 sheets of underlayment from your local home improvement store for about $17. One sheet will give you approximately 32 sq ft of coverage. I recently shiplapped my office space with 1 1/2 sheets of material. Thats less then $30 and I was able to give my space a completely new look. There are other materials available, including real shiplap but this will run you approx. $1.80 per sq ft.  In comparison thats about $58 for 32 sq ft of real shiplap vs. the $17 you’ll pay for one sheet of underlayment. If you’re on a budget and covering an interior wall underlayment is the way to go!

Now that you’ve decided on using underlayment you’ll want to determine what width to cut your planks to. I’ve experimented with many different widths ranging from 5-6 inches wide. While most premade shiplap comes standard in 6in widths, I prefer the look of a different measurement. Aesthetically, I think 5 1/4in looks best and it leaves you with minimal waste in material. You’ll get 9 planks from one 4×8 sheet. Some home improvement stores will rip down the underlayment for you, either at no charge or for a small fee per cut. This largely depends on the day and who the floor associate is. Some stores will tell you there is a two cut max or that they can only cut the lumber in half. Whether or not this is a store policy I’m unsure but it never hurts to ask nicely as they may just cut it for you! If you’re on your own with making the cuts, you’ll need a table saw. Here is the table saw we use. They can be pricey but if you are big into DIY it will pay for itself in no time. If you’re looking for a less expensive option, this is also a great table saw. You do have the option of renting one from your local home improvement store if you don’t already own one or are not in the market to purchase.

Once you have all of your planks cut down to the width you’ve chosen, its a good idea to sand the edges. You may notice splintering where the boards were cut. This is more noticeable when cut by your local home improvement stores. Probably because they use a larger blade with less teeth and most likely don’t replace them often. I still get splintering even on boards we cut at home on our own table saw but they aren’t as apparent. Sanding down the edges to a smoother surface will help when it comes time to paint your shiplap. You can do so using a hand sander, such as this one or just with old fashioned sandpaper.

Before moving on to installing your shiplap you’ll want to find and mark your studs. The easiest way of doing this is using a stud finder. Mark your studs all the way across and all the way up the wall you are working on. It is the studs you will be nailing your shiplap into. This will help prevent your planks (you may notice me using the term shiplap and planks interchangeably. My husband refuses to call it shiplap, so I do use both terms) from bowing out from the wall. Some tutorials will tell you to glue the shiplap to the wall with an adherent such as liquid nails. I don’t prefer this way. Nails are definitely easier to remove and the wall easier to patch should you decide to remove the shiplap at any point.

Next you’ll want to determine the gap size you’ll be using between each board. I’ve also experimented with this and using different size gaps but have found 1/4 in gaps to look the best. I’ve used pennies, nickels, and popsicle sticks as spacers all of which provide different sized spacing. The easiest and my prefered way to get uniform gaps is by using tile spacers. They are relatively inexpensive and come in packs with large quantities, perfect for someone like me who tends to drop and lose small things.

5 3/8 width, penny spacing

5 1/2 width, popsicle stick spacing

5 1/4 width, 1/4 in tile spacers

5 1/4 width, 1/4 tile spacer

You’ll also want to decide whether you are starting your faux shiplap from the top or bottom of the wall. I start from the bottom and work my way up. Many tutorials will tell you to start from the top or ceiling and work your way down the wall. Two reasons I don’t do it this way. 1. I think starting from the bottom is much easier. 2. I generally tend to go against majority. But seriously, its much easier to get your first plank level by starting from the bottom. Ceilings tend to slope and have variations due to uneven  joint compound. When I do shiplap I leave the existing baseboard intact and start my shiplap ontop of the baseboard. I like the look of a full piece at the bottom. This also eliminates the need to replace expensive and time consuming baseboard. Anyway to save a penny, right?!

Whether or not you are going to paint the wall prior to installing the shiplap is also something to consider. I personally do not paint first, however many people do. It really is a preference. Either way works fine. If you don’t paint the wall first, you can always paint in-between the planks after the shiplap is up. This is the way I prefer because you can also paint the edges of the planks at the same time. However, consider your gap size because if you are using a smaller space such as penny size you will have a difficult time getting the brush between the planks. This is fine if your original wall color is a light neutral tone but anything bright or dark will be visible between the spaces.


We are starting from the bottom here but you can apply the same process if you prefer to start from the top.

First you’ll want to measure the length needed for the initial piece of shiplap. Do so by measuring the length of your wall and mark the plank for cutting. Always measure twice, we don’t want to waste any precious material! You’ll need a miter saw or a hand saw will do if you don’t have access to a miter saw. You can measure and cut all your pieces before installing the shiplap. The process will move more quickly this way but I prefer to measure and cut as I go. Many walls have variations and by time you get to the top there could be a 1/2 inch difference.

Start by sitting your first piece on top of the baseboard. You can see in all except one of the images below that I start the first piece of shiplap on top of the baseboard. If your baseboard was installed correctly, this piece should be level. To be sure double check it with a level, as this first piece is the foundation for all the proceeding planks. You want it to be correct so the remainder of your shiplap is level. Using your nail gun, nail your plank to the wall. Nail into the studs you have previously marked, two nails in each stud. ( you can hand nail, but shiplap takes a ton of nails and I feel that would be extremely time consuming)


I’ll be the first to admit I’m terrible at taking before and during photos. I get so excited for the end result that I forget the importance of capturing the process. I’m working on this, I promise. 

Now its time to get that faux shiplap going up the wall. Sit your second piece on top of the first. Place your spacers between the two boards, make sure its level, and nail away. Repeat this process all the way up the wall. Once you get to the top you may need a piece of a different length. In my experience, the top piece is usually smaller than the 5 1/4 width. You can rip down one of your pieces to the width needed at the top or you can cover the gap with trim or crown molding. This is is another reason I start at the bottom, homes come standard with some sort of baseboard but not all homes have ceiling molding. So you can leave your baseboard intact and just add molding at the ceiling if you can’t cut a piece of shiplap to size for the top.

If you have any joints where the planks aren’t long enough to cover the length of the wall be sure to stagger them. Joints are less noticeable when they are staggered. You can also patch any joints later with spackle.

If you have any light switches, outlets, or windows and doors you need to go around you’ll have to notch out your planks to fit. I do this using a combination of tools depending on how large of a cut I need to make. Most often I’ll use a multi master tool but you could use a dremel or a jigsaw.

measure and mark your cuts for the light switch

after you’ve notched out the space for the switch


this is what the edges will look like if you don’t caulk

Once all of your planks are up, you’ll want to make the finished product pretty. I caulk along all the edges, at the joint between the baseboard and shiplap, and at the ceiling. I’ve seen it done without being caulked. If you want a more rustic look you can skip this step, but caulking will give you cleaner lines and a more modern farmhouse feel.

Also fill all nail holes using painter’s putty or spackle. Be sure to wipe away any excess to ensure your surface is smooth. Again if you want that rustic look you don’t need to fill the nail holes. If you had joints in your shiplap you can cover them using spackle. I’ve found this one to work best. It goes on pink and turns white when it is dry and ready to paint. Make sure you sand it before painting to get a smooth surface.

If you’re adding trim or molding at the ceiling this is when you’ll want to do that. I leave most of the faux shiplap without trim or molding at the ceiling with the exception of our laundry room. I did add trim since we were adding shiplap to the entire room. I had a gap at the ceiling and covered it using 1x4s. You can see our laundry room remodel here.

You can also add corner trim to achieve a more finished, modern look. See photos below of entryway and laundry for an example. In both spaces I used trim to cover the edges where the shiplap meets in the corners.

Once you have caulked and filled all nail holes and that has dried its time to paint! I love how clean and fresh white shiplap looks but you can choose to paint it any color. Shiplap also looks really nice painted gray. It all depends on the style of your space. I always, always use Behr paint in Ultra Pure White with a satin finish. This is the brightest white I’ve found and the satin finish makes wiping away dirty finger prints or whatever else may get on your walls easy.

Now that you have beautify new faux shiplap to enjoy share your photos with me. I’d love to see your projects and hear your thoughts.

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  1. Amanda
    August 19, 2018 / 11:12 pm

    Is there another name for underlayment??? I can’t find this product at any Lowe’s or Home Depot?!?!

    • August 20, 2018 / 9:30 am

      Hi Amanda. You may find it under the name Ultraply. It’s 1/4 inch plywood.