How to Seal Shiplap Backsplash

Installing a shiplap backsplash can add beautiful visual interest and texture to your kitchen. However, properly sealing the shiplap is an important step to ensure its longevity and prevent moisture damage. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to properly seal shiplap backsplash.

Choose an Appropriate Sealer

Choosing the right sealer is crucial for effective waterproofing and protection. Consider these options:


Oil-based polyurethane provides the best moisture protection. It helps prevent swelling and warping. Apply 2-3 coats, sanding lightly between each coat. It has a longer drying time compared to other sealers.

Water-based Polyurethane

Water-based polyurethane dries faster than oil-based. It provides less protection from water but has low odor and easy cleanup. Apply at least 3 coats for best results.


Lacquer forms a durable, water-resistant coating. Opt for lacquer specially formulated for wood. Apply several thin coats, sanding lightly between each application for smooth finish.


Shellac is an organic resin that dries quickly and provides good moisture resistance. It brings out the natural wood grain. Apply 2-3 thin coats, sanding lightly between coats.


Varnish forms a hard, protective film with glossy finish. Both oil-based and water-based varnish can be used. Apply 2-3 coats as per manufacturer’s directions.

Prep the Shiplap Surface

Proper prep work ensures the sealer adheres well:

  • Wipe the shiplap with a damp cloth to remove dust and debris. Allow to fully dry.
  • Lightly sand the shiplap using 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface. This helps the sealer bind better.
  • Clean thoroughly with a dry cloth after sanding to remove any residue.
  • Apply wood conditioner as per directions if using polyurethane. This controls uneven absorption.
  • Use painter’s tape to mask off any adjacent surfaces you don’t want to get sealed.

Apply the Sealer

Follow these tips for best results when applying sealer:

  • Work in a well-ventilated area. Open windows and use fans to ensure proper airflow.
  • Use a high-quality natural bristle brush to apply the sealer. Avoid foam brushes.
  • Maintain a wet edge by brushing back into areas you just coated. Work methodically board-by-board.
  • Apply thin, even coats according to manufacturer’s recommended coverage rate.
  • Allow proper drying time between coats as specified on the product label.
  • Lightly sand between coats using 220 grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.
  • Apply any final coats needed until you achieve desired protection and sheen.

Seal All Exposed Edges

Don’t forget to seal the exposed edges of the shiplap boards:

  • Carefully brush sealer onto the top and bottom edges of each board.
  • Also seal the side edges of boards along the perimeter of your backsplash installation.
  • This prevents moisture from being absorbed into the end grain and causing deterioration over time.

Allow Proper Curing Time

It’s important to let the sealer fully cure before use:

  • Oil-based products may require up to 2 weeks curing time.
  • Water-based sealers typically cure within 2-7 days.
  • Avoid cleaning, scrubbing or placing hot items on the shiplap during the curing period.
  • Ventilate the area well during the curing process.

Proper prep work, application, and curing time will provide long-lasting protection for your beautiful shiplap backsplash. With the right sealer and techniques, you can keep it looking pristine for years.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many coats of sealer should be applied to shiplap?

2-3 coats are recommended for proper protection. Oil-based polyurethane provides the most water-resistance with 3 coats. For other sealers, apply until you achieve uniform coverage and desired finish.

What sheen should I use when sealing shiplap?

For backsplashes, a satin or semi-gloss finish is recommended. Glossy finishes can look too shiny and show imperfections. Satin or semi-gloss offer protection with a subtle sheen.

How long does it take for shiplap sealer to dry?

Drying times vary based on temperature, humidity and sealer used. Oil-based polyurethane may take 24 hours between coats. Water-based poly may dry within 2-4 hours. Quicker drying options like shellac and lacquer can be recoated after 30-60 minutes.

Should shiplap be primed before sealing?

Priming is not mandatory but can provide extra protection, improve adhesion and create a uniform base for the topcoat. Use an oil or shellac-based primer for best results with shiplap.

Can I use wax to seal shiplap backsplash?

Wax alone does not provide adequate water protection for a backsplash. It should only be used as a topcoat over a regular sealer like polyurethane. The sealer prevents water damage while the wax gives added protection and sheen.


Sealing your shiplap backsplash properly is a key step in ensuring it stands the test of time. Take the time to prepare the surface, apply multiple coats of an appropriate sealer, and allow for full curing. With proper installation and sealing, you can enjoy your beautiful, rustic shiplap backsplash for many years before needing to reapply a fresh coat of protection. Investing in the right sealing process makes all the difference in preserving the beauty of your design.