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How to Paint Shiplap Cracks & More

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Shiplap is a beautiful way to add character to a home. I’ve installed shiplap and/or tongue and groove using 5 different methods and have found through trial and error the easiest way to paint shiplap! Here’s how to paint shiplap cracks and more from my experience installing a variety of shiplap styles!

Painted shiplap Entryway

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Various Ways to Install Shiplap

I love the look of shiplap. It adds so much character to a home and remains a timeless way to add wall molding. When we moved into our current home, the previous owners had created the look of traditional shiplap by installing tongue and groove cedar planks. Since then, I’ve painted tons of walls with the shiplap look, as well as installed my own!

Shiplap was originally used in ship making where long boards overlapped to create weatherproof joints. It has often been used on exteriors, but in the last 10 years has grown in popularity in interior design as well.

You can still purchase traditional shiplap, but there are a variety of ways to install a shiplap-like accent wall without using real shiplap, which tends to be more expensive.

If you’re looking for some more affordable shiplap alternatives, you can see how I’ve installed “shiplap” with 5 methods in the posts below.

How to Paint Shiplap

The type of shiplap you choose to install will dictate how you paint shiplap! Some versions have overlapping grooves that are harder to paint than faux shiplaps, and some have deeper crevices that make it difficult to paint between boards. So, let’s break down each type of shiplap method to see how you should paint your shiplap project.

Overall, I will say that 99% of the time, painting shiplap with a paint sprayer is the easiest and fastest method! If you don’t have a paint sprayer, you can still paint shiplap with a paint brush and roller. Simply buckle in for a good chunk of time commitment.

How to Paint MDF Shiplap

MDF shiplap is my favorite version. It is sleek, shows no wood grain, and is easy to install. It is a tongue and groove style shiplap, which means you have no visible wall showing through the cracks.

MDF shiplap installation.

If you are installing this method of shiplap, I highly recommend either pre-painting the tongues with a brush or using a paint sprayer after it is installed.

If you choose to hand paint this type of wall molding then you can simply trim it with a brush and roll on the paint like a normal wall. However, I highly recommend pre-painting the shiplap cracks. Once you have all of your MDF on the wall, it is difficult to get a paint brush into the small crevices between boards. By pre-painting the cracks, you will save yourself some frustration after installation.

How to paint shiplap cracks in MDF shiplap.

However, if you’ve already put it all up then don’t lose heart! It will take some patience, but you can still paint shiplap cracks with an artist’s paintbrush to make it easier to get into the small spaces. Once you’ve painted the cracks, simply trim and roll the rest of the MDF as usual.

How to Paint Cedar Plank Style Shiplap

When we moved into our home, I hired a professional to come spray the dining room shiplap walls, leaving the ceiling wood. In hindsight, this was the best decision ever!

Dining room shiplap.

However, last spring I decided to tackle our guest house walls. The entire room is cedar planked, just like our dining room. I wanted to give it a try DIY style, and started to hand paint each wall.

How to paint shiplap cracks.

Hand painting cedar planked walls is not for the faint of heart! Each grove needs to be hand painted with a brush in addition to cutting in. Then, you will be able to paint the wall surface with a roller. About halfway through the first coat of primer I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hand paint a 500 sq ft room of shiplap, and called back the professional.

Again. Best choice ever.

Guest house remodel living room

If you are painting a smaller space, hand painting is doable! If it is larger, I highly recommend using a paint sprayer or hiring a professional to cut down on time as well as provide a cleaner finish.

How to Paint Tongue and Groove Style Vertical Shiplap

When I remodeled my mudroom, I installed a tongue and groove style vertical shiplap.

Tongue and groove painted shiplap.

It is still one of my favorite DIY updates, but it is one that I learned my lesson in! The number one question I received was, how to paint shiplap grooves? After installation, I chose to spray paint this shiplap. It gets into the grooves so much easier than hand-brushing and provides a really nice finish.

Paint sprayers can be intimidating and do take some practice, however they are much easier to use than you might imagine!

I use the Flexio 5000 from Wagner. It is a great paint sprayer for home owners and offers two different spray nozzles. This is great for when you are painting walls all the way to furniture, so you can choose the type of nozzle needed for your finish.

Using a paint sprayer in the mudroom also allowed me to paint all of my DIY peg racks in no time verses hand painting each individual peg.

How to Paint Faux Plywood Shiplap

The last type of shiplap I’ve painted is the most economical way to create the look of shiplap. By ripping down plywood sheets, you save a bundle when installing large amounts of shiplap! However, using this method poses some different painting problems.

First, installing plywood shiplap means you have actual gaps between the boards rather than a groove.

This results in the existing wall behind your shiplap being visible, as well as the short edges of your boards.

Paint the short edge of your plywood shiplap boards.

To make painting this type of shiplap easier, roll your paint color onto the edges of each board. Once it is on the wall, even using a paint sprayer can be difficult to get into all the cracks since the surface is flat rather than a groove.

Then, make sure to paint the wall behind where you will install the shiplap the same color as your shiplap boards.

DIY Shiplap painting.

As you can see below, I failed to do that in our basement. Now, the grey paint is a visible stripe between each piece of shiplap. Had I painted the wall black behind the shiplap, the gaps wouldn’t be visible and would truly mimic shiplap.

DIY shiplap wall.

Live and learn! And teach you how to do it right. 😉

After you’ve painted your plywood board edges and the existing wall, you can simply roll paint on the surface of your shiplap. You can also use a paint sprayer for this method, however I found it was just as easy to hand paint plywood shiplap since there aren’t grooves to compete with.

How to Paint Shiplap Cracks

We’ve covered each type of shiplap individually, but here is a quick breakdown for the most tedious part of painting shiplap: how to paint shiplap cracks.

  • 3 Options for MDF Shiplap:
    • Pre-paint cracks with a brush
    • Spray paint the entire surface
    • Paint cracks after installation with an artist’s brush
  • 2 Options for Tongue and Groove Shiplap:
    • After installation, paint grooves with a brush
    • Spray paint the entire surface
  • Best Option for Plywood Shiplap:
    • Pre-paint edges and existing wall prior to installation

Best Painting Tools

Like I mentioned above, the Flexio 5000 is the paint sprayer I use. You can find all of my favorite painting tools, like the best paint brushes and rollers, also linked up for you in my Amazon Storefront!

And if you’re looking for tips for how to paint any interior room, learn the basics of painting interiors in this post.

Stay Connected

Now, I’m guessing if you came to this article you were really hoping to find a super easy way to paint your shiplap! Sometimes the truth of home improvement and DIY is that it is just going to be hard work for certain projects. If you are hand-painting, then this is one of those. 😉

However, if you have access to a paint sprayer, this would be my most recommended route for how to paint shiplap for all varieties except plywood. (Of course, you can also use a sprayer on plywood. It may just not be as effective to get into the gaps.)

Painted shiplap wall in a dining room.

Better yet, hire a professional. Just kidding. But not really.

Happy painting my friends!

Sarah Signature
Painting 5 types of shiplap


  1. Do you always use a matte/ flat paint? I want to put vertical v groove boards in my bathroom. Thinking it should be semi gloss because of moisture. What advice do you have?

    1. I use eggshell or satin on most walls. Semi-gloss would be great for a bathroom but satin would work just as well with less sheen.

    1. So glad they were helpful! The equivalent to a like button on blog posts is a share to Pinterest or Facebook! Ha! I’m so glad you stopped by!

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