Shiplap vs. tongue and groove paneling: Which is better for your home's style?


By Kristy Snyder

Looking for an accent wall in your home? There are many different types of paneling, but two of the most popular in interior design right now are shiplap and tongue and groove.

Both of these wood paneling options add a warm and vibrant touch to any room. When installed, they often look very similar to one another.

We'll go over the main differences so you can decide which style works best for you.

What is shiplap paneling?

Shiplap wall paneling uses wooden boards with a beveled L-shaped notch on the end. These notches fit together when the shiplap boards are placed side by side, creating an overlapping seal.

white shiplap wall panel in entryway farmhouse styleIf you want to create a modern farmhouse style, consider shiplap paneling. After it's installed, paint it white to give your home a more rustic vibe. Pine planks are often used for shiplap, especially if you're painting them. If you're not painting the planks, you might want to choose cedar or another type of wood with an attractive grain and color.



Easy to install

Gaps in shiplap can warp

Can be painted or customized

Grooves can collect dust and be hard to clean

Great for modern farmhouse design

Likely need to replace entire panel if wall suffers damage

What is tongue and groove paneling?

Tongue and groove paneling is similar to shiplap but instead uses grooves that fit into each other, creating a look that's tighter and more insulated than shiplap. Because of that, you may prefer tongue and groove if you live in a colder climate.

pine wood tongue and groove wall panelsInstalling tongue and groove planks can be slightly harder than shiplap. You'll have to put the nail directly through the tongue of each plank, which requires a certain level of precision. Like shiplap, tongue and groove paneling comes in a variety of materials and can also be painted to your liking.



Better insulation

Slightly harder to install

Tighter gaps reduce dust collection

May be more expensive than shiplap because of the difficulty

Can be painted or customized

Can shrink or warp in dry climates and create visible gaps

What is nickel gap paneling?

nickel gap shiplap wall paneling

Photo credit: John's Trim and Finish Carpentry Services

You can also find "nickel gap shiplap" or "nickel gap tongue and groove" planks. These planks look similar to tongue and groove paneling, but they also interlock instead of overlapping. When installing your planks to create a "nickel gap" fit, a small gap is left between each board. This gap is big enough to fit a nickel, hence the name.

Biggest differences between shiplap and tongue and groove.

The main differences between shiplap and tongue and groove paneling are the installation process, profile and how the paneling’s appearance may change in certain climates. 

Installation: Shiplap pieces lock together and are then nailed down in the overlapping section. Tongue and groove paneling requires more finesse, as you have to hammer the nail right through the plank's tongue for the best results.

Profile: Shiplap also has bigger gaps and a beveled edge between planks. Tongue and groove paneling, on the other hand, has tighter gaps that make a wall look more streamlined. 

Climate: Lastly, both types of paneling can shrink in hot climates with low humidity. However, the gaps that appear in the tongue and groove panels are more visible than the ones in shiplap, thanks to shiplap’s overlapping edges. Meanwhile, tongue and groove may be a better choice if you live in colder climates, because the tighter seal adds more insulation than shiplap. 

Tongue and groove vs. shiplap comparison chart.



Tongue and groove


Depends on many factors (like wood type), but may be more affordable due to easier installation

Depends on many factors (like wood type), but may be more expensive due to more complicated installation


Slightly overlapping edges

Slightly tighter, smoother surfaces due to interlocking grooves


Pine, cedar, engineered wood, fiber cement, vinyl, metal

Pine, cedar, engineered wood, fiber cement, vinyl, metal


Better in high heat, low-humidity climates

Better in colder climates


Easier to install

Requires more precision

DIY friendliness

DIY friendly for beginners

DIY friendly with experience

Shiplap vs. tongue and groove — which one should you choose?

Overall, shiplap is probably the better choice if you live in a location that doesn't see very cold winters and you like shiplap’s appearance. Tongue and groove, on the other hand, is better if you want tighter, streamlined wall paneling that can handle the cold and doesn't require constant dusting.

Of course, cost should also be a consideration. Although shiplap might be less expensive than tongue and groove because it’s usually easier to install, many factors go into the price for both options. It often comes down to the type of wood you choose (cedar vs. pine, for example), whether you want your wall painted, supply and demand, and many other factors. That’s why you should always get multiple quotes when hiring a professional for this project.

Hire a professional near you.

Once you've decided on the type of paneling you'd like to use in your home, you'll need a professional to install it. Download Thumbtack today to hire a nearby wall paneling professional with high ratings.

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