Shiplap vs. Tongue and Groove

If you purchase a product through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Details

Wooden cladding is a common occurrence in covering the external walls of buildings. It serves as an effective means of weatherproofing. Two terms that you may often hear associated with cladding are shiplap and tongue & groove. These are two different methods for joining wooden cladding planks together.

Shiplap vs tongue & groove is a common comparison that we make when discussing wooden cladding. With the increase in popularity of cladding for home interiors, it is worthwhile to know the difference between the two. It can help you in enhancing the interiors of rooms to create a pleasing ambiance.

Shiplap vs. Tongue & Groove: Background

Timber cladding, which enjoyed popularity in the 80s and 90s is now experiencing a comeback. With so much going for this decorative medium in construction, there is much discussion going on as to which one is better – shiplap or tongue & groove?

When homeowners consider renovating their homes, or even for new constructions, timber cladding is becoming a common form of decoration. It provides the dual purpose of looking good and offering thermal protection from heat or cold depending on the time of year. It also serves as a great means of weatherproofing for exteriors.

In this post, we take a closer look at two varieties of wooden cladding – shiplap and tongue & groove. Each respective type is named according to the method of joining the cladding planks.

Shiplap vs. Tongue & Groove: Design

There are many aspects to these two types of wooden cladding. As a woodworker, you will find it useful to understand the way each type is processed to get the best use out of them.


A beautiful background of different grunge textures.

Shiplap is composed of planks of wood that have an overlapping step at the end of each plank. So, when you lay the planks side-by-side, the edges overlap with each other, bringing the edges together. The face of each plank may have a slight chamfer or it may be parallel to the surface upon which it is placed.

Tongue & Groove

Tongue and Groove
Tongue and groove: Fair Use

Here, the long edge of one side of the plank has a longitudinal tongue-like projection. With tongue & groove paneling, the opposite long edge of each plank contains a long groove. The tongues fit into the grooves in such a way that when the planks are placed side-by-side, they join the respective planks of wood together.

Both types of joints need no nails, screws, or glue to bond them together, although nails are often used. It results in an almost seamless continuity in the cladding. But there is usually a thin line between the planks which adds to the aesthetics of the entire structure.

Shiplap vs. Tongue & Groove: Appearance

Type of wood joint set Dado style, perspective 3d with top front

When it comes to deciding between shiplap and tongue & groove, the choice for indoor cladding is usually tongue & groove paneling as it makes for seamless fitment, if required.

Tongue & groove paneling has smaller or even absent gaps between the planks. It makes it much easier to clean and maintain, as dust and dirt will not accumulate so easily. However, you may observe shiplap being used for coastal or modern farmhouse-style constructions, particularly in kitchen and bathroom paneling.

You can also get a hybrid version of shiplap and tongue & groove paneling which features chamfered edges on the sides of the planks. It adds to the visual appeal by subtly forming a vee-shaped recess.

Some timber cladding comes with dado rails or bespoke oak moldings and similar embellishments. It adds to the decorative aspect of walls, especially at ceiling or floor levels.

Shiplap vs. Tongue & Groove: Strength and Weatherproofing

You should always keep in mind that the primary purpose of timber cladding is to impart weatherproofing. The interlocking nature of tongue & groove paneling joins adjacent planks together extremely tightly. The resulting joint is almost waterproof.

The tight fit between respective boards imparts natural strength to tongue & groove paneling. Adding an oak frame to the structure can further enhance the strength. The resulting strength and weatherproofing are better than if the boards were simply placed adjacent to each other or even placed on top of each other in sequence.

Tongue & groove paneling, by its extreme strength and waterproof characteristics once installed makes it suitable for outdoor structures. Therefore, it is the preferred choice for outdoor sheds that may contain valuable gardening equipment. It is waterproof and also not easy to break into.

Shiplap gets its name from its use in making ships and boats. Shipbuilders used the overlapping planks to their advantage to create watertight joints. The overhanging lip also contributes a lot to preventing water seepage.

Shiplap vs. Tongue & Groove: Cost

Shiplap, especially the chamfered variety takes more time and effort to manufacture. Tongue & groove paneling on the other hand is easier to work on and can easily be mass-produced.

But then, you have to also consider the type of material being used. You get wooden cladding in poplar and you also get it in oak. So, you will pay more for oak or any other type of expensive wood.

When it comes to deciding between shiplap vs. tongue & groove, you would need to consider weighing aesthetics against the utility of the material. Generally, we can conclude that outdoor applications will cost less. Indoor cladding may involve more intricate shiplap or tongue & groove construction, so it tends to cost more, especially if you use expensive types of wood.

Shiplap vs. Tongue & Groove: Ease of Construction

Both varieties of wooden cladding are relatively easy to install. Generally, you don’t need to use nails and screws while installing either type of wooden cladding. But if you do happen to need to add metallic fasteners, it is important to pre-drill holes to prevent the wood from splitting. Also, the fastener material should be stainless steel or brass.

As we mentioned above, installing a shiplap or tongue & groove paneling is simple. But while you get almost identical results, you need to consider the direction of the chamfer, if any when installing shiplap. If the chamfer is upside-down, it could lead to water damage at a later stage.

Another golden rule of installing tongue & groove paneling is to always install the planks with the tongues pointing upwards. If not, then water tends to accumulate in the grooves and it could cause the wood to rot. This is something that will never occur with shiplap.

Types of Wooden Cladding Materials

Wooden cladding on the facade of the house

Shiplap comes in a variety of materials other than wood. You can get it in fiber, cement, metal, and various synthetic materials. But to the woodworker, the primary consideration would be that of the types of wood some of which are as follows:

Medium-density Fiberboard (MDF)

We consider MDF an engineered wood, that we produce from fibers of hardwood or softwood. These fibers are bonded together with resins and other synthetic substances.

MDF is stronger and denser than plywood, but you can use it in the same way. You can get MDF shiplap and tongue & groove paneling according to your requirement. It is a cheaper option than solid wood. Another advantage is that you can get a continuous, seamless appearance on installation that imparts a modernistic look.

Solid Wood

The most durable option for wooden cladding is solid wood. There is nothing to beat solid wood, as it offers a natural appearance, difficult to duplicate from engineered wood or any other materials.

The grain structure and knots in solid wood can add to the character of the interior walls and flooring of your home. You can also enhance the look of natural wood by staining and painting it.

You need to choose the type of wood for wooden cladding or flooring carefully because of the tendency of wood to warp and crack. The cost of your shiplap or tongue & groove paneling will vary according to the type of wood you select.


Wooden isolated background texture, compound tree of different pieces

Another cost-effective and durable option for wooden cladding is plywood. Plywood is an engineered wood that comes in different thicknesses and qualities.

You need to be aware of the different grades of plywood and choose a suitable one for your wall paneling or flooring. Also, you may not achieve the high-quality and smooth finish that natural wood brings by using plywood for your wooden cladding.

Shiplap vs. Tongue & Groove: Installation Tips

Shiplap and tongue & groove paneling are both quite simple in construction and installation. However, there are a few best practices to follow which will help you in executing a perfect job. Here are a few good installation tips:

Shiplap Installation

  • Locate the studs in your wall and mark them by drawing vertical lines from top to bottom.
  • Remove any existing structures and baseboards from the wall.
  • Measure the wall’s height to see how many rows of shiplap you’ll need.
  • Now, all you need to do is to place the shiplap on the wall studs and start piling it up until you reach the ceiling.
  • You may need to use a few nails to hold the planks in position.
  • You might also need to cut the bottom-most plank, as the total number of planks may not fit the exact size of the wall.

Nickel Gap Shiplap Installation

This is a specialized installation technique where the gap between adjacent planks is 1/8” or the thickness of a nickel.

The procedure is similar to that described above. The main difference here is that you need to insert 1/8” spacers in between the planks to maintain the gap. Some people will even use nickels to maintain a perfect space.

Tongue & Groove Installation

This category of wooden cladding installation is similar to installing shiplap. The main difference here is that there is no overlap. The tongues fit perfectly into the grooves like a jigsaw puzzle.

Although not mandatory, it is a common practice to drive nails through the tongues at a 45° angle to hold them in place.

Shiplap vs. Tongue & Groove: Comparison Chart

S. No

Description Shiplap

Tongue & Groove


Configuration L-shaped profile T-shaped profile


Installation method L-shaped edges are placed to overlap each other T-shaped edges are inserted into grooves


Ease of installation Slightly more complex than tongue & Groove A bit easier than shiplap


Cost Cheaper More expensive


Preferred climates Ideal for low humidity and high temperatures Ideal for cold climates


Materials used Cement, steel & wood Cement, steel & wood


Ideal locations Good for outdoor use Good for indoor use but also suitable for making tool sheds


Shiplap and tongue & groove are two different types of paneling that we use for decorating interiors and insulating the exterior sections of buildings. Although they serve the same purpose, the configuration and installation methods differ slightly.

We get shiplap and tongue & groove paneling in different materials, and also in different types of wood. With the information we have provided here, you should be able to understand better and handle any wooden cladding job successfully.