Shiplap Flooring; Installation, Painting & Differences

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Looking to install shiplap floor boards in one of your rooms for a traditional feel? Or maybe, you’re wondering what the better alternative between shiplap flooring and tongue-and-groove flooring is. If so- you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we’ve included detailed guidelines on how to install shiplap flooring the correct way, as well as a comparison of this type of flooring profile with tongue-and-groove flooring.

How do you install shiplap flooring?

To properly install shiplap flooring in a given room within your home, follow the procedure detailed below:

  1. Start off by installing a moisture barrier over the floor surface. This will help prevent the shiplap flooring from warping.
  2. Next, install the shiplap floor planks with the underlay side facing into the room. Also, you’ll want to ensure that you cut off the overlay side of the planks for the first row to remove the weak overhang. This will help prevent cracking of the planks under the weight of heavy furniture.
  3. When installing shiplap planks, ensure to push them as close together as possible, with the overlay hanging over and slightly past the underlay.
  4. For added reinforcement, nail down or screw in your shiplap flooring planks to the subfloor. The nails should be driven through each overlay and underlay into the subfloor beneath. You’ll want to align your fasteners in a straight line for a net visual appearance post-installation.

Shiplap vs tongue and groove flooring

The differences between tongue and groove and shiplap flooring.

Tongue-and-groove flooringShiplap flooring
Tongue-and-groove flooring planks are designed to interlock.Shiplap flooring planks have an overlap design, with the overlay going over the underlay
During installation, fasteners have to be driven through the tongue at an angle, ensuring enhanced stabilityDuring installation, fasteners are driven straight through the overlays and underlays into the subfloor
Typically made out of manufactured materials like vinyl, steel, and fiber-cementTypically made out of natural lumber, like cedar and redwood
Offers more structural stability- less-likely to warpStructural stability issues- more prone to warping
Easier to clean as the tongue-and-groove design prevents dust from getting trapped in between adjoining planks.Harder to clean as the deep grooves between overlapping planks trap dust and debris
Easier to sand as there are no protruding fastenersDifficult to sand as the straight fastening over the planks can cause protruding nails that will affect the sanding process.

Tongue-and-groove and shiplap are types of flooring profiles. Though a shiplap profile is best used on siding material, it also looks good as part of flooring design, as it gives of a rustic allure. Below, we explore some of the key differences between shiplap and tongue-and-groove flooring:

Physical profile

Whereas tongue-and-groove flooring planks are designed to interlock, shiplap flooring planks are designed to overlap, with the overlay going over the underlay. The design of tongue-and-groove flooring planks offers them an advantage over shiplap flooring planks, as fasteners have to be driven through the tongue at an angle, ensuring enhanced stability. What’s more, this allows you to hide the nails/screws for a better visual appearance.

Installation requirements

In general, tongue-and-groove flooring is more difficult to install than shiplap flooring. This is because proper installation of the former calls for angular fastening through each plank’s tongue into the subfloor below- a process that requires precision. This is done to hide the nails for a better appearance, and the angular fastening through the tongue offers added structural strength. Meanwhile- when fastening shiplap flooring planks to the subfloor, all you have to do is drive your fasteners straight through the overlays and underlays of your overlapping planks.

Flooring Material

Most flooring planks that assume a shiplap profile are usually made out of natural lumber, including cedar and redwood. On the other hand, flooring planks that assume a tongue-and-groove system are normally made out of manufactured materials like vinyl, steel, and fiber-cement.

Structural issues

Shiplap flooring is more likely to warp compared to tongue-and-groove flooring. This is because of the wide nature of shiplap floor boards, as well as the fact that they don’t provide added stability, as is the case with the tongue-and-groove system of interlocking.

Maintenance Requirements

It takes more effort to properly maintain a shiplap floor compared to a tongue-and-groove floor. This is because the overlapping planks form a deep groove between them that acts as a dust trap. To effectively clean a shiplap floor, therefore, you’ll need a vacuum cleaner with a crevice attachment.

What’s more, if you wish to sand a shiplap floor, you will have a hard time as the fasteners are driven straight through the top of the planks. Any protruding nails can easily cause irreversible damage to your sanding drum machine. Finally, unlike a tongue-and-groove floor that can easily be cleaned using a wet mop, a shiplap floor will most likely soak up water from your wet mop through the deep grooves between the overlays and underlays. Which is why- for shiplap flooring- you’d want to use a wringed, damp mop instead.

Should I paint shiplap before installing?

Yes, you’ll want to paint your shiplap flooring boards before installing them, as this will make it much easier to paint the upwards-facing underlays. Painting is usually done on shiplap flooring for enhanced visual appeal. To properly paint your shiplap floor boards prior to installation, follow the steps detailed below:

  1. Collect your supplies and tools for the painting project, including: cans of paint, a paint brush or a paint roller, sandpaper, and paintable caulk.
  2. Start off by sanding the shiplap boards to get the surface ready for maximum adhesion with the paint.
  3. Next, apply your initial coat of paint. We recommend using a small paintbrush over a paint roller, as the former tool will allow you to paint the overlays and underlays more easily.
  4. After the paint has dried up, install the shiplap boards and fasten them to the subfloor. Then, use paintable caulk to fill in the fastener holes.
  5. Finish off the process by applying a second layer of paint post-installation. This layer is meant to cover the fastener holes for a uniform visual appearance.
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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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