I like to think of crown molding as the decorative icing on my cake and shiplap as the rolled fondant holding everything together.
I’m no baker, but I’m pretty sure there's no such thing as too much fondant...or sugar. Same goes for shiplap.
If you’ve been following my Farmhouse Office renovation, you may have noticed I recently installed shiplap for the first time.
Like any other project “first,” it was both scary and exciting. I’ve read so many shiplap tutorials over the course of my lifetime that I assumed everything would just go up quickly and smoothly…hahaha, silly me!
The bad news: I made at least 8 different mistakes during the two weeks I was installing and painting our shiplap.
The good news: I was able to fix most of them!
After receiving a lot of feedback from my readers, I'd like to add one disclaimer:
Many of these mistakes can be avoided if you install real shiplap boards rather than faux shiplap made from plywood underlayment.
Real shiplap boards are cut in a factory setting to a consistent width and have consistent spacing when installed. Plus, you can buy them pre-primed, which will save you many hours of painting down the road.
On the other hand, it's significantly more expensive when installed on a large scale; it's also much heavier than 1/4" plywood or underlayment, making it trickier to work with if you're doing this project alone.
When installed carefully, you can still enjoy the look of shiplap by going the "faux" route. I love mine and would do it all over again!
Avoid these 10 common mistakes when installing faux shiplap
Disclaimer: this post includes affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission should you purchase any of the products recommended below.
1. Follow the correct order of operations
Install your faux shiplap before anything else in the room – meaning baseboard, crown, and trim. Unfortunately I made the mistake of installing my trim before my shiplap, so I had to notch my shiplap pieces with a jigsaw to make them fit around my windows and doors.
What a pain! This added a lot of time to my project...so avoid this if at all possible!
If you don't want to rip out all your trim or baseboards before installing shiplap, it's definitely doable, but will require a bit more patience and finesse.
Start your shiplap above your baseboards. If you have trim, very carefully notch out your shiplap with a saw and use wood filler/caulk to fill in the remaining gaps. No one will even notice from a distance!
2. Make sure your store rips your pieces to the correct width
The big box stores will rip your plywood pieces to 6 or 8 inches so they can be used as faux shiplap. However, sometimes they charge 25 cents/cut and when I got home I realized they ripped some of my pieces incorrectly.
While some strips were a perfect 6 inches, others were ripped to 5-3/4" instead. That's a huge difference. Others were off by 1/8", so the cuts were all over the place.
My advice would be to bring a measuring tape with you to the store and double check their work. Once you're moving along with the installation process, you're not going to want to return to the store.
3. Remember to grab outlet box extenders!
Since shiplap adds bulk to your wall, you'll want to extend the depth of your outlets with outlet box extenders so they remain flush with the wall.
These little blue boxes are super easy to install (just remember to turn off the power supply on your home's electrical box beforehand). I forgot to buy them in advance and had to run back to the store in the middle of my work...not a big deal, but it did cost me about half a day's worth of time.
4. Use Tile Spacers instead of Pennies
A lot of shiplap tutorials recommend using pennies as spacers between your boards of 1/4-inch plywood. I found pennies to be small and flimsy. They tend to fall out while you're trying to hold your piece in place. My mom and I had a few laughs over that...in the beginning anyway. I ended up eye-balling a lot of my spacing in lieu of the "penny method" because it was too inconsistent.
My advice: use something a bit more bulky -- tile spacers, actual tile samples, popsicle sticks or nickels!
5. Avoid Spreading Too Much Wood Filler Between Adjacent Boards
A little bit goes a long way. In fact, a lot of people don't put any wood filler between adjacent boards and that looks pretty nice too. If you end up using too much wood filler you'll know right away because it will look all clumpy when dry. Simply scrape off the excess with a putty knife.
6. Sand your boards very, very well
Hands down this was the biggest mistake I made. Lowe's basically shredded my boards, leaving the ends all splintery even after we sanded them with a rough sanding block. A cursory sanding just wasn't enough. As a result, I was left with boards looking like this:
The good news is that there's usually a "good" side and a "bad" side to your plywood. Figure out which side has the cleaner edges and make sure it's the one facing outward. Also, thoroughly sand your boards to remove every last splinter.
👉 Pro Tip: if you're ripping the boards yourself on a table saw, place painter's tape along your cut line. This step will significantly reduce tear out and splintering.
7. Make sure your ceiling boards are level and that your corners line up
I was very careful to ensure the boards along my ceiling were level (rather than flush with the ceiling), because ceilings are rarely level.
I did have to go back and rip down 6 boards, however, when I realized the boards in my corner weren't lined up correctly:
Luckily the planks can be pulled back off fairly easily; once your board is off the wall, take a hammer and tap the nail back through the board to remove it. It's a tedious but fixable problem.
8. Paint between your boards as you're installing them
I highly recommend painting the top and bottom edges of your plywood as you're installing them in order to avoid dark gaps between your boards. Yes you can go back and paint them later, but you'll be a tad more limited on space and you'll probably destroy your paintbrush from repeatedly pushing the tip into a narrow space.
9. Don't apply adhesive to the back of your boards
Chances are, if you're accident prone like me, you'll make a small mistake somewhere along the line and need to pull the shiplap off the wall. Luckily, because the plywood is so thin, this is easy to do even if you've already nailed it to the wall. If you use an adhesive like Liquid Nails you're going to have a harder time pulling it off. Also, you run the risk of ripping off layers of drywall. If you decide at a later date to remove the shiplap all together it won't be a big deal.
10. Expect the project will take longer than you think.
I thought it would take me one week to install shiplap…boy was I wrong. Give yourself a generous window of time to complete this project.
Plywood boards absorb paint very unevenly, so be prepared to spend a lot of time painting if you're going with white. I used Kilz2 Latex Primer because it was free, but I should have used the Kilz Premium Gold Primer for "heavy stains." I ended up needing 3 layers of primer and 3 layers of Behr Ultra White Semi-Gloss paint+primer to get the level of white I wanted. That's 6 layers of paint!
Are you ready to jump on the shiplap band wagon yet? Hopefully my war stories haven't discouraged you. Despite all these issues, I'm planning to install more shiplap in my house. I know...I'm crazy. I've been bit by the farmhouse bug for good!
Save this pin for the next time you're ready to tackle shiplap, and for a basic tutorial on the installation process I recommend visiting this tutorial over at Little Red Brick House!
Have you ever attempted installing faux shiplap and got stuck? Let me know!