The Cost and Install of Cheap Shiplap

man standing in front of shiplap

unpainted plywood shiplap wall

Learn about the Cost and Install of Cheap Shiplap. In our post we provide directions and tips on how we cheaply ship lapped our entire open concept living space for 1/3 of the cost. Learn how to create the shiplap look without the expensive price tag.


Before we bought our 1800’s duplex, I owned a single wide home. Let me tell you, that house needed a lot of cosmetic work. The kitchen and living room were dark red and the countertops were blue laminate.

While I lived in the home I spent a lot of time envisioning what the home could be. When I didn’t feel like studying, I was on Pinterest creating boards or using online design tools to make floor plans. Finally I had the opportunity to redo the entire house. My tenants had moved out, I was wanting to sell, and Adam was able to take time off work.

Our goal was to increase the value of the home as cheaply as possible. So DIY was the only option!

“Shiplap” made the biggest difference to our house! We shiplaped our open concept kitchen, living area and a hallway. Based on our square footage real shiplap paneling would have cost over 3000 dollars. Which was way over our budget.

Before we started the renovation process we met with a realtor to discuss our big plans. The realtor had little confidence in us. And we received discouragement from family and friends. Fortunately we chose to try anyways and it worked out. We had set backs along the way but we enjoyed the process.

How we got started

First, we prepared the space. We moved or covered furniture and skipped covering the floors since we were going to be replacing them.

We needed to cover about 500 sqft of walls, so instead of buying a ton of tongue and groove shiplap, we opted for the cheaper option: Create shiplap from 1/4″ 4’x8′ sheets of sanded plywood. Now, we would need about 15 sheets of plywood to cover all of the walls. Below is a cost comparison of using tradition tongue and groove to using our alternative method:

  • Tongue and Groove Cost: $11.66/sqft
  • Sanded Plywood Cost: $1.9/sqft

That’s right, doing shiplap the cheaper way is 85% of the cost of traditional shiplap. In total, we spent about $1450 on the plywood ($5,660 for traditional tongue and groove), and it looks amazing. We saved a ton of money by doing it this way. I will caveat this by saying that we did have to spend some extra time cutting the plywood, extra sanding, and spacing.

To save even more money, we used a circle saw with a guide instead of a table saw. This worked very well. The other benefit of cutting the planks yourself is that you can decide on the width of each plank. We chose to make our boards 8″x8′. This would give us 6 boards per 4’x8′ sheet of sanded plywood.

the process of installing cheap shiplap
Cheap shiplap wall

The Process of installing cheap shiplap

In the photos above, you can see the stack of planks as well as the progress in completing one of the walls. Since we didn’t use traditional tongue and groove, we had to use 1/4″ tile spacers. This worked effectively, but usually required two people. We also painted, in our desired color, the wall behind/in-between each board as you can see in the photo. We used a stud finder to identify our studs, and used an 18 gauge nail gun with a portable air compressor to secure the boards to the studs behind the walls.

Finished cheap shiplap
antique door and painted shiplap

To finish the shiplap, we used two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Ultra Spec® Prep Coat High Build Latex Primer. This is a must. If you skip this step and go straight to painting, your planks will have a peach fuzz wood feel to them and will actually be difficult to clean if dirty finger prints get on them (trust us, we wanted to skip this step). Priming before painting will give that smooth feel and finish you would expect, and it doesn’t even feel like wood! The primer is also pink, but it dries white.

We applied two coats of Sherman Williams Alabaster White in egg shell for the paint. All outside corners were capped off using a 3/4″ primed outside corner piece, as can be seen in the photos. We also used a simple baseboard that was also primed white and we didn’t end up painting it because it already looked good with the walls.

Breaking down the costs

Before taxes, the total cost for this project was about$1875.77. In fact, only $1,415 was actually spend on raw materials used specifically for the wall. The other $460 are items that you will be able to re-use for future projects, or sell if you never intend to re-use. These items are the circle saw, air compressor, level, stud finder etc. But if you’re starting from scratch, $1875.77 is a very cheap price compared to the $6,760.77 pre tax that you would spend using traditional shiplap, not to mention the several thousands you would likely be paying if you have a professional also do the work.

The choice is very clear. Roll up your sleeves, have some fun, and get an professional finish without the professional price-tag.

unpainted plywood shiplap wall

How to Install DIY Shiplap Cheaply

If you want the look of Ship lap without the price tag I would highly recommend this plywood hack. Its a FRACTION of the price, and no one will ever notice.


  • $795 (16) - 1/4" x 4" x 8 Feet Sanded Aspen Plywood
  • $250 - Paint: Alabaster White Sherman Williams or your chosen colour
  • $150 - Primer: Benjamin Moore's Ultra Spec Prep Coat High Build Latex Primer
  • $65 - Circular saw or table saw (ideal)
  • $4.23 - Sand paper
  • $10 - Protractor
  • $6.47 - Tile spacers or nickles
  • $10 - Leveler
  • $37.5 - 3/4" Outside Corner (Primed or not)
  • $104.49 - Baseboards (Primed or not)
  • $2.17 - Safety glasses
  • $1 - Safety gloves
  • $317 - Portable Electric Air Compressor + 18 GA Nail Gun
  • $20 (2000) - 2" Brad Nails
  • $5 - Spackle
  • $5 - Putty knife
  • $27 - 2-3 Paint Rollers (Don't cheap out on this. Get good ones, always)
  • $10 - 2 Handles
  • $6 - 2 trays
  • $4.41 - Sanding block
  • $40 - Stud finder
  • $0.5 - Pencil
  • $5 - Measuring tape


  1. With a table saw, cut 4'x8' Sanded Plywood into 8" boards, or to your desired thickness. If using a circle saw, most come with a straight edge guide, or you can clamp an 8 ft 2"x4" to the plywood to give you a straight edge. Just make sure that it's straight.
  2. For angled cuts, use a protractor to find the angle and measure the correct line. Never in my 30 years did I think I would find this useful.
  3. Sand the cut edges of each board after cutting.
  4. Optional: Map out the wall so you will know where each board will go. For us, we skipped this, but we staggered each board to give it a more natural look.
  5. Paint the wall behind behind the boards your finished color. Alternatively, you can paint the spaces between the boards as you secure them.
  6. Find out where your studs will be, and use a 18 gauge nail gun with brad nails to secure the boards to the studs.
  7. Spackle or putty any nail holes.
  8. Space each board above or below by 1/4". We used tile spacers. You don't need a space when putting boards beside one another. Simply butt it up.
  9. For outside corners, use 3/4" Outside Corner, so make sure your planks don't butt up less than 1/2" from an outside corner so you can properly cover the wall.
  10. One all the boards are secured, use 2 coats of Primer (Ultra Spec Prep Coat High Build Latex Primer), lightly sand in between coats.
  11. Apply two coats of your desired paint color.
  12. Add baseboards. We didn't end up painting them because it looked quite clean as is.

Did you make this project?

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