Horizontal or Vertical Shiplap: Which Is Right for Your Home?

Can't decide between a horizontal and a vertical shiplap? It feels like only a few years ago that wood paneling was considered incredibly dated.

So how did shiplap suddenly emerge to take over the home design world? And, if you plan to incorporate this wall finish into your own decor, what’s the difference between vertical and horizontal shiplap?

What Is Shiplap?

Regardless of whether you’re talking about fashion or decor, trends come and go. Shiplap is just one example. What makes shiplap so unique, however, is how incredibly popular it’s become in such a short time!

Shiplap is a type of wooden plank with interlocking grooves on the top and bottom.

The term “shiplap” is no coincidence. This material was originally used to create watertight ship hulls (made possible by the incredibly secure tongue-and-groove system).

When it first made its way into homes, shiplap still wasn’t used as a finishing layer. Instead, it was used much how we use drywall panels today — a middle layer that creates a smooth surface for mounting wallpaper and other wall finishes.

Shiplap was also used to construct barn and farmhouse exteriors, hence the association with country living.

The modern version of shiplap we’re all familiar with is pretty far removed from these origins. Much of it isn’t even made of real wood. But the end result offers an almost identical appearance as the shiplap of years past!

Reasons To Love Horizontal Shiplap

horizontal shiplap

Nothing beats horizontal shiplap for a traditional, farmhouse-style aesthetic. You can keep the rest of your home decor incredibly simple.

Yet the presence of shiplap walls will make the space feel charming and rustic. Speaking of rustic design, it’s hard to imagine modern farmhouse decor without shiplap.

Interior design heavyweights like Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper are overwhelmingly to blame for shiplap’s hold on contemporary home trends. If you’re trying to give your home rustic appeal, then using a horizontal shiplap is almost required at this point!

Even if your heart isn’t 100% set on using horizontal shiplap, you might find that it benefits the space as a whole.

The sleek, uniform lines of horizontal shiplap can make a room feel wider and more spacious. This effect is particularly noticeable in hallways and similar tight spaces.

Another benefit of horizontal shiplap that’s easy to overlook is how seamlessly it can be transitioned from wall to ceiling. Keep this in mind if you want your entire living space to have a clean, cohesive finish.

How To Use Horizontal Shiplap In Your Home

how to use horizontal shiplap

For walls that need a bit of texture to truly look their best, horizontal shiplap is a nearly foolproof solution.

Shiplap is a wonderful option for transitional spaces — e.g., entryways, stair landings, and more — that you want to differentiate from the rest of the home without committing to an entirely new aesthetic.

Paint the shiplap the same color as the surrounding walls for the most subtle transitions.

Horizontal shiplap can be used in place of backsplash tile somewhere like a laundry or powder room.

Just keep in mind that wood doesn’t offer the same durability as a traditional backsplash. So invest in a wood look-alike that meets the needs of the space you plan to install shiplap in.

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Reasons To Love Vertical Shiplap

While horizontal shiplap retains its farmhouse charm in all forms, vertical shiplap lends a more modern aesthetic. As a result, vertical shiplap blends much more easily into a variety of decor styles than its horizontal counterpart.

In a design world filled with shiplap covering any and all surfaces, vertical shiplap offers a unique take not seen as often. It’s the perfect alternative for anyone worried about the longevity of shiplap as a whole.

Most homeowners know that long, vertical lines can make a room appear taller. Well, vertical shiplap is no exception to this clever illusion.

How To Use Vertical Shiplap In Your Home

Vertical shiplap can be used anywhere you would typically use a decorative wall finish. It’s equally effective as either an accent wall or throughout an entire room.

Vertical shiplap also looks great when applied to narrow sections of wall that you might find at the end of a hallway or in a recessed alcove. Installing shiplap on these surfaces is a subtle way to add dimension to your living space.

Installing vertical shiplap on just one wall can extend the space, making the ceiling seem significantly higher. Combine this design strategy with floor-to-ceiling window treatments for a room that’s truly larger-than-life.

how to use vertical shiplap

Another great way to utilize vertical shiplap is in the form of wainscoting. Cover the bottom portion of the wall with shiplap while painting or wallpapering the top section.

This particular design idea would be nowhere near as effective with horizontal shiplap, which would visually cut the wall in half (making the ceiling feel shorter!).

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If you want to retain some of vertical shiplap’s rustic aesthetic, then white is your best option. Muted shades of green, blue, and cream also have a similar effect.

Meanwhile, use bold, contemporary colors to bring your vertical shiplap walls into the modern era. There’s no limit to the paint colors that can be paired with this design trend.

Horizontal Vs. Vertical Shiplap Siding

Shiplap isn’t just for home interiors. It can also be used as exterior siding.

While the shiplap siding typically found today isn’t true shiplap (instead, it’s usually fiber cement or vinyl formed to look like individual planks) it offers the same aesthetic.

Horizontal shiplap looks very similar to traditional vinyl siding but with a slightly sleeker finish. It’s a wonderful alternative to standard lap siding if you want to give your home that little something extra.

Vertical siding can certainly be used to cover your entire home. But we think the best use of this material is as an accent finish.

In fact, you can install horizontal and vertical shiplap siding together to create a multidimensional exterior for your home.

Final Thoughts

Opting for vertical or horizontal shiplap comes down almost entirely to personal preference!

Both styles offer unique benefits. Yet they are similar enough that almost any project you can complete with one will work just as well with the other.

You don’t have to commit to one shiplap orientation throughout your entire home, either. Compare how vertical and horizontal shiplap fit in each space, curating your final choice to make the most of your home’s architecture.