January 7, 2018
Add a final coat, or two, of paint.

As a starting point, we decided to shiplap an accent wall in the master bedroom. We liked the idea of containing the mess in one room while we figured out just how DIY savvy we were. Fortunately, I had already painted the room a neutral gray when we thought we were going to sell the house. I had to do a few touch-ups here and there, but that saved quite a bite of time.

When looking at color options for the shiplap, I decided I wanted to go a bit lighter to make sure we didn’t pull in any strange blue or green undertones. Once you decide on colors, it’s important to test the color on your wall. It takes a little more time, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run. You just never know how a color will look in your space. Luckily for Josh, I’m pretty good with colors and we don’t have to spend a ton of time deciding.

Make sure to test your shiplap color against wall color before painting the boards.

Wall color is Behr Dolphin Fin. Accent color is Behr Silver Drop.

Choose your material and gather your tools

Once you have your colors picked, you have to decide what material you want to use for the shiplap. We’ll pause here for a second and address whether or not this is really shiplap. If you’re a shiplap purist, that’s a resounding no. This isn’t the real, true-to-the-name, expensive shiplap. This is a wall treatment that saves cash and looks just as great!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, you need to choose what kind of wood you want to use. The most popular options we found were 1/4 inch MDF and underlayment. While MDF paints nicely, it tends to puff up at nail entry points and doesn’t handle moisture as well as underlayment would. We are going for low maintenance over here and decided on the 1/4 inch plywood underlayment. Once you have that, you’ll need a few other supplies:

  • Saw
  • Air compressor
  • Pneumatic finishing nailer
  • Safety glasses
  • Four foot level
  • Nails
  • Spacer
  • Nail filler
  • Sand paper
  • Paint
  • Roller
  • Drop cloth

Prep the boards

Josh cut each board into 7 and 5/8 inch strips with a table saw. You could also use a circular saw with a guide. The number may seem random, but Josh did a little math to factor in our ceiling height and how may boards we wanted from top to bottom. Once we had the boards ripped down, we got to sanding. This was another time investment, but well worth the effort. Once the boards were sanded, we started painting.

Skip the primer for a more rustic look.

No primer needed. Be sure to paint the face and edges of the boards.

You’ll noticed that we skipped the primer. I’m not a big fan of super smooth finishes on wood. Use a roller to paint the edges and top of each board. I recommend trying to get a few coats on for maximum coverage. It makes the paint touch-up after installation go much quicker. Once the boards are painted, you’ll want to let them dry. To save space, stack them against the wall.

Paint the boards with several coats of paint.

I put three coats of paint on each sanded board. Your first coat will soak in. Use as many coats as you need to achieve the look you’re going for.

Installing the boards

Once your boards are dry, it’s time for install. As the very first step, you’ll want to do three things.

  1. Decide if you want to paint the wall the color of the shiplap. I recommend this step if there is a substantial difference in color. If not, it’s not entirely necessary. I skipped this step after trying a test patch. The colors are close enough that it didn’t make a difference.
  2. Find all your studs and mark them out. You’ll need this for the first couple of boards while you put them up. Once they are up, you can use the current nail holes as a guide.
  3. Decide how you’re going to handle your baseboards. We considered the options and recognized that our current trim is one of the things we loathed. Knowing that, we ripped it all out and used this as an opportunity to add the trim we really wanted (we’ll cover that in another post).

After you’ve done the three items listed above, you can start to install your boards. You’ll want to make sure to use your level for this. We noticed our ceiling wasn’t level, which made using the level extremely important for the first couple boards. Also, don’t forget to use your spacer. Of all the options we tried, we liked the spacing of a nickel the best. We had plenty of nickels in our change jar, which made keeping the spacing even easy and low cost. You’ll also want to take note of the gap at the top of the ceiling. It looks pretty even in the photo, but it certainly wasn’t the look we were going for.

Ideally, you’ll want to secure the boards with about three nails in as few studs as possible. You’ll see in the photo below that we ended up using a lot more nails in about every stud. We found the wall was pretty wavy and I wasn’t interested in trying to mess with this down the road. We considered the options and just decided to be a little extra with the nailing as opposed to using some sort of adhesive. If we ever want to take this down, we’ll deal with our decision then.

Install your boards with a level and spacer.

Try to use as few nails as few nails as possible in each board. Make sure to keep them level and evenly spaced.

Prep and paint

Once you have all of your boards installed. you’ll want to fill all of the nail holes. I’m a fan of the tubes of DAP DryDex. It goes on pink and lets you know when it’s dry. I put two coats on all of the nail holes just to be sure we wouldn’t see any indents. Once the second coat dried, we sanded the holes by hand. This is another step that takes time, but can’t be overlooked. When done correctly, it really looks good and feels smooth.

Fill nail holes with DAP DryDex.

I started off using a different wood filler that was leaving quite a few indents. DAP DryDex turned out much better.

Once the nail holes are filled and sanded, you’re ready to paint. We added two more coats of paint. You could maybe get by with one, but we decided two was appropriate.

Add a final coat, or two, of paint.

When the nail holes are filled correctly, you won’t even notice the nail holes have been filled.

What to do about the edges?

In full transparency, I don’t really know that we had a plan for the edges of the shiplap when we started. As we went on, it became clear that we had to figure something out. Ultimately, we decided a frame would look nice. We were on the fence between a couple of different types of trim in a variety of thicknesses and widths. We settled on 1/4 x 2 inch utility stock. It helps conceal the unfinished edges and gives the wall a more polished look. You sand and paint this just like you did for the shiplap.

Without trim:

Give your wall a finished look by adding trim.

The wall looks good, but we can do better!

With trim:

Consider adding a frame to your shiplap.

A little trim goes a long way!


Yikes! This room had absolutely nothing going for it. The bedding set was something I picked up on Amazon while we were staging our house. It’s not our style – at all. I’ve kept it around the house, but it will likely hit the donation bin soon.

Before shiplap installation

The room is sad. Aside from some really poor lighting and lack of a headboard, the room was so boring.


What a difference a little wall treatment can make. We love the way this turned out. The wall looks amazing. It gives the room a sense of warmth and character. We didn’t realize how much we love wall treatments! I used the same bedding for a little consistency in the photos. While I still don’t like it, it does look a tiny bit better.

Checkout the headboard and nightstands. Those are also DIY projects of ours. The headboard is likely to stay in the room. I have a few other ideas for the nightstands, but that will come later. You may also want to take a peak at the trim. Remember how I mentioned we ripped all the trim off? Consider this a teaser. We’ll cover that in our next post.

A little shiplap can go a long way!

A little shiplap can go a long way! What a difference the shiplap makes on the wall.

Total cost

Sadly, I didn’t do the best job keeping track of receipts on this one for an exact number. We do know that we spent less than $200 on the wall. Of course, that doesn’t include the tools we already owned. It took about two weekends to finish and we didn’t have strangers traipsing in and out of the house to complete the work. That’s a win-win to us.

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