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Easy DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting in a Bathroom

The perfect beginner DIY project to install wood vertical shiplap wainscoting in a bathroom to add character on a small budget.

Have you been following along on the powder room makeover on our Instagram Stories?!

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 wainscoting
before powder room with gold walls

UPDATE: See the finished powder room makeover reveal here!

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.

vertical shiplap wainscoting in a bathroom

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.

Supplies

The Steps

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.

marking a wall with a level for shiplap placement

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).

nailing vertical shiplap boards to a wall

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.

cutting boards with a table saw

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.)

tracing an outlet cover on shiplap boards
cutting boards with a jigsaw for an outlet

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.

trick for cutting out wood planks - drill holes at corners

Step 10 – Cut Out Wall Obstacles on Boards with a Jigsaw

Cut out the outlet hole with the jigsaw.

trick for cutting out wood planks - drill holes at corners and cut with 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)

outlet spacers to push out outlet flush with vertical shiplap wainscoting
outlet spacers to push out outlet flush with shiplap in a bathroom

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.

outlet spacers to push out outlet flush with shiplap in a bathroom

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.

sanding wood filler on vertical planks

Step 18 – Sand Wood Filler

Once dry, sand the wood filler until smooth (never sand caulk or it will crack).

vertical shiplap wainscoting in a bathroom before painting
painting vertical shiplap wainscoting in a bathroom

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.

vertical shiplap wainscoting with Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray and Chantilly Lace

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!

UPDATE: See the finished product of the powder room makeover reveal here!

powder room makeover reveal

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:

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4 Comments

  1. This is a great how to! I’m so glad I came across this before beginning my project. I had a few questions before I get started. When you painted after install, did you use a roller or a brush? Also, did you have any issues with paint build up in the separation between each board?

    1. I used a very small brush between the planks, cut in corners and edges with a 2″ angled brush, and I rolled the rest with a foam roller. No build up issues between the planks that way 🙂

  2. I followed your blog for this ship lap project in our bathroom!! Thank you so much! This really helped me!! I love the result. Thanks again!!

  3. Lauren, I discovered your blog recently and I love it! I’m starting to tackle some projects and reading your blog does give me great ideas and confidence too. My husband passed away last year and I guess I’ve developed pandemic fever! I wish I had a Robert!! Anyway, I am your neighbor (in Charlotte) and wondered if you could tell me a few thrift stores in the Charlotte/Fort Mill/ Rock Hill area that you’ve had good luck with. Thanks for being so positive and inspiring!