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No Joanna, That’s Not Shiplap

No Joanna, That's Not Shiplap

My wife and I, like most all old home owners, are fans of a lot of the restoration themed DIY shows these days. Rehab Addict, Restored, and, of course, Fixer Upper.

Their designs and passion to keep original elements of old houses is so rare in the renovation game that I can’t help but root for them to succeed. I miss the show already!

One of my favorite shows is definitely Fixer Upper. Partly because I’m from Texas, and partly because Joanna and Chip are such a trip to watch. They even have a book, The Magnolia Story, telling all about their story. Her designs are almost always stunning, but she does have a real addiction to what she calls “shiplap.”

The only problem is that rarely is the wood she calls shiplap actually shiplap! Not that you can tell on the television screen. I’ve noticed my clients recently asking about shiplap, if their house has it, or can they incorporate it somehow. And I always have to ask “Do you watch Fixer Upper?”

If the answer comes back yes (which it usually does) then my next question is usually, “Do you want actual shiplap or do you just want wood paneling?” This query often brings a cock of the head and a quizzical look. “Aren’t they the same?”

Don’t get me wrong, Joanna, I love your show and really don’t think you need to change a thing. You do enough for historic preservation that all of us in the field should be grateful.

I don’t actually think that you aren’t aware of what shiplap is. I think it’s more of a generalization that is happening much like a lot of people do. Much like a lot of folks call any sparkling white wine champagne when it’s not really champagne unless it’s French.

That may sound snooty, but it’s not my intention. I just want to make sure people know what shiplap actually is and what it isn’t.

What is NOT Shiplap?

It’s Not Sheathing

This is usually what Joanna calls shiplap and where I start to yell at the TV.

It is not plain wooden boards nailed on a wall. Often in old houses, these boards can be found on the exterior of the framing just beneath the siding.

Today, we frame a house and then install plywood sheathing to tighten the frame and help square everything up prior to putting on the siding and interior wall coverings. In the days before plywood, we used 1×6 or 1×8 boards, sometimes installed on a diagonal or horizontally as both sheathing and subfloor.

These boards can be salvaged and reused as paneling or other creative design uses since they can add a lot of rich character, but they are not shiplap. They’re just plain old wood boards.

It’s Not Tongue & Groove

Sadly, it’s not this one either. Tongue and groove boards are used in all different places in old homes and most of us have heard the phrase at one time or another. Flooring is of course the most common tongue and groove you’ll encounter, but there is a lot of siding that is tongue and groove as well.

Tongue and groove (or T&G) is just what it sounds like. One side of the board has a groove and the other side has a tongue. When they are installed side by side, they fit together nice and snug, which strengthens the floor or siding.

What Is Shiplap?

what is shiplap
True shiplap

Shiplap is a 1x board that has a special rabbet or notch cut on the edges of the board in an alternating fashion.  These rabbets allow the boards, when installed horizontally, to self-space themselves and keep water from getting behind them because they fit so perfectly.

Shiplap is mostly found in siding designs because of the need for consistent spacing and water tightness, but it can be found in other places. The lapped joint is one of the simplest you can use to accomplish the spacing and prevent water intrusion, which is why shiplap was and is so popular.

Once installed, shiplap can look just like regular wood boards because the rabbets are hidden, so yes, it can be hard to tell it apart from regular sheathing boards to even a trained eye, but it is different.

There are various profiles of siding available in shiplap too. Sometimes it’s just flat shiplap boards and other times you can find profiles like Novelty Drop, Dolly Varden, or the poorly named but still attractive #117 lap siding.

For the purist, shiplap is the original flat profile with a rabbet on top and bottom. Chip explains it in the video below so we know they are on the level about shiplap even if a few random styles get thrown in with all that Texas shiplap.

As long as she doesn’t start proclaiming that they come from the shiplap tree, I’m still a fan.

If you are having trouble finding the real stuff in your area, you can easily make your own shiplap with this quick tutorial. If you’re one of the lucky ones to have true shiplap in your house and you just need help repairing it, read my post The 7 Best Products to Patch Wood.

Designing With Shiplap

There are so many ways to incorporate shiplap into your home projects and almost all of them are attractive. Whether you use weathered natural wood or want a more clean painted look, a wood covered wall makes any room feel warmer.

Here are some of my favorite designs using shiplap from Houzz to give you a little inspiration for your home.

Pittsboro Residence Farmhouse Entry

Classy Cottage

Bastrop County Plantation House Farmhouse Bedroom 

Traditional Bathroom Seattle

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323 thoughts on “No Joanna, That’s Not Shiplap

  1. I never really questioned what ship lap was until the other day I was watching Fixer Upper at my parent’s and my dad, who is 84, said, that’s not ship lap, that’s wood planks. I too Googled what is ship lap and found your site. By the way, we just remodeled our home that was built in 1927 and have lathe and plaster walls. I also had to Google that. What did we di before Google? Lol.

  2. “love the poste !!! love the vertical wall.
    I too have the same problem as you. Killing heat/sunshine over the summer months that burn my leaves and kill my plants. I am trying to think of a way to build a shelter for the plants from the sun.”
    Thank you for your intelligent post and for helping others become more aware. You made more sense than others who speak within this same area of expertise and I am really glad I found your blog-website. I’ve joined your social networks and will keep an eye out for future great posts as well. Additionally, I have shared your site in my social networks as well. Thank you again!

    1. Hello! So nice to meet you. Thank you for your kind words and shares! Welcome to The Craftsman Blog family. We look forward to keeping in touch for you!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  3. So what is floor to ceiling wood called? Looking at a home with wood covered EVERYTHING!! Built 1902, what is it? Is this feature just a tacky add on or was this common. I’ve never seen it before. It resembles hard flooring in the pics.

  4. I can beat your shiplap. Our house is pre-civil war and has real shiplap which has a different profile than the one you show. It is much thicker as well. I love Fixer Upper but they do get a lot of things wrong on their show. She’s not a designer by education I believe she her degree was in journalism. I am just a few years older than they are but have lived in this old house for almost 30 years (the house has been in the family for close to 175 years.) I was doing fixer upper way before, lol. I did things others are just discovering back then. I had no idea someone could make millions off of painting brick and throwing up some wood calling it shiplap. Her design ideas are not new but taken from other interior designers who have been doing this for years. I do like them but mostly because of Chip’s funny reminds me of my darling husband.

  5. Hi.
    I follow the program from Sweden with Chip and JoJo as one of your Swedish Chanels send it. I heard Jojo say “shiplap” in several episodes. As I Google any english word I don’t know I had to Google “shiplash” and found your Web site.
    Thank you for your explaination and that you still love Jojo ?

  6. Any other information would greatly be appreciated. Thank you And yes I love Chip and JoJo. Watch them everyday.

  7. How far back early 1850 – 1900 was shiplap being used on the interior walls of a house/building ? And what areas of the USA is it mostly found in? My house in Southern Indiana that was built in 1905 all the interior walls seem to be made of 1″ slaths spaced 3/8″ to 5/8″ (rough estimate) apart and are plastered between them. Horrible mess when trying to knock out a wall. I started out trying to find out in what year builders started using sliplap. And how many layers could it be found under when gutting a house to remodel. And came across the Craftsman Blog. Just wanted some info on years it started being used. Wiki didn’t even have the info.

    1. Hi Roberta, I am actually inquiring about the exact same thing!! My husband and I are closing next week on a home that was built in 1906!! We are in GA, and I have been desperately trying to find out what these tiny boards are; they are even on the ceiling. I am writing because I would very much like to know if anyone does know. 🙂 Thank you for posting!

      1. Lindsay- the tiny boards are called lath, so your walls are lath and plaster. Most older homes walls were made that way.

  8. I have shiplap on the exterior of a 100 year old bldg. It is in good shape with the exception of the bottom rows of a 40′ wall due to the lack of gutters and splashing of water to the ground. How do I remove the bottom three boards?. start with the 3rd board up and work down or visa versa?

    1. Totally agree with you Scott, shiplap seems to have become a popular catchall term for planks on walls, but like anything with building or woodwork, it has a specific name relative to its specific design or use. Here in Australia we call overlapping boards used as external cladding weatherboards. I think shiplap is also originally an external cladding system, think anything used in interiors is just panelling!

  9. LOL! I found this blog when I googled shiplap to try to figure out why I had never heard of it before I started hearing about it on Fixer Upper! Now it’s everywhere!

  10. Who cares whether it is real ship lap or not?…. That is just nitpicking and showing your perfectionism. If people like it, what does it matter? It isn’t going to change the world, either way!

    1. My goodness what a snotty comment!! You could have made your point without insulting anyone. Sit down with a glass of wine and contemplate how wonderful spring is. Prayers and goodwill towards you and yours.

    2. That’s not nitpicking, he was just making clear what actually is and is not shiplap. I found it interesting, and maybe you don’t care but I care. I like referring to something as what it actually is.

  11. New to your Blog- Lotsa good thoughts and ideas! I have a project house with tongue and groove wood in an upstairs back dormer room, all the other bedrooms are plaster, this one has painted and chipped/peeling wood tongue and groove- what I wonder about is that it seems yo have “taped” over each T&G joint. Has anyone seen this, seems very time consuming to have done this. I am debating -cover it all with dry wall, or scrap, encapsulate, repaint. Any thoughts? The wood seems it would add character but will need to be maintained with lead precautions-none known just assuming since it was built 1900!

  12. Great info! I want to have a shiplap look on my kitchen wall but also I will have some cabinets and shelves too. Should the wall be done first then install the cabinets or is the shiplap installed around the cabinets?
    Thanks!

  13. The more I watch the show the more annoying and awful I find her “designs”. Pull up all the carpet, tear down all the walls and put in hardwood everywhere is like all she says 90% of the time Never mind some people might actually like carpet and walls. I mean not on HGTV, but at least ask before assuming, ms thang.

    1. I don’t care what they call it, I don’t want it in my house. I was raised on a farm in Southern Idaho and we all had a barn and some milk cows. The barn wall were made of what Ms. Joanna calls ship lap and I don’t want to live in a barn. If you want wood on the wall, some T&G cedar, pine or bead board work just fine and it’s not a barn.

  14. We installed a pine ship lap in front of stairway wall -open to our kitchen and dining room. The pine is installed vertical and you can see the character of the knot. Our red oak hardwood floor is applachian prestige natural red oak. Also we have a wood beam in the ceiling. Now I have a debate with my husband: Stain a slight darker than the hardwood floor or paint. My question: Do we paint or stain the pine ship lap? Please let me know what is the right direction either to stain ( darker or not) and what color of paint should we use–we were advised to paint it with the same color of trim-white. Also someone mentions – stain pine it is difficult- bleeding. So please give us some advise since this needs to be decided soon.

  15. To be fair, I do remember seeing an early episode of the show where upon uncovering some old planked walls the actually gave a detailed explanation of what shiplap was. Maybe after the show took off and everyone was into they just took the ball and ran with it. We do that with a lot of things. Hummus, pashmina, champagne, MCM all very specific things that we now slapped all over the place as a more universal label.

  16. I, too, watch all of the renovation shows on HGTV & DIY. And, just as the term “shiplap” being used incorrectly makes you yell at the TV, I do the same when I hear anyone say, “hardwoods”. There are not “hardwoods underneath the linoleum”, there is hardwood flooring under it. There are not “hardwoods throughout the house”, there are hardwood floors throughout a house. I have a feeling no one would enjoy watching TV with us if you & I watched these shows together, yelling at the television every time we heard shiplap & hardwoods!

    1. Finally, my husband and I are not the only ones who yell at the tv, no is not shiplap! Lol! We love Jo and Chip but we totally agree with you. Please stop putting islands in every kitchen.

  17. We are building a new home in central Canada where winter temperatures are around -15 to -30 degrees Celsius for a good duration of the winter. I am wanting to have shiplap or boards that look like shiplap installed in various rooms throughout the house, many that are on exterior walls. Can we put the boards right onto the studs (with insulation and vapour barrier of course) or do we need to drywall it first? This is our forever house and I would hate to mess this up.

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