The perfect beginner DIY project to install wood vertical shiplap wainscoting in a bathroom to add character on a small budget.
Oh my gosh! This vertical shiplap wainscoting project and paint alone made the most massive difference in this little bathroom we’re creating for a very sweet friend of ours.
Vertical Shiplap vs Horizontal Shiplap: Which to Use?
When to Choose Vertical Shiplap
If your style leans more modern, vertical shiplap lends itself to the more contemporary look. Vertical shiplap also helps ceilings seem taller.
When to Choose Horizontal Shiplap
If you prefer traditional farmhouse, coastal, or rustic design, horizontal shiplap is more traditionally used. Horizontal shiplap helps narrow rooms seem wider.
We’re no strangers to installing shiplap since we started this blog 6+ years ago, but it has been a hot minute since we tackled this project. And ever since our last one when our style was more rustic farmhouse in our previous house, shiplap has come a long way and is no longer just for farmhouse lovers.
Flip that shiplap vertical and all of a sudden, it has a more modern vibe and lends itself to lots of different decorating styles… which is exactly what we were going for with the California Casual powder room.
How to Install Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting in a Bathroom
You can really do this project as a full wall or wainscoting (half wall), depending on the look you want.
- 5″ shiplap boards (These pre primed shiplap tongue & groove boards from Home Depot were super easy to work with.)
- 1×2-1/2″ MDF Craftsman moulding
- 1×4-1/2″ MDF Craftsman moulding
- Construction adhesive such as Liquid Nails (We’ve tried many types and this one is our favorite.)
- Caulk gun
- Cordless finish nailer
- 1 1/2″ finish nails
- Tape measure
- Power drill
- Table saw or circular saw
- Miter saw (optional but helpful for fast cuts)
- Wood filler
- Sander with medium grit sanding pads
- Outlet spacers
- Jumbo outlet/switch covers
- Flathead screwdriver
- Paint of your choice (I typically prefer satin finish on wainscoting in a bathroom.)
Step 1 – Measure the Room Perimeter and Calculate
Measure the entire perimeter of your room and calculate how many boards you will need for your project. (This powder room had a 22′ perimeter, so we needed 27 – 8′ boards cut in half at 4′ each leaving us with a couple of extra boards to account for waste material.)
Step 2 – Measure and Cut Shiplap Boards
Using a miter saw, we cut our 8′ boards at 4′ just because it was the simplest measurement that would save us money and reduce waste.
Step 3 – Mark the Height of the Shiplap Wainscoting
We marked the 4′ height on the wall with a pencil and used a level around the room to mark a line where the tops of the shiplap boards should line up. (Make sure to place the boards a couple of inches above any outlets or light switches to avoid any awkward cuts later.)
Step 4 – Check the First Shiplap Board’s Placement and Level It
Check the placement of your first board before attaching to make sure it is level (be aware not to trust corners since they’re not always completely square 90 degree angles).
Step 5 – Apply Construction Adhesive and Finish Nails to Secure Boards
Apply a line of construction adhesive to the back of your first board and place on the wall lined up with your pencil line. Drive in a few finish nails with your cordless nailer to hold it in place. (If you were doing a horizontal shiplap wall, you could skip the adhesive and just nail into the studs. With vertical shiplap, it’s not possible to nail into studs, so the adhesive is necessary to keep boards in place.)
Step 6 – Repeat Checking with Level Often
Keep attaching shiplap boards around the room, staying in line with the pencil line.
Step 7 – Trim Boards to Fit at Corners
At corners, use a table saw or circular saw to trim boards to fit as needed.
Step 8 – Mark Obstacles on Boards Like Outlets and Light Switches
At outlets and light switches, use a tape measure and pencil to mark where to cut out the board. (We used the smaller outlet covers as a template to make the process easier.)
Step 9 – Use a Drill to Make Starting Point Holes at Corners of Wall Obstacles
Drill a hole at the 4 corners of the traced outlet cover on the board to make a starting point for your jigsaw blade.
Step 10 – Cut Out Wall Obstacles on Boards with a Jigsaw
Cut out the outlet hole with the jigsaw.
Step 11 – Adhere and Nail Board to Wall
Attach the board on the wall as usual with adhesive and finish nails.
Step 12 – Use Spacers to Make Switches Flush Against Shiplap Boards
To make outlets and light switches flush with the shiplap, add outlet spacers to the outlet’s screws to push them out. (Turn off the electricity and use all safety precautions when handling outlets/switches)
Step 13 – Use Oversized Outlet and Switch Covers for Cutouts
We used jumbo outlet/switch covers after attaching the spacers to cover any holes in the boards from using the smaller covers as cut templates.
Step 14 – Place Upper Rail
Attach the 1×2-1/2″ upper rail board on top of the boards along the vertical shiplap wall.
Step 15 – Place the Lower Rail
Attach the 1×4-1/2″ Craftsman board on the bottom of the shiplap boards as the baseboard, nailing into the shiplap.
Step 16 – Wood Fill
Fill nail holes with wood filler and let dry.
Step 17 – Caulk
Fill gaps with caulk and let dry.
Step 18 – Sand Wood Filler
Once dry, sand the wood filler until smooth (never sand caulk or it will crack).
Step 19 – Paint
Paint and you’re done! Satin and semigloss paint sheens are most recommended by pro painters on shiplap wainscoting in a bathroom, specifically waterborne alkyd paint formulas like Benjamin Moore Advance or Sherwin Williams Pro Classic.
We used Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray paint in satin on the shiplap wainscoting and Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace in eggshell on the walls.
It’s amazing how much bigger this space feels now that the gold paint color is gone!
The final reveal for this cute powder room is coming very soon so keep an eye out. It’s absolutely perfect!
Have you ever installed vertical shiplap wainscoting before? Are you a shiplap fan? I have to admit, I got super tired of it for a little while there, but it’s making its comeback.
You can see our previous wall molding, shiplap, and wall treatment tutorials here:
- How to Quickly Beef Up Crown Molding and Baseboards
- DIY Traditional Grid Molding and Focal Wall (Grid Molding Reveal)
- Picture Frame Molding
- Craftsman Window Trim – the Easy Way
- How to Shiplap a Wall for Free
- DIY Simple Shiplap Wall
- Wood Plank Focal Wall
- DIY Planked Board and Batten Wall
- The Cheapest and Easiest DIY Board and Batten