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Photo by Mark Lohman

Rustic and beautiful, the shiplap look continues to be very popular in interior design projects. Shiplap actually refers to a particular joint featuring an overlapping groove design that allows wood boards to interlock tightly, giving them great weatherproofing capability, which is why shiplap’s long been a favorite for outbuildings like barns. Plus, it’s relatively easy to achieve yourself.

Here’s how to create the beautiful effect of shiplap by artfully installing plywood panels to walls inside your home.

How to Install Shiplap Using Plywood:

  1. Measure the width and height of the wall to determine how much wood you’ll need. Plywood comes in 4-by-8-foot sheets (32 square feet), so if you want to cover a 10-by-10-foot wall you’ll need 100 square feet of wood to cover it completely, so you’d buy four sheets. The extra material may come in handy.
  2. Clean and prep the wall. Remove baseboards, nails, screws, and all other items affixed to the wall.
  3. Prep the wood. Cut it into 6-inch-wide strips with a table saw or circular saw and sand the edges. Use a block or sponge sander to protect your hands. Then fine sand the edges and any rough spots to finish.
  4. Paint the planks your desired shade and let dry thoroughly. Two coats should do it.
  5. Find and mark the vertical studs, drawing or chalk-lining a vertical line from bottom to top on your wall so you know where to nail through the drywall.
  6. Measure and cut the first piece; place it on the wall and insert two nails at the point of the chalk line, spaced an equal distance apart. A nail gun is easiest, or you can use a hammer. Use a level for horizontal boards.
  7. Measure and cut each remaining board as you go along, using the miter saw to make clean cuts. When you reach the end of a row, use the cut-off portion of the previous board to start the next row, which gives a nice, staggered effect. Don’t forget to measure around outlets and light switches (this is where the extra pieces will come in handy).
  8. Use spacers or craft sticks to create space in between boards to get the shiplap “gap” look. (With actual shiplap, you wouldn’t need spacers.)
  9. To get a finished look, nail molding strips over corner gaps. If desired, fill nail holes with spackle or paintable caulk, and, once dry, gently sand. You can touch up the holes with paint, if necessary.
  10. Reinstall base molding and any electrical outlet covers.


Plain wood paneling is not technically shiplap but makes a beautiful interior wall with the shiplap look. You can invest in real shiplap boards for your walls, or simply use plywood paneling, which is often done on home design programs.

AC plywood makes a great shiplap wall, as the A side comes pre- for quicker, easier installation.

Tools and Supplies: