Everything You Need To Know About Building A Shiplap Wall

Hello Friends!

I know a lot of you that are reading this are looking for a more in depth tutorial on how to build a shiplap wall because you are thinking of doing this project yourself or you’re just curious 🙂 My plan with this post is to give you the honest truth about different tips, suggestions and warnings before you get started. Basically just things we learned along the way that would have been helpful in knowing ahead of time.

First things first, what you should buy vs what you should rent:


  • 6in (1/2 in thick) MDF shiplap boards from Home Depot – it is more affordable than wood shiplap planks but it is a little more expensive than plywood (like $5 per plank)- if you can spend a little extra here it makes all the difference in the world. The MDF shiplap planks at home depot are great because they are perfectly straight and they come already primed – amazinggggg!! Also since they are designed to be like shiplap, they have the “tongue and groove” cut outs so you can literally slip the next board right under-sans nickels- and nail it in! Really simplifies the process and gives you that seamless look.
  • Paint – we matched the color of the room and used Whisper by Dunn Edwards.
  • Foam rollers because these MDF boards are so smooth, we used foam rollers get the perfect smooth finish.
  • Shortcut angle brush
    A level + stud finder 
  • Drop cloth
  • Sand paper
  • Putty knife
  • Acrylic latex caulk
  • 1-3/4in. x 18 gauge brad nails
  • Corner moulding – you’ll need this if you are installing on a wall that has a corner edge to it, I’ll explain more below.
  • Loctite Power Grab adhesive
  • Jigsaw blade – you’ll need this if you have any outlets on the wall, more on this later below.
  • Outlet extenders – only if you have outlets on the wall.
  • Pry bar – this will help remove baseboards and outlets if needed.



A Few Things to Think About Before You Start:

Before you leave for your local hardware store, think thru a few things:

  • Measure the wall width and height so you know how many boards you’ll need and which length to get them – our wall was 89″ x 108″ so we needed 18- 8ft MDF boards.
  • Make a note if the wall has a corner – if so you’ll need a piece of corner trim to cover the raw edges of the boards at the end. Its important to note if you have a door or any other moulding on the connecting corner wall that this corner trim might run into, this will determine the size corner piece you will buy.
  • Take a photo of the type of baseboards you have– if you have baseboards that are similar in thickness to the MDF boards (1/2-3/4 inch) then you will luck out here and you might not need to remove the baseboards. If your baseboards are thinner than your planks then you will need to remove them and replace them over the planks at the end.
  • Check to see if the wall has any electrical outlets – if so, you’ll need to get electrical box extenders so the outlets can be flush with the wall.

Building the Wall:

Step 1: Find your studs

  • Use your stud finder to find the studs in the wall. You’ll want to nail your boards into the studs for maximum stability.
  • You can use a plum line chalk marker or just a pencil to make your mark.

Step 2: Measure and cut 

  • Line up your first board and mark where to cut so the plank fits perfectly on the wall. There is a temptation to have a hardware store make your cuts for you so you don’t have to rent the miter saw, however you might run into the issue of the boards being a quarter inch too short or long and then you wont be able to return the plank since its already cut ;-/ I recommend marking and cutting each plank individually to make sure you have a perfect cut.

Step 3: Level the board to the ceiling and nail it in

  • Some people say to start at the floor and others say to start at the ceiling, I’ve done this project twice now and both times we started at the ceiling and worked our way down. In theory, if you’re doing the plywood and nickel spacing method, it seems easier to rest the next board on the prior ones (squeezing the nickels in place) and build up rather than have to hold the board up and build down BUT I have two things to say in building downward: first, if you use the MDF shiplap boards you wont have the issue of needing to balance your nickels because the wood is already evenly spaced for you (thank goodness!) and second, if your wall doesn’t fit each 6in plank perfectly, you will need to cut the height of the board down – I don’t know about you but I would rather have awkward size planks at the bottom of the wall, most likely hiding behind furniture, rather than at the top of the wall staring back at me every day.
  • Tip with the nail gun, (and this might be painfully obvious to veterans out there) but to the newbies like us … leave the air compressor on for the duration of the nailing or else your gun might start doing funny things with the nails where they don’t go in all the way. I know its loud but you will get used to it 🙂

Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 until you reach the floor or your outlets


  • Mark where your outlets are on the plank and use your jigsaw to cut out a squared U shaped hole. Make sure you cut a big enough hole for your extenders but small enough to be hidden by the outlet cover. It helps to cut diagonally first so that you can cut the corners straight. Also make sure you get the right jigsaw blade so you have a nice clean finished cut.
  • We needed an electrician to install the chandelier and the neon sign in this project so we had him add our extenders as well.


  • Make nice with the hardware store tool rental guy – In this project, we needed to cut an inch off the height of the final plank so we could finish the wall. Tyler tried his hardest to cut a straight line with the jigsaw (which thinking about it now, that was hilarious that we actually thought he might be able to do that with a JIGSAW haha). We headed back to Home Depot only to find out that their big wood cutters in the back of the store cannot cut a 6in plank of wood vertically, sigh. Since it seemed ridiculous to rent a table saw just for this one little cut – so after a long hard day of challenges on this corner wall we walked back into the tool rental space overwhelmed and tired. I think the Home Depot employee in the tool rental section could see the look of defeat on our faces because, bless his heart, he fired up the table saw (you know, the saw that people loose fingers on) right in the middle of the room (as an 8 year old was just walking by) and together we figured out how to trim an inch off this little MDF plank! So if you find yourself in this position, pray you meet a nice tool rental employee looking to make your day!


Step 8: Fill the holes and sand smooth

  • Use acrylic latex caulk to fill the nail holes, wipe the excess away with a putty knife, let it dry and then sand down with a fine grade sand paper.

Step 9: Paint

  • If you don’t use pre-primed MDF boards, you’ll need to sand and prime your boards first.
  • We wanted to match the shiplap wall color to the rest of the walls in this space so we used the color Whisper by Dunn Edwards.
  • To get the smoothest finish, I recommend using foam rollers.
  • To cut in at the corners of the wall, I recommend using this brush.


Watch the makeover video on this room here:


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