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

  1. Hello. Thank you for this. I also want to add that Joanna’s way of using the old details of the houses is not very preserving. She has several times thrown away really beautiful kitchens, which could be used in new design also. She should be more preserving and recycle more. Painting old wood white is not the thing called preservation.

    Kind regards, Anu from Finland

    1. EXACTLY

      To be honest most of the people who run those shows OBVIOUSLY do not actually do the WORK

      TYPICAL staged CRAP

  2. Hi! Great post! Do you have any advice on installing shiplap (actually, just planks!) to plaster walls? Am I ok using nails if I attach it at the studs?
    Thank you!

  3. I’m glad it’s not just me. I also love Chip and Dianna, but she keeps talking about ship lap and I’ve yet to see her point to real shiplap and call it such. It drives me nuts. LOL Shiplap comes from a boat building technique where the boards are lapped one on top of the other to create a water tight surface. Wooden siding on some houses could be considered ship lap but interior boards butted together and nailed on a wall are not shiplap. Tongue and groove boards also are certainly not shiplap (since they don’t overlap). They are just tongue and groove boards put together to face out a wall. The stuff Joanna calls “shiplap” would be better called “shipgroove” or “shiptongueandgroove” or just “shipbutt” . Hey, I think I just coined a new term for this material! LOL

    1. shiplap has a shiplap joint, and the boards lay flat. Clapboard is laid top over bottom, making them not flat, and not jointed. Clapboard goes out at the bottom like \

  4. Thank you for pointing out the difference between shiplap and regular paneling. I recently purchased a 1910’s Craftsman-style home in N Texas. I soon realized that the walls and ceilings are sheathed with what appears to be true 1×8 Douglas Fir shiplap. In fact, almost the entire thing is built with tight grain darkish red Douglas Fir! Unfortunately nobody carries Doug Fir locally anymore so I’m stuck special-ordering small bits of Douglas Fir T+G, joists, etc. and using yellow pine most everywhere else..

    -Douglas fir tongue and groove floors (I believe). Very hard wood.
    -Douglas fir shiplap everywhere
    -Douglas fir beams
    -Douglas fir floor joists
    -Douglas fir #117 siding
    -Douglas fir rough cut 2×4 framing lumber, rafters, etc.

    1. On the family land in East Texas, all of our old barns had 2×4 fir boards like you are describing. Good luck!

  5. I loved reading this post! thanks for writing it. I am am a huge fan of interior decor and recently rented a house in Nigeria!! the owners are American and have built the houses somewhat American style. I have a HUGE problem in this house. The walls are not like any other houses in Nigeria and after living in the US 13 years, i must say that i have never seen walls like this either. No one really knows what to do with them 🙁 they look like shiplap but are waterproof..almost like laminated panels which makes it impossible for us to drill holes. (a huge design problem for me. i settled with command strips)

    My main concern is painting it. i would love all white walls! I have decided that instead of hating everything about the walls, i should find advantages about it. The walls are installed EVERYWHERE! Kitchen, bathroom, etc. We tried to wash them because the previous owners clearly never did! i would love to paint them but our painter said he is still trying to find a top coat that would keep the paint in place! sigh! i would love to send you a picture and maybe you can tell me what in the world these wall are made from and the best way they can be maintained! We asked our landlord but he has no clue! lol

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  7. I’ve remodeled many older homes as well in Oregon. One home I worked on had a style of shiplap that was less common. It had the rabbeted edges top and bottom like common shiplap, but there was a double beaded groove going down the length of the plank. I had to create new boards to match the design from scratch ’cause I couldn’t find anything to match it anywhere. It was a challenge to get it perfect (selecting the best router bits for the beads, etc) but it turned out very nice. Thanks for your posting, it brought back many memories.

    1. Hello Roger,

      Wow, we are so happy to hear this! This is one of the reasons we post what we do- nostalgia is a very special and meaningful thing. Keep creating, Roger!

      Thank you so much for being a reader of The Craftsman Blog. We look forward to having you as part of our Craftsman Blog family in 2019.

      Happy Holidays!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

    2. i have home n kansas with 100 ft x 10 ft tall of 1 x 4 double grooves running length wise. i am 71 years old and a 90 plus man says it was what builders put plaster on before wood lath was introduced. he is right because i had to chip out plaster in each groove. home also has 1 x 6 shiplap 25ft x 8ft tall that old remodel nailed lath on then plastered.

  8. She means shiplap as a design element. For her it means wood plank walls. Up here in colder climates anything that does not provide a perfect seal against air transfer is out of the question. Below freezing, moist air must stay inside the room where it belongs. No matter what kind of wood she uses inside, it’s just a design element for her.

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  10. Scott,

    I recently bought a home built in 1910. The wall paper is coming loose in several places and what I see is planking underneath. Whether it is or is not “shiplap” I wonder would it be wise to pull down the wallpaper and clean the walls and leave them raw. I think it would look great but I’m afraid that on the exterior walls if there is not over lapping then the outside air could get in. What are your thoughts on this before I start stripping wallpaper like a mad man ?

    1. I would love to know what you did. I ripped off the layers of wallpaper and paneling and now don’t know how to seal it???

    2. This sounds like exactly what I have in my 1908 home in Oregon. I ripped off wallpaper and was surprised by my “log home”! I covered it back up, assuming the plaster layer was necessary for insulation.

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  12. Hello! Thank you from Central Arkansas for this post. I had burned through Property Brothers and Hulu started up Fixer Upper (which is way better), and wasn’t sure what exactly shiplap was even though Joanna mentions it in almost every episode. It always just looked like wood paneling lol. So thank you for this article. Now I just gotta decide if I want basic cedar paneling in our closets / laundry room, or if I want to try to find cedar shiplap. 🙂

  13. Looks like shiplap to me in this video…..coming from someone who just milled their own and put on wall for last 2 clients.

    1. Agreed. While most people call any board type shiplap these days, the team on Fixer Upper would seem to know the difference.

  14. Thank you for the final word on shiplap. I too love Chip and JoAnna and would love to kidnap them to Oregon. We are renovating a 100 year old prune dryer to be our home. It’s such a treasure! Actually in pretty dang good shape, we will have to redo the foundation, and roof, but what a treasure trove inside. The dryer and venting is all shiplap on the outside, with tongue and groove on the inside. The barn is a large structure, 70 X 50, and on a hillside with creek at the bottom. They needed to place them by water because of fire hazard and to wash the prunes. There is also a huge brick furnace in the bottom of the barn. We are keeping the brick walls of the furnace as is, but will need to tear down the dryer part, but it will give us 4000’+ of both shiplap and T&G. We will use this for flooring and walls. We also can use the windows, which again are in incredible shape for 100 years old for interior decorating. But I would love, love, love to have Joanna’s expertise on input on exactly how to design this and get the full effect of her talent.

  15. Great post, using shiplap can really be a useful and worth investment, increases the value of the house if incase you want to sell it and can also benefit you. well investor sites can really put a good offer to the house that way like the site they buy houses. Thanks for sharing this blog!

  16. Hi all, this is a really interesting blog. I too am a big fan of Fixer Upper and I love Chip and Joanna Gaines, and Erin and Ben Napier of Hometown (Laurel, Miss.) for their work, vision and determination to restore and maintain old and beautiful architecture. Out here in Australia, as another poster touched on, the outside ‘cladding’ on many of our older wood homes, is known as “weatherboard”. I also was curious about Joanna’s “shiplap”, as I’d never heard of it. And to further confuse matters I guess, because of my English heritage, when anyone mentions “pannelling” my mind goes to the classic look of the wood pannelling you see in many of the UK’s stately homes, particularly the libraries. For Scott and the US readers here, you may like to check out one of our own loved Australian types of house, known as a “Queenslander”, built high on metal capped, cement or wood stumps so the breeze flows under the house, cooling in summer, with wide verandahs. Traditionally has tongue and groove inside walls, polished floorboards, French windows, and internal breezeways above the doors. cheers

    1. Thanks so much for the info! We love when our readers share info with us. -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  17. Howdy Mr. Sidler,
    Fellow Central Texan residing on the East Coast!
    Just came across your blog, by way of that picture “This is not shiplap siding”. Could you please tell me what that specific type of 2-lap siding is called. I’ve got a house in Georgia that has this siding and I can’t find a name for it at all.

    1. You might have found it by now but I think it is called “Channel Lap” siding, or at least that might help you search it out better.

  18. Thank you so much for writing this! I love Fixer Upper but was confused when they talked about shiplap. It looked different from what my grandfather called shiplap. I grew up in a house that was built in 1912. When my husband was fixing a plumbing problem for my mom he found true shiplap in the one wall. He said he thought it was unusual to find it in a house in So. California. I love the fact that Fixer Upper and other shows are renovating old homes and giving them new life. Unfortunately in my area the culture wants to demolish anything older than 20 years old and build a mansion home.
    Thank you again. Love your blog.

    1. Hi Linda,
      So glad you found the blog fun to read! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. We love hearing from our readers!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

    2. I too luv the “old” historical homes. We live in Central Texas in a small town of around 4,000 folks. Our home is in the historic district and I was able to research at our Courthouse finding out our home was built in 1911. Make a copy of the original documentation and had it framed. We luv our “oldie but goodie”. ♥

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