How to Install Shiplap Backsplash

Installing a shiplap backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. A shiplap backsplash adds beautiful visual interest, texture, and a dash of country charm to your space. While it may seem daunting, installing shiplap is actually a straightforward DIY project that can be completed in just a weekend. With some basic carpentry skills and the right materials, you can create a stunning backsplash that will be the focal point of your kitchen.

What is Shiplap?

Shiplap is a type of wooden board that has a rabbeted edge. This means that along each long edge of the board, a lip protrudes on one side and a groove is cut into the other. The protruding lip of one board fits into the groove of the next, creating a tight flush joint.

Traditionally, shiplap siding was used on the exterior of barns, sheds, and homes. But today, it is a popular choice for interior walls and backsplashes because of its attractive overlapping pattern and rustic visual texture. The grooves create distinctive horizontal lines that add great visual interest.

Shiplap comes in many types of wood, but some popular choices are:

  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Whitewood
  • Poplar

The boards are typically 3/4” thick and 4-6” wide. Shiplap can be purchased pre-milled with the rabbeted edge ready for installation. Alternatively, you can mill plain boards yourself to create the shiplap edge.

Benefits of a Shiplap Backsplash

There are many great reasons to choose a shiplap backsplash:

  • Visual Interest: The overlapping planks with the grooved pattern are much more appealing than plain drywall or tile. The lines and shadow gaps create depth and texture.
  • Rustic Farmhouse Style: Exposed wood grain has a charming country aesthetic that pairs perfectly with many kitchen designs. It brings warmth and homeyness.
  • Budget Friendly: Shiplap is relatively inexpensive compared to materials like marble or granite. It can provide high-end styling on a budget.
  • Easy Installation: Putting up shiplap requires only basic tools and carpentry skills. It goes up faster than tile.
  • Moisture Resistant: Many types of wood shiplap stand up well to moisture and splashes. This makes it ideal around sinks and stoves.
  • Design Versatility: Shiplap can complement many color schemes from bold paint colors to natural wood stains.

With all these advantages, it’s easy to see why shiplap backsplash is a top choice for many kitchen remodels. The cost savings combined with the beautiful style make it a winning combination.

How to Prepare for Installation

Proper preparation is key to successfully installing your new shiplap backsplash. Planning all the steps carefully ahead of time will make the process go smoothly.

Gather Supplies

You will need the following supplies:

  • Shiplap boards
  • Finish nails
  • Brad nails
  • Miter saw or circular saw
  • Table saw (optional)
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Stud finder
  • Construction adhesive
  • Drill/driver
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Wood filler
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint and/or stain

Make sure to purchase enough shiplap boards to cover your backsplash area. Measure the space and calculate the square footage to determine how many boards you will need. It’s smart to add an extra 10-15% for cutting waste and defects.

Remove Existing Backsplash

If your kitchen already has a backsplash that you are replacing, you will need to remove it completely. Take off any existing tile, drywall, laminate panels, etc. Remove all old caulk and adhesive.

Get the wall surface prepped down to the studs. Make repairs to the wall as needed so it is smooth and even. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle.

Sand smooth any bumps or roughness. The shiplap boards will install best on a flat surface.

Plan Your Layout

One decision you will need to make is whether to install the shiplap boards horizontally or vertically. Horizontal is more common, but vertical can also give a stylish look.

Also determine if you want all the grooves lined up evenly across the entire backsplash, or if you want a more staggered, random pattern.

Map out your board placement on paper so you know exactly how it will look before you start nailing the shiplap up. Mark the stud locations on your sketch.

Prime/Paint the Wall

It’s best to prime and paint the wall before installing the shiplap backsplash. This allows you to coat the drywall completely without having to mask off the wood later.

Choose a wall color that will complement your shiplap boards. For a subtle look, choose a white or off-white that allows the texture of the wood to show through. For more contrast, choose a bold wall color that makes the backsplash pop.

Apply primer first and let it dry fully. Then do two finish coats of paint, allowing proper drying time between coats. Now you are ready for shiplap installation.

How to Install Shiplap Backsplash

Once your preparation work is complete, you are ready for the fun part – installing the shiplap! The process is straightforward but does require careful measuring, cutting, and nailing. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Cut the First Row to Fit

  • Measure the length of your backsplash wall and cut the first shiplap board to fit. Remember it’s easier to sneak up on the perfect fit by cutting it a bit long at first.
  • Place the board against the wall and mark where it needs to be cut for an accurate fit.
  • Use a miter saw or circular saw to trim the board to the proper length.
  • Sand the edges smooth so they don’t splinter.

Step 2: Attach the First Row

  • Hold the first board in position against the wall. Make sure it is perfectly level using a level.
  • On stud walls, nail into the studs whenever possible for the most secure hold. Use a stud finder to locate them behind the wall.
  • For the first row, use adhesive in addition to nails. Run a bead of construction adhesive along the back of the board before pressing it to the wall. The adhesive creates a strong bond.
  • Nail the board every 16 inches, angling the finish nails slightly to hide the heads. Place nails in a random pattern, not all perfectly lined up.
  • Use 4-6d finish nails for optimal hold without splitting the wood. Drive them nearly all the way in.

Step 3. Install the Second Row

  • Choose your next board and position it overlapping the first row by about 1 inch. Make sure the groove edge is down and the protruding lip is up, fitting into the groove of the first board.
  • You may need to use a pry bar to adjust the closeness of the joint. Do not nail yet.
  • Check for level and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Apply adhesive to the back and nail into the studs, just like the first row. Nail every 16 inches staggering the location from the row below.
  • Continue nailing up rows using this same method. Make sure joints remain tight.

Step 4. Add Final Rows and Trim

  • Continue nailing up shiplap rows until you reach the top of the backsplash area. You may need to rip some boards to fit around outlets or other obstructions.
  • The top board will likely need to be trimmed to fit to the underside of your wall cabinets. Measure and cut carefully for tight-fitted final rows.
  • Use a pry bar to adjust the tightness of the joints. Look for any gaps that need to be closed up.
  • For the top row, drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood. Attach using trim head screws for a clean finish.

Step 5. Fill Holes and Sand

  • Examine the installed shiplap and fill any nail holes, gaps, or imperfections with wood filler. Allow to dry completely.
  • Lightly sand to smooth out wood filler patches. Use 150-220 grit sandpaper.
  • Carefully vacuum up all sanding dust using a brush attachment.

Your shiplap backsplash is now installed! Now you can move onto finishing steps like sealing/staining, caulking, and adding accessories.

How to Finish Shiplap Backsplash

After installing the raw shiplap, there are several finishing steps to take to complete the look:


  • To protect and enhance the wood, apply sealant or stain. Using a prestain followed by protection helps minimize moisture damage and warping.
  • For painted shiplap, use a water-based polyurethane sealant for protection without yellowing. For a natural look, use an oil-based stain and sealer.
  • Apply products carefully according to manufacturer’s directions. Allow proper drying time between coats.
  • Lightly sand between coats for best adhesion. Three finish coats are recommended.

Fill Gaps and Caulk

  • Examine the joints and use painter’s caulk to fill any remaining cracks or gaps between boards. Look closely along the ceiling and corner edges.
  • For natural wood, use a clear paintable caulk that matches the color of the wood. For painted shiplap, use white caulk.
  • Carefully apply caulk by pressing it into gaps. Wipe away excess. Allow to dry fully before painting final coats.

Add Accessories

  • Now is the time to install any additional backsplash accessories. For example, add floating shelves bracketed to the wall to hold spices or cookbooks.
  • Pot racks, utensil hooks, and pendant lights also make great complementary additions to shiplap.
  • Make sure any hardware attachments are anchored securely into studs or blocking.

Final Paint Coats

If your shiplap is painted, now is the time to apply the final decorative coats of paint. The previous primer and paint coats were simply the base to prepare the shiplap to receive the finish colors.

  • Lightly sand the boards to rough up the surface and improve paint adhesion.
  • Apply 1-2 finish coats of paint, allowing proper drying time between coats.
  • Consider using paint with texture or a paint sprayer to highlight the wood grain details.
  • Remove hardware like pendant lights before painting so no masking is needed.

FAQs About Installing Shiplap Backsplash

Some common questions that arise with shiplap backsplash installation include:

Should shiplap boards be installed horizontally or vertically?

  • Most often shiplap is installed horizontally to match the direction of kitchen cabinets. But vertical can also look quite stylish. It depends on personal preference for the overall look you want to achieve.

What is the best wood to use for shiplap?

  • Pine shiplap is a top choice because it is affordable, easy to work with, and takes stain well. Cedar and cypress are naturally moisture resistant. Whitewood is extremely versatile for painting or staining.

What should I use to adhere shiplap to the wall?

  • For the first row, use water-resistant construction adhesive along with nails. For remaining rows, nails alone are sufficient unless the wall surface is uneven. In this case, adding supplemental adhesive helps the planks hug the wall tighter.

How do I cut shiplap boards?

  • The fastest way to make clean accurate cuts is using a power miter saw. A circular saw can also be used. Make sure blade is sharp. For small trims, a handsaw or jigsaw works too. Always sand cut edges smooth.

Should I finish shiplap before or after installation?

  • It’s best to finish shiplap on all sides before installing it. This ensures the boards are fully protected from moisture and allows for easier finishing. If finishing after, do all but the final decorative coats before installing.

How do I maintain shiplap over time?

  • Periodically apply fresh sealant to protect the finish. For painted shiplap, use a clean damp cloth and mild detergent to clean. For natural stained shiplap, re-apply stain as needed when the color looks faded. Avoid excessive moisture.

Get Creative with Shiplap Patterns and Designs

One of the great things about shiplap is that it lends itself to creativity. You can achieve different looks by playing around with the orientation, placement, colors, and patterns of the boards.

Varied Widths

Using shiplap boards in multiple widths together adds interest. Combine 4, 6, and 8 inch wide boards in rows.

Contrasting Stains

Try alternating rows of lighter and darker stained shiplap to make it pop. Or use natural wood tones combined with painted white boards.

Incorporate Trim

Frame the shiplap with wood trim pieces. This gives it a polished built-in look. Picture or baseboard trim works nicely.

Shape the Boards

For something truly unique, use your saw to cut tapered ends, arched tops, or other special shapes to the shiplap boards. Get creative with the shapes!

Vertical Accents

Break up horizontal rows by interspersing a few vertical boards. This can create a fun arrangement.

Try Chevron

Cutting the shiplap ends at angles creates a chevron pattern. Use symmetrical angles for the rows to line up in a zig-zag design.

With a little imagination, you can take shiplap far beyond basic horizontal rows. The ideas are endless for creating your own personalized design statement!


Installing a shiplap backsplash is one of the most stylish and cost-effective ways to spruce up a kitchen. The charming reclaimed wood look pairs beautifully with both rustic farmhouse settings and sleek modern spaces. And the installation does not require expert DIY skills, just some basic carpentry experience.

With proper preparation of the work surface, gathering quality materials, and following the step-by-step process, you can have stunning new shiplap up in less than a weekend. Complement with colorful accessories and your own creative twist. Adding a shiplap backsplash will bring warmth, texture, and a focal point to your kitchen for years to come.