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Make your own shiplap

Shop-Made Plywood Shiplap

| Shane Dennehey

A while ago, I decided I needed an office at home.

A place to focus on the business and work from home comfortably on remote days.

So, I got excited, framed a wall to cordon off a portion of my shop, stuck an antique door in the wall to join it with the rest of our house, and promptly ran out of steam. I needed a break—so I took one—for two years! I’m a little ashamed to write this, but I just couldn’t find the time to finish this monster project until an entire 24 months later.

I finally got around to it last month during my Christmas break. And I’m so happy I invested the time. Today I’m sitting in a clean and tidy office (that’s 90% complete) writing this post. I still need to trim out that antique door installed in 2017 and build a barn door for the entrance to the shop. But I’m sure I’ll get to those projects soon ;)

In this post, I’ll take you through my office-building journey.

I don’t like messing with drywall—I prefer wood—so I decided on shiplap to cover the new wall. I found a few lumber providers that sell shiplap, but their prices were all super high! Thanks, Chip & Jo! So, I did a little math and figured it would cost almost $700.00 to cover 120 square feet of my office walls. That just seemed crazy to me, so I decided to make my own. 

I saw a lot of posts out there about how to install shiplap with nickel spacers and plywood strips—that’s not shiplap—there’s no lap! Shiplap gets its name from overlapping woods at the top and bottom of each board. I needed the wood to be solid, because I’m not using it as a veneer, it’s the whole wall surface. I didn’t want fakelap, I needed real shiplap.

So I looked at prices for ½-inch sanded plywood—much better. And I’d only need 7 sheets at less than $24.00 each, the total cost was under 270.00. Much better! The real price I paid was the time, and sweat at the table saw ripping 7 sheets into 56 strips and then pushing each piece through two more times to notch out those rabbets.

After I got the plywood, the first step was to bust the 4 x 8 sheets in half with my “outside” saw so I could cut them in my close-quarters shop. Then I brought the 2 x 8 sheets into the shop and began ripping them with my Delta x5 to 5 ⅞ inch strips. Shiplap is usually 6 inches wide, but I chose a slightly narrower width to maximize the yield from each sheet, allowing for the ⅛-inch saw kerf.

Once they all were ripped, it was time to begin rabbeting the tops and bottoms of each strip. For that, I made a hold-down jig to keep the pressure on the top of the pieces as I pushed them through the saw. Then I changed out my saw blade for a dado stack and set the fence to 5-1/2 inches to cut the top rabbet and pushed them all through. After they were all notched, I changed the fence to 5-5/8 inches and rabbeted the bottoms of each piece. No matter what your sizes are, the top rabbet should be ⅛ inch deeper than the bottom to leave a gap in the overlay. This is what gives shiplap its distinctive pinstriped look.

Here's a diagram:

Watch the video, Shiplapse Part 1 to see how I made the shiplap.


The next step was the installation. I installed it using a brad nailer and 1-¼ inch brads. But before nailing anything to the walls, I grabbed a small piece of shiplap and plotted out where to position it on the wall. In my case, I decided to use a 4-½ strip on the top, which left me with a 4-inch piece at the bottom. So I ripped the off the top strips, making their final width 4 ½ inches. Then I nailed them to the wall and worked my way down until it was covered. Checking for level application and equal distance to the floor a few times along the way.

Watch the video, Shiplapse Part 2 to see the installation.


I also wrapped my window with 1 x dimensional pine for a farmhouse look before adding the shiplap to the window wall. I’ll do the same to the door once I get to it. After all the shiplap was on the wall, I filled all of those little brad holes with spackling, caulked the ceiling, corners, and window then painted, first a coat of primer, then flat white paint.

Now what was a dusty, disorganized mess for two years is a refreshing white room to get things done in. It feels good to have accomplished a task that was lingering on my todo list for so long.

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  • Posted by Dave on

    Great description and a very nice final look. Thanks for sharing. Too bad I put up my plain plywood walls just 6 months ago.

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