What is Shiplap?

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When starting the demo on an old house, you might uncover a wall of beautiful wood under your lath and plaster. The first time I uncovered this wood was in our 1904 house remodel, I was amazed at the beauty of this wood.  I didn’t know what it was, but began to research it.

The wood you are seeing is called “shiplap”.  Before the modern days of drywall, it was cheaper to line the walls horizontally with pine boards.  These boards are usually rough-sawn and are 1′ to 3/4″ in thickness.  The cool thing, is some of these boards are up to 16″ wide, 12 feet long and have great character.

The builders would install the shiplap and then apply a type of wall paper with a material backing directly to the wood.  Lath and plaster would go on top of that.

Shiplap is no longer used today except for a decorative wall treatment and modern day shiplap is sold as tongue in groove so there are no spaces between the boards.  So you can re-create the look with today’s materials, but it will not be as rustic.

You may be tempted to tear out the shiplap during demo because you might want to insulate or add new wiring. Think about it before you do that.  In our old house, we sanded, stained and chinked the wood in the kitchen and left it exposed as an accent wall.  No shiplap is beyond saving.  Ours was black from years of coal heating, but it came out beautifully!  For the one wall we did tear down, we saved all the shiplap and it makes great shelves or table tops.  The wood is 100 years old and full of character!

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