How to Install Vertical Shiplap in Kitchen

Vertical shiplap is a great way to add character and charm to your kitchen. Today, I’m going to show you how to install vertical shiplap in your kitchen and tips for making it secure and long lasting.

beeswax candle on a white open shelf in a kitchen with vertical shiplap

When we moved into this home, the kitchen was the one area (besides updating the walls to the best interior white paint colors) that needed some TLC.

The bathrooms also need updating, but we don’t live in the bathrooms like we do the kitchen.

From the kitchen open shelving to the beautiful shiplap kitchen backsplash, we have taken some major steps in creating a charming french cottage kitchen.

I get a lot of questions about our vertical shiplap and today I want to tackle the question of installation.

There are some things you need to know prior to installing shiplap backsplash in your kitchen that make it a bit different than horizontal shiplap installation.

white kitchen with a corner sink and stainless appliances

Can you put shiplap in a kitchen?

This is an obvious question as most people think of tile and other ceramic surfaces when they consider their kitchen backsplash.

If you use the proper prep and paint for your shiplap backsplash, you should be fine installing it as your kitchen backsplash.

eased edge vertical shiplap in a kitchen

Picking out Vertical Shiplap for your Kitchen Backsplash

There are several different avenues you can take when it comes to picking out shiplap.

We went with an eased-edge shiplap, as opposed to the typical quarter-gap shiplap because I was going for a European, cottage feel and this type of shiplap fit that design better.

Most shiplap options will be fine when used as a backsplash as long as you prep and paint them appropriately.

Some options take more prep work, so consider how much time you want to invest in the prep when deciding on your boards.

  • Pine Shiplap– This is what we used because it was the only option that gave me the final look I was going for. Depending upon where you are located, you might be able to get other options, but here in the Midwest this was the only board that would work. It did require a bit of prep, which I will share about later on.
  • Metrie– This is a company that has great options for shiplap finishes. They didn’t ship the style I liked to my area, so I couldn’t use this brand. I think I would have if I had access to it because the prep work would’ve been significantly less.
  • Quarter Gap Shiplap- This is the style that Joanna Gaines uses in her projects. There is a simple gap between each board. You can use plain underlayment boards ripped down to the width you want to achieve this look. It requires light sanding, priming, and painting.
  • MDF Board- My husband loves this type of board because it paints so well and cleans very easily. This is a great option for a shiplap wall.
white kitchen with vertical shiplap

Preparing the shiplap boards for installation

The prep work you put in is so important, especially if you go with a traditional wood shiplap like I did.

Pine has a tendency to be rough, show knots, and require some elbow grease on the front end of the job.

If you go with a different option, you won’t need to worry so much with the amount of preparation that I’m going to share.

Mark chose the boards and made sure he grabbed the best boards with the fewest knots and dings in them.

This was a slow process that took a weekend, but the end result is beautiful and worth every ounce of effort.

  1. Sand each board using an orbital sander and 120 grit sandpaper. Be sure to sand in circular motions going with the grain of the board. Take this time to get out as many dings in the board.
  2. To cut down on the roughness from the first sanding, use a 150 grit sandpaper and go over each board to smooth it down.
  3. Shopvac and wipe down the boards to prepare for the primer.
  4. Prime each board, including the edges, with a high-quality primer.
  5. Gently sand the board with 220 grit sandpaper.
  6. Prime each board again with the same primer.
  7. Sand the board with 220 grit paper one last time.
  8. Choose a paint color of your choice and paint each board three times, allowing the paint to dry in between each coat.
white vertical shiplap on a kitchen wall next to a window

Tools for installing shiplap backsplash

  • Jig Saw- for cutting out openings, such as outlets
  • Nail gun- this is used to nail the boards to the wall
  • Circular Saw- you won’t need this if you have the home improvement store cut your board to the correct length for you
  • Orbital sander- for prepping the boards so they are completely smooth
woman with a vase of flowers in a kitchen under construction

Supplies for shiplap backsplash

  • Shiplap boards
  • Paint and Primer
  • Paint roller and brush
  • Caulking for the gap between the boards and the counter
  • Nails for nail gun
  • Sandpaper for orbital sander
kitchen with white cabinets and a corner window

Step 1: Remove backsplash and any cabinetry

We removed upper cabinets, glued on tile (which tore off most of our sheetrock), and a 90’s desk area.

This left quite a mess for us to clean up. Insulation was exposed and we had to replace the part of the wall that came off with the previous backsplash.

a man adding plywood to a wall

Step 2: Repair the wall and measure your shiplap boards

Since much of the wall came off with the tile, we had to repair the areas that didn’t have sheet rock.

With horizontal shiplap, you can simply nail it to the studs.

When dealing with vertical shiplap, that doesn’t work because in some areas there isn’t a stud to nail the shiplap to.

We opted for putting up a specific plywood so the shiplap would be well supported and there would be a board to nail it to.

If that doesn’t work for your area, you can also install furring strips in place of the plywood sheet to give yourself something to nail the shiplap to.

The picture above was taken before we decided to, for sure, remove the 90’s desk area.

Measure the boards before you go to nail them to the wall. Make sure you account for areas, such as outlets.

woman standing in a kitchen being renovated

Step 3: Install the Vertical Shiplap

Some people like to glue their shiplap to the wall using liquid nails and then nail it.

We didn’t want to do that because in the future, if we want to do something different, we don’t want the entire wall to have to be removed like we had to deal with on this renovation.

We chose to start our installation in the area that was going to be most visible, which is where we added the open shelving.

This allowed us to use the best boards in those areas.

Each board was nailed into place, starting from one side of the kitchen and working to the other side.

When we added additional boards, we tapped the new board into place (tongue and groove planks were used) using a rubber mallet so there was a snug fit.

The shiplap ends in a dark corner of our kitchen by the refrigerator.

white shiplap and a corner window in a kitchen

Step 4: Finishing work on Caulking, Trim, and Paint

The hard work is done, but the last 10% of the work is what makes a space gleam.

Not all shiplap will require caulking between the boards, but since we went with eased edge shiplap, we caulked in between each board to give a seamless look.

Caulk along the bottom of the shiplap (we still need to do this) where the gap is between the boards and counter top.

Nail holes are easy to be filled and painted over, if needed.

You can use nail filler or caulk to fill the nail holes.

Paint anything that needs to be touched up.

Tips for installing vertical shiplap walls

  • Choose smooth boards that are straight
  • Hang furring strips or plywood so you can nail boards securely
  • Leave a gap where the shiplap and counter meet to keep water away from shiplap
  • Use a paint that washes easily, such as gloss or egg shell
  • Hang the best boards in the most visible area
  • Use a roller and paint to get a smoother paint finish
  • If you are doing your project during a humid season, allow your wood to acclimate to your home for a week before install it to prevent warping and shrinking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you install shiplap backsplash or cabinets first?

If you are starting from scratch on a kitchen or renovation, adding the base layer first is always the best bet.
You will want to install your shiplap backsplash before you hang your cabinets or shelving.

What should I put behind shiplap in a kitchen?

It is best to hang shiplap that is vertical on furring strips or use liquid nails to secure it.
If you have horizontal shiplap, you can nail it to the studs that are already there.

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  1. I have a separate piece of 5” backsplash that matches my countertops. I was contemplating ripping it off to make it look more like the modern granite and marble. But should I just leave it since I’m doing the vertical shiplap?

    1. You could do either. If you’re wanting a more modern appearance, I would remove it pending it wouldn’t leave a mess where it sits on the actual countertop. Either way, it will look lovely.

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