DIY Planked Wall Treatment Tutorial

Shiplap walls are an extremely popular way to upgrade a room but with a hefty price tag! This tutorial will walk you through a planked wall treatment that will give you the very same effect of shiplap but without the expense.

Dining room with shiplap walls

Shiplap is a buzzy term right now. As the popularity has grown, the DIY options have broadened into any and all planked wall treatments. While this tutorial isn’t exactly shiplap, it’s a fabulous imposter that will give you the same farmhouse effect.

There are three plank wall variations of shiplap: the authentic shiplap with overlapping planks, tongue-and-groove interlocking planks, and a simple planked wall version, which is spaced plywood nailed to the wall. 

Wall Plank Treatment Guide image of Shiplap, Tongue and Groove, and Faking It
Photo Sources top right HGTV & middle right Decorpad (the rest are mine)

I decided to give this planked wall treatment a shot in our Dining Room, and I love the way it turned out! It was an easy project that really paid off.

If you are considering this for any space that would potentially be damp or have moisture, I also have a tutorial for planking a wall with PVC boards.

DIY Wood Plank Wall Tutorial

This tutorial uses staggered plywood to create the shiplap effect. Plywood is lightweight so it doesn’t put too much stress on the wall. 

See below for the complete supply list and tutorial.

What kind of wood is used for shiplap?

For the “planks”, we used thin plywood cut down into strips.

This is an actual photo with an item number you can reference when you make your trip to Lowe’s. We found this with the subflooring in the lumber section. It was a step up from the really rough-looking subfloor pine.

Image of lumber and item number for shiplap wall supplies

We checked each piece to make sure it wasn’t too rough. For our room, we needed 7-8 of these for our project (one full wall that is 13.5 x 7.5′ and then 1/3 of the other walls at the same dimensions, plus a bit leftover).

Supplies for a faux shiplap wall:

  • Plywood underlayment
  • Sander with medium grit paper
  • Stud finder
  • Nail gun with brad nails
  • Paintable spackle/wood filler
  • Table saw
  • Miter saw
  • Primer
  • Paint 
  • Spacers
  • Painting supplies {tarp, pencils, squares, etc.}

Step 1: Measure your space.

Decide whether you are installing the planks around the entire room or just as an accent wall.

Using a tape measure, measure the length and width of the wall(s) in inches. Make sure you have these measurements in hand, plus a little extra, before purchasing or sawing.

Step 2: Cut the plywood to size.

After we purchased the plywood, we cut them down using a panel saw. 

Cutting down the plywood would make them easier to maneuver and run through our table and compound miter saws at home as we begin to install the planks. 

Cutting down plywood planks

Usually, any big box home improvement store will do this for you.

We cut down the panels to 5-¼” wide using a table saw. This measurement is almost the exact measurement of traditional shiplap to further mimic the look.

We also cut the boards in various lengths to provide some contrast along the wall. More about that down below.

Step 3: Install the planks.

First, use a stud finder to locate the studs. These are the spots where you will want to secure the planks. 

Securing planks to the wall and leveling

Beginning at the top of the wall, use a nail gun to secure the plank to the wall. Make sure you also use a level to keep the boards straight. 

Leave a slight gap at the top of the wall for a piece of trim to cover the raw edges. 

Demonstrating a spacer between planks

We used a quarter as a spacer, which is a tip I had seen everywhere. We wanted to leave only a very tiny gap because we weren’t taking the time to prime the wall. If you have a nice white wall behind your planks and want a larger gap, I have heard you can use tile spacers as well!

Planks added to shiplap wall

Here is how we chose to stagger the seams so we didn’t have too much symmetry running up the walls. We definitely wanted contrast.

Using a nail gun to secure planks to wall

This project was basically a lot of repetition. We made the cuts to length with the table saw on the ends, and made sure to use the leftover pieces to start the next row. It helped to add variation to the seams.

In progress shiplap wall

Then came a lot of nail hole filling. We used wood filler to fill in the nail holes. This gives it a blemish-free look after painting.

Raw plywood in shiplap wall pattern

Then, sand down the filler and planks before painting to smooth out any rough patches.

Sanding shiplap wall

Step 4: Paint the walls.

We used a latex-based primer before painting. I was okay with wood knots showing through, but if you aren’t I would recommend Kilz original oil-based primer. I think it gave it a more natural look.

Here’s a shopping list of all of my favorite room painting essentials.

For paint, I decided to go with an eggshell finish. I didn’t want any kind of reflection, so semi-gloss or even satin didn’t seem to be the right fit. 

Painted shiplap wall

We continued around the room and did this section up to the chair rail.

Essentially, it was the same process:

  • We started from the top again, so that the planks would be lined up in the corners, and went as close as we could get to the standard 32 inches for chair rail height. 
  • For the top rail, we used 1×2″ pine boards, and mitered them at 45 degrees at the windows and doorway. The baseboards are 1x6s. We also hid the gap at the top of the planked wall with a 1×2″ board. 
Partial shiplap chair rail

I love the look of the one large planked wall, along with the three chair rail walls. It gives it the perfect balance of farmhouse and traditional to fit the overall style of this home. 

Pin image of planked chair rail with text overlay saying "how to create a planked chair rail"

To finish up this room, I’d love to install a tongue-and-groove on the ceiling. Does anyone have any experience with mixing this style of planks with tongue and groove? How does it look?

I think that just about covers it. Please let me know in the comments if I missed any details, and I will make sure to answer! 

Pin image of completed shiplap wall in dining room with text overlay saying "Planked Wall Tutorial"

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  1. I have been searching for a paint color for my walls and have fallen in love with the color of your wall in the photo entitled “how to plank a chair rail”. Would you please tell me what color and brand that paint color is? Thank you x’s a million!:-)

  2. Hi there! I’m curious if you painted in between the boards separately or just rolled over them? How did you stop paint from filling the gaps in between the wood?

    1. We just used a paint brush to paint the edges of the board and then went over everything with a roller. The previous paint color didn’t show through the gaps, so we didn’t have to go crazy. We did light coats of paint so that it wasn’t an issue of the paint filling in the gaps!

  3. Beautiful work, Nina! Two questions: Did you do anything (like caulk, trim, etc.) to the space where the boards meet the end wall? And, did you install the 1×6 trim on the top board (like you did at the bottom), or above it?

    One more for fun… love the rug! Where did you get it? What’s its name? So pretty!

  4. Hi Nina!

    You started at the top…was your ceiling height actually 8′? Also…what did you use for the baseboard? It appears that it stands out which is beautiful. Did you simply put the bvaseboard over your bottom piece?

    How do you think it would look if you painted tge wall & had a very thin but noticible gap between the boards?

    Thanks! Love this idea!

    1. Our ceiling is not perfectly 8′, we hid the excess below the baseboard- which, yes is over the bottom piece. It’s a simple pine 1×6″. I think it would be pretty to leave more of a gap with the wall painted behind it.

  5. Can you tell me what you used at the top to finish off the trim? Thanks so much for the tutorial!! Can’t wait to try it at my home!!

  6. Hi Nina! Did you miter the ends of the planks where they meet the other planks at the inside corners of the room? Thanks!

    1. No, we just overlapped it in the corners! I was okay with a more rustic look. Some people miter and others use a filler strip of trim.

  7. Hello Nina, your finished plank walls look great! Can you comment on how you finished any wall that opens up into another room…in other words, an outside corner? I’m going to be adding some planked walls to our home and I’m undecided whether to add trim to the outside corner or not. Thank you!

    1. Hi Michelle, we didn’t actually have any outside corners- but we would wrap the corner with two mitered vertical pine 1x2s if we ever came across that issue!

  8. Why did you use ripped plywood instead of 1 x 6’s? It looks fantastic, and i may borrow this idea in a 100 year old house i am buying. Thanks for the terrific idea!

    1. Hi Donna! Thank you! We used the ripped plywood partially for cost, (for the area we were covering the 1x6s would have cost hundreds- possibly thousands!) and partially because we didn’t want to add bulk to the wall. Another factor was that the thin plywood is a little more rustic and textured, which I loved (you can also find it smooth, but I was going for a farmhouse look). Congrats on the home, that’s wonderful!

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