How to Make Shiplap: Cheap Plywood Shiplap

We learned how to make plywood shiplap, and we were able to cover our entire bathroom accent wall for only $30!

We LOVE wooden wall treatments, which is probably no surprise to you since we used them in our bedroom, our kids’ bathroom, and now in our master bathroom. When designing this space, we debated between board and batten and shiplap. We did this room during a kid-free week where the kids were at their grandparents’ house, and we had a long list of projects we wanted to get done during that time. In order to save time, we decided to just do a single accent wall and shiplap was the perfect option to add some texture and character.

plywood-shiplap

This plywood shiplap is a staple in our home. We’ve used it in our DIY hall tree to create a cute space to hang coats and winter gear. We also used shiplap planks on our vertical shiplap wall treatment in the kids’ bathroom. All of them have held up perfectly, despite getting used and abused by 2 crazy toddlers on a daily basis. So, this is an amazing, inexpensive option no matter what type of shiplap wall you’re creating.

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How to Make Shiplap

Supplies:

Step 1: Cut your underlayment into planks

Determine how wide you want your plywood shiplap planks to be. We’ve used both 6 and 8-inch planks in our home. Use your table saw (or a circular saw with this jig) to cut your 4′ x 8′ sheet of underlayment into planks. You also can ask your local home improvement store to do this for only a couple of dollars. 

Step 2: Prepare your planks

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Sand the cut edges of your plywood shiplap planks to make sure they’re smooth. At this point, you can prime your planks using a paint sprayer or brush and roller. We sprayed ours all at once in the yard, and that worked great until it started to rain. To avoid that mess, you could also just prime the plywood shiplap planks after you install them on the wall.

How to install plywood shiplap

Step 1: Paint the wall

Paint your wall the same color that you will paint your shiplap. Plywood shiplap has seams that will show the wall color, and you want it to match. We applied primer and found the walls were white enough without applying any paint.

Step 2: Draw or project a level line at the top of the wall

Most ceilings are not level, so if you start hanging boards flush against the ceiling, you’ll get halfway down the wall and realize the whole treatment is sloped. To avoid this, use a laser level or a pencil and level to create a straight line one board-width from the top of the wall. 

Step 3: Install the first row of plywood shiplap

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Line up the bottom of the board up with the line. Trim the top of the board to make it flush with the ceiling. Using your Brad nailer and ¾” nails, secure the plank to the wall. If your wall is wider than 8′, measure that space and install additional boards following the same process. 

Step 4: Install remaining rows of shiplap

To install the second row of shiplap, place pennies (or any spacer) on top of the plank and push it against the first row. Secure the plank with nails. Repeat across the row and down the wall. 

Step 5: Install last row

Like the ceiling, baseboards are usually not level. Measure the height of your last row at several places along the wall. Remember to account for your spacer distance too. Mark those same heights on your board and draw a line connecting the points. Use your saw to cut along this line. Place your spacers and nail the board to the wall.

Step 6: Fill nail holes

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Fill all of the nail holes. Make sure to overfill each hole, so it can be sanded flush. If you’re installing on a large wall and want a more polished finish, use fill all the vertical seams. After the filler has dried, use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth out the holes.

Step 7: Caulk the seams

Caulk along the ceiling, baseboards, and edges of the wall. In our bathroom, we also caulked where the wood meets the shower surround and the sink/backsplash/vanity. Use a wet finger to smooth out the beads of caulk (baby wipes are my secret weapon for caulking!). Use a butter knife to remove caulk from the shiplap seams. 

Step 8: Paint

Use a paint sprayer or brush and roller to paint your plywood shiplap. It took us 2 coats with a brush and roller to get full coverage. 

plywood shiplap bathroom

Now you know how to make shiplap out of a sheet of plywood! Tag us (@thebuildits) if you make your own plywood shiplap, so we can see the awesome space you create!

FAQs

Can you use plywood for shiplap? What kind of plywood do you use?

Yes, if it’s the right kind of plywood. Plywood comes in “grades” that tell you how smooth and blemish-free the boards will be. For shiplap, you’ll want to use A and B grade plywood. These are more expensive than C and D grade plywood, which typically have knots and splits in the outer layers, but will result in a better finish. A great option for cheap shiplap is to use plywood underlayment, which commonly used on top of subfloors. It’s only ⅕” thick, but is also usually fairly smooth and straight. 

How do I paint plywood shiplap?

Before painting the plywood shiplap, you’ll want to use a good primer on the planks. If you’re installing in a bathroom like us, use one that protects the wood from moisture and mold. After allowing the primer to dry, use a paint sprayer or brush and roller to put on 2 coats of paint. Use a butter knife to remove any paint or primer that gets in the shiplap gaps. Note: Before installing shiplap, paint your wall the same color you will paint the shiplap. The wall color will show through in the gaps and you’ll want it to match the shiplap boards. 

Should I nail or screw shiplap?

Technically you could do either, but using a Brad nailer to nail shiplap will save a lot of time. It’s faster to shoot nails and it’s easier to do one-handed if you’re installing shiplap on your own. You’ll also save a lot of time by only needing to fill and sand tiny nail holes before painting instead of huge screw holes. Plus, if you’re using ultra-thin plywood planks, it will be hard to sink the screw heads below the surface of the board without splitting them.

Do you start shiplap from the top or bottom?

Start your shiplap from the top. Walls, ceilings, and floors are not level, so wherever you end may have a few wonky cuts. Usually, the top is much more visible than the bottom which can be covered with a bed, couch, tv stand, toilet, vanity, etc. So, you want to make sure your planks at the top look the best and are straight, so your whole wall treatment isn’t sloped.

How do you hide seams in shiplap?

Use wood filler to overfill the seams where shiplap planks meet. Let it dry, sand them flush with 220-grit sandpaper, then prime and paint the whole wall. You seams will be hidden and you’ll have a more modern, clean-looking shiplap

Are you going to make shiplap? Tag us (@thebuildits) so we can see what you make out of plywood shiplap!


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