If you are a fan of home renovating and remodeling shows on TV, then you have surely heard the term shiplap. Today, shiplap is revered as a designer accent on interior walls. In the past, however, and beyond today’s decorative use inside the home, shiplap was originally used for a very practical purpose outside. Shiplap has indeed come far from its very humble and functional beginnings.
What Is Shiplap?
Shiplap is a type of horizontal siding, or cladding, that was most traditionally and historically used to cover the exterior of buildings – cabins, barns, sheds, etc. – to protect the structure from wind, water, and other harsh weather elements. This is because shiplap used for its original purpose is tight and weatherproof.
Shiplap owes its tightness to how individual wood planks are cut and installed. The planks have grooves along both edges that allow them to be overlapped and interlocked in a tongue-and-groove arrangement. In real shiplap, the grooves are called rabbet joints, and are created by interlocking 90-degree cuts along the edge of the wood. This interlocking is what protects a building from the weather; it also allows for the wood planks to expand and contract as seasons and humidity levels change.
Shiplap Inside the Home
Shiplap inside the home also served a functional purpose. Prior to the wide use of drywall and plywood in homebuilding, shiplap was used on inside walls for the same reason it was used outside – to keep the cold and moisture out. Shiplap was often plastered over or covered, usually with muslin, so that paint or wallpaper could be applied. Back then, shiplap was not the admired building feature it is today. Interior designers started the shiplap craze – a craze builders have caught on to. Shiplap is showing up as a design element in all sorts of attractive and unique ways.
While authentic shiplap continues to be found in older homes, homeowners who are looking for ways to mimic the look will find shiplap available from a number of stores – home improvement, flooring, lumber yards, woodworking, even online. Most shiplap is made from pine wood planks, but peel-and-stick versions of shiplap are also available for do-it-yourselfers. Caution is urged, however, to make sure wood is properly treated and aged to prevent warping and shrinking.
When compared with other wall covering options, shiplap is relatively inexpensive and not difficult to install. Shiplap is versatile and works in just about every room of the house – kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, and other spaces such as stairways, mudrooms, and foyers. When properly installed and beautifully finished, shiplap provides a neat, handcrafted look.
Shiplap can be installed horizontally over an entire wall, a half wall, or just in certain spaces for an accent touch. Some designers install shiplap vertically to give the illusion of height or over an entire ceiling for a completely different look. Even furniture can be made using shiplap. Think table top, headboard, or back wall of a dining room cabinet. And, shiplap can be stained or painted to coordinate with the style of the room. The possibilities are virtually endless.