Shiplap Ceiling: Design Above

Shiplap has been used for centuries in the construction of buildings, particularly in coastal regions where it was used for shipbuilding. The name “shiplap” comes from the way the boards are joined together, with the rabbet on one board fitting into the tongue on the next board. This creates a tight seal that helps to keep water out, making it ideal for use in shipbuilding and later, in building homes to include a shiplap ceiling.

Shiplap originally gained popularity in North America during the 18th century, particularly in the New England region. It was used for both interior and exterior walls of homes, as well as for barns and other outbuildings. Shiplap was a practical and affordable building material that provided insulation and helped to keep the cold and wind drafts out.

In recent years, shiplap has seen a resurgence in popularity as a design element in homes. It has become a popular choice for accent walls, as well as for ceilings, adding texture and character to a space. The rise in popularity of the “farmhouse” aesthetic, which is characterized by rustic and vintage/ antique home decor items, has also contributed to the resurging popularity of shiplap in home design.

Television shows such as “Fixer Upper” and “Property Brothers” have also helped to popularize shiplap, with many homeowners seeking to replicate the look from the TV shows in their own homes. Today, shiplap is available in a variety of materials, including wood, PVC, and MDF, making it more accessible and affordable to homeowners while also making it easier to install.

Shiplap plank ceilings have become popular in recent years as a way to add texture and character to a space which is usually forgotten about. Shiplap is a type of wooden board that is characterized by a groove (or rabbet) on one edge and a tongue on the other, which allows the boards to interlock with one another. This creates a tight seal that helps to prevent air and moisture from passing through, making it a great option for both walls and ceilings, though these days it is purely a design element and not so much a practical one. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of using shiplap on your ceiling and provide tips for installation, as well as other design considerations and of course I will show you some of my favorite shiplap ceiling design ideas.

Kitchen with white shiplap ceiling
Via Design and Dwell Homes 

Why use Shiplap on your Ceiling?

There are many reasons a homeowner may want to use shiplap on their ceiling. Here are a few of the most popular:

Add Texture and Character

 Shiplap ceilings can add visual interest and texture to a space, making it feel warm and inviting.

Increase Visual Height

 By installing shiplap on your ceiling, you can create the illusion of a having higher ceiling than you actually have. This is obviously a huge plus if you have a low ceiling space.

Conceals Imperfections

 If your ceiling has imperfections or is uneven, shiplap can be used to hide them. Using shiplap on your ceiling is also a great way to conceal and cover that dreaded 90’s popcorn ceiling.

Can be Easy to Install

 Shiplap is relatively easy to install, even for DIYers. Just attach the shiplap boards directly to your drywall with a nail gun and viola shiplap.

Can be Painted or Stained

 Shiplap can be painted or stained to match any decor style.

Tips for Shiplap Ceiling Installation

Installing shiplap on your ceiling can be a bit more challenging than installing it on your walls, but it is still a manageable DIY project. Here are a few tips to help you get started on this project:

Measure Twice

 Before you begin, make sure to measure the length and width of your ceiling to determine how many boards you will need.

Dry Fit Pieces

This step is crucial to avoid costly errors ( financially and design). It would not be great to get near the end and realize that your last row of boards will only be 1 or 2 inches wide. Dry fitting your materials can help you to prevent this and many more issues that will inevitably come up during the installation process.

Choose the Right Type of Wood

 Shiplap is typically made from pine or cedar, but other types of wood can also be used. Make sure to choose a wood that is appropriate for your climate and that is easy to work with.

Use the Right Tools

 You will need a table saw or miter saw, a jigsaw, a level, a drill, a brad nailer, brad nails, construction adhesive or glue, a ladder, pencil and finally some screws or nails to install shiplap on your ceiling.

Start at the Center

 To ensure that your shiplap is centered on your ceiling, start by measuring and marking the center point of your ceiling. Then, install your first board at this point and work your way outwards.

Chalk Line

Use a chalk line after every few boards to keep your boards nice and straight.

Stagger the Joints

 To create a more seamless look, stagger the joints between each board.

Caulk the Joints

Its a good idea to caulk your planked ceiling seams to ensure a nice and polished look.

Paint First 

One of the things I absolutely can not stand is working above my head on any home improvement project. If installing a shiplap ceiling it is highly recommended to paint or stain your shiplap pieces first, prior to installation. This will no doubt save you time and energy painting above your head. 

Shiplap Ceiling Design Considerations

When choosing shiplap for your ceiling, there are a few design considerations to keep in mind:

Paint or Stain Color

 Shiplap can be painted or stained to match any decor style. Consider the color scheme of your room when choosing a finish for your shiplap.

Board Width

 Shiplap comes in various widths, so consider the size of your room when choosing the width of your boards. Wider boards can make a room feel larger, while narrower boards can create a more intimate feel.

Direction of Installation

 Shiplap can be installed vertically or horizontally. Consider the height of your ceiling and the size of your room when deciding which direction to install your shiplap.


Shiplap ceilings can be enhanced with the use of lighting. Consider installing recessed lighting or pendant light fixtures to highlight the texture of your shiplap.


 If you plan to install shiplap on your ceiling, it can also be installed in other areas of your home, such as the walls. Consider coordinating the look of your shiplap across multiple areas for a cohesive design.

Shiplap Ceiling Design Ideas

Shiplap Ceiling with Ribs

This is an interesting take on an old design. This homeowner and designer installed shiplap on their ceiling but added vertical ribs in the opposite direction to truly make this ceiling design standout. I adore the combination of the shiplap. ribs and the wood beams. This is really a one of a kind design and something I could definitely see myself doing in my forever home.

Shiplap Ceiling Grid 

This unique ceiling design can be achieved by installing shiplap on your ceiling then installing beams in a grid pattern. This really breaks up the ceiling and creates the illusion of have a bigger space and gives the room a sense of grandeur.

Shiplap Ceiling with Gray Beams

This modern take on a shiplap ceiling utilizes the same principle of installing shiplap and adding beams but this time the beams are stained gray. This is a great way to add a bit of contrast to your ceiling without taking to much away from the natural beauty of the wood. The subtle pop of color really helps tie the room together while still allowing for the natural beauty of the woodgrain to shine through. I love how the gray beams and gray fireplace stone coordinate perfectly in this living room.

Blue Shiplap Ceiling in Bathroom

This bathroom takes a unique spin on the traditional shiplap ceiling. The homeowner chose to paint their shiplap ceiling a lovely shade of light blue, which really brings out the details of the wood shiplap. This is a great way to bring color into your home without having it overwhelm the room. I love how this bright and cheery blue compliments the white tiled walls perfectly. For a similar look to this design check out my paint review post on Benjamin Moore’s Beach Glass.

Shiplap Ceiling with Dark Beams

This design uses the same concept of installing beams to break up the shiplap on your ceiling but this time around the beams are stained a lovely dark brown. This provides a beautiful contrast between the white painted shiplap and dark brown wood stain. I love how this look brings a bit of drama and elegance into an otherwise neutral space. Again, this is another perfect example of how you can use color to tie all the elements in your home together without it being too overwhelming. 

Shiplap High Ceiling

This is a great example of how you can really take advantage of a high ceiling. By using multiple boards and layering them in different directions this homeowner was able to create an interesting pattern on their ceiling that draws the eye up and gives the room a sense of grandeur. This type of design works best with high ceilings as it helps to bring your attention upwards and adds visual interest overwhelming the space. 

Shiplap Vaulted Ceiling

Vaulted ceiling with white wood beams
Via House of Brazier

Shiplap is perfect for vaulted ceilings as it helps to draw the eye up and create an interesting pattern. This homeowner chose to use shiplap on their vaulted ceiling then painted the boards a soft shade of white. I love how this adds subtle texture to the living room while still keeping the look light and airy. It’s a great way to add interest to a space without overwhelming it. Another great option for white shiplap is white wood stain. With wood stain you don’t cover the natural wood grains you highlight it so it is another way to highlight your shiplap ceiling.

Popcorn Ceiling Cover Up

Here is another great example of how you can use shiplap to cover up an outdated popcorn ceiling. By installing the boards horizontally and using a light white paint this homeowner was able to completely transform their room into something fresh and modern. This white shiplap ceiling is a perfect solution for anyone looking to get rid of that dated popcorn look without having to take on a costly and potentially dangerous remodel. 


These are just a few of the many different ways that you can incorporate shiplap into your ceiling design. Whether you are looking for something subtle or daring, there is sure to be something that will fit your style and budget. So don’t be afraid to experiment with your spaces ceiling shiplap.

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