April 12, 2018
White shiplap – everyone loves it (thanks Joanna Gaines!).
Or, maybe you’ve moved past shiplap (since everyone else loves it) and you’re on to wood accent walls. Whichever you prefer, manufacturers have taken notice and provided a plethora of options…none of which are cheap.
We were wanting to do a wood accent wall in Finn’s nursery and white shiplap throughout our dining room. I found this nice looking adhesive product that would have cost about $1,000 to do just the wall in Finn’s room and Jim looked at this product from Home Depot that would have covered the whole dining room, but still would have run us about $1,000.
We’ve been used to just buying a couple of buckets of paint and being done with the walls, so this was looking like a painful investment.
But then we got to thinking: could we(Jim) just make the shiplap?
The answer: Yes.
And so could you!
Below is Jim’s full explanation of this project! (Thanks, babe!)
The project in a nutshell is to buy 4’ x 8’ sheets of plywood and strip them down to 6” wide slats, sand them, and then nail or glue them into place.
There is definitely some labor involved (sanding…bleck!)! But I can tell you, my weekend labor doesn’t usually save me thousands of dollars, so in this case it was most definitely worth it.
I used a thin plywood under layment for my project, similar to this, though you could select something slightly thicker or with a different appearance depending on your taste. I was attempting to go absolutely as cheaply as I could, and knowing that I’d be painting 80% of it white I wasn’t very concerned with the wood grain patterns or naked appearance.
You will need a good table saw, so if you don’t have one, find a friend that does. Handling 4×8 sheets is a challenge, so you’ll need a friend anyway. In my case, I have a good buddy just down the street who owns both a truck and a nice table saw, so he earned his place in this tutorial.
I tested on a sheet by cutting it into 8” and 6” strips and then held them up on the wall to see what looked best. We both preferred the 6” look, which surprised me a little. When cutting them I thought the 6” would look too thin, but once up on the wall it was nice. Of course, you could do whatever you like. You could even take a pencil and sketch some on your wall first (if you didn’t want to waste material by cutting).
With 6” boards I could get eight pieces per sheet of plywood. HOWEVER! Remember that the blade is going to take about 1/8” off of each board that you cut. So if you set your guide at exactly 6”, you’ll end up with seven 6” pieces and the last one will only be 5 & 1/8”. Measure the width of your saw blade and subtract that from your chosen width (so 5 & 7/8” instead of 6”) so that you end with even pieces and don’t have any wasted ones.
I’m certainly not telling you to do this because I messed up a bunch of pieces…
Once you have a stack of cut boards, it’s time to sand! Now, this is a step that you’re probably thinking “do I really need to do this? What if I want a rough look?” Yes, you need to do this. Don’t think of it as trying to create perfectly smooth wood, but rather concealing the fact that you cut these down from a large hunk of plywood. Whenever you use a table saw, you’re going to have frayed/rough edges on the cuts, and that’s what you want to focus your sanding efforts on. I set up a station outside in my yard with a couple of saw horses and a solid piece of plywood (something heavy from a prior project) to act as my work table. Then I would slide the first piece of “shiplap” into the edge, run my electric sander over the face a couple times, then up and down each edge several times and across the sides. Then I’d flip it over, do the same thing, and it was done. You can get in a pretty good groove and knock out a board every 3-4 minutes once you get used to it. I had 112 boards, so it took me several days to get them all done.
Now! We’re finally ready for the fun part. I did Finn’s nursery accent wall first, and started in the upper left corner. I suggest that you start in a place that will let you put up an entire 8’ piece. In my case, I knew there was going to be a small gap at some point because the wall height wasn’t perfectly divisible by 6”, so I worked from the top down since I thought a different size strip would be less noticeable at the bottom.
I used a nail gun and small brads to tack the shiplap in place. The nail gun made it ridiculously easy, so I would strongly suggest that you borrow one if you don’t have one to do this project. If you haven’t used one before, don’t be fearful. They are very easy to learn and are actually a lot of fun on projects like this. I was nailing into plaster, and used a tack about every 10 inches, alternating edges or just in places where either the board was a little warped or perhaps the wall wasn’t perfectly smooth and it was making the shiplap wave a little. Just use your eyes and make sure the wood is solidly affixed. It won’t need much from a structural standpoint, but over time the edges of the board might want to warp a little as it dries and settles, so making sure that it’s all well attached will keep it looking nice. Angle your nails slightly so that they aren’t easy to pull up.
Now, you could make it completely uniform, but we elected to have a random pattern across the wall. So, after placing the first piece, I just started cutting boards with my miter saw at whatever length I thought looked good and worked my way down. It was nice when I could use a full piece, but I didn’t do that very often so that it wouldn’t look like any sort of repeating pattern. I also purposefully picked out which board to use in each spot based on the wood grain. You’ll notice that a lot of your boards will look the same since you cut them from one sheet of plywood. If you just take eight pieces from the same sheet and lay them all the same way, it’s going to be really apparent on your wall that they were all one board initially. Try flipping some over, mixing pieces from different sheets, or when you cut a piece use one part on one side of your room and the other part on the other side.
Work hard to place the boards firmly and tightly up against each other. I read somewhere what shiplap was supposed to have a nickel wide gap between each layer, which very well may be true, but you won’t want to do that with this method because you’ll see too much of the wall underneath your wood. The cutting and sanding of each board will have created enough difference between each sheet that you will see the definition of each piece on the wall, so definitely don’t space them intentionally. If you have any imperfections in your cuts and end up with any gaps just do your best to hide that by splitting the difference with whatever board you’re nailing into the place. The thin plywood gives quite a bit, so don’t be afraid to twist it or force into the position that you need to avoid gaps. A rubber mallet is sometimes helpful to tap tight fits into place.
For electrical outlets or light switches, remove the cover then lay your piece of shiplap in place over it and mark an outline of what you need to cut. I used a jigsaw to cut out my pieces (again, thanks Jared!) but if you’re working with a thin piece of plywood it wouldn’t take that long to do it by hand.
Here’s a boring yet important thing to think through: once you add the shiplap to your walls, will your outlet covers still fit? You might need to slightly reposition the electrical box or pull out the outlet and then put it over the shiplap once it’s added, so make sure you don’t cover their screw holes with your shiplap before you’ve investigated this. In my case, I bought a bunch of metal replacement covers both because my old ones looked awful and so that I could tighten them down over the shiplap without cracking the face.
It was exactly the same process in the dining room, though with the added complication of a window, a single door, and two sets of French doors. It involved a lot more cutting and measuring, but the general process was the same.
One thing to note, if I did it again I might either use a slightly thicker plywood, put more nails, or possibly even use glue on all of the edges when putting up the wood. With the thin wood that I used, as it soaked up the paint it did develop a little bit of warp/wave in the wood that in retrospect I wish wasn’t there. But overall, we’re tremendously happy with how it turned out.
It took some work to get the wood ready, I had to find a friend to help, and needed to borrow some tools, but in the end we spent $132 on the wood in our dining room and $38 on the DIY Shiplap accent wall in Finn’s room!
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