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Picking Your Panels: Shiplap vs Tongue and Groove

Wondering what shiplap and tongue and groove paneling look like? Watch as Gary Campbell, founder and owner of Reliance Timber gives an overview of the two paneling types and answers the question, “What is the difference between shiplap and tongue and groove, and which should I choose?”

Now that we’ve gotten a general understanding of shiplap vs. tongue and groove, let’s dive deeper into each paneling type so that you can make an informed decision for your next project.

Shiplap’s Origin Story

One thing to note when comparing the style of shiplap vs tongue and groove—either can be stained or painted.

You don’t have to be a wordsmith or historian to recognize that “shiplap” paneling sounds like it might have something to do with maritime vessels. And you’d probably be right. Many do believe that the term came from early ship construction, which used shiplap-like paneling to keep water out.

Whatever the term’s exact beginnings, it has been used for much of its existence as a way to frame the insides of walls and provide a surface for wallpaper and sheetrock. So shiplap has long been used in the home, but not seen.

It’s only been in recent years that shiplap has become a popular interior design element. Chip and Joanna Gaines, of Fixer Upper HGTV fame, helped bring about this trend with their modern farmhouse-chic transformations. Now shiplap paneling is often used for accent walls and other design flairs.

More On Tongue and Groove Paneling

Now that you have a sense of shiplap, what’s tongue and groove paneling? It’s where wood paneling is securely bonded together by a “tongue” on one side and a “groove” on the other. This method gives structures strength with a touch of elegance. Though it started as a foundational technique, tongue and groove has grown popular in design for its charming, timeless look.

When comparing shiplap vs tongue and groove you should consider durability.

Let’s Compare Further: Shiplap vs Tongue and Groove


If you’re hoping to take a DIY approach to tongue and groove or shiplap paneling, the simplest material to use would be pine planks; these are inexpensive and easy to paint. However, if you intend to leave the panels unpainted, we suggest a more attractive wood like western red cedar. We have several options on our products page that you can view here. 

Other materials can also be used for shiplap and tongue and groove paneling such as metal, fiber cement, and vinyl. However, these materials are more often used for the exterior of a building or home.


When considering shiplap or tongue and groove for exterior paneling, make sure to consider your area’s climate. These two types of paneling react to outdoor factors differently.

Shiplap will shed water much easier than tongue and groove because of the difference in the interlocking connections and their security (think back to the water-tight ships). Shiplap may also prove better for external paneling in areas with temperatures that are prone to frequent changes because it’s able to expand and contract more than tongue and groove paneling.

Meanwhile, tongue and groove paneling is generally more stable because of its interlocking bond. It may prove to be the better option for maintaining form over time, especially for surfaces inside the home. The type of wood you select for your paneling will go a long way in determining if you can use tongue and groove on the exterior of a home.


Compare price points for shiplap or tongue and groove paneling and you’ll quickly find that shiplap is the more cost-effective of the two. This is due to the wider boards of shiplap and the fact that its simple design makes it easier and quicker to install.

But before you dismiss tongue and groove and opt for shiplap in its stead, consider the long-term savings you might ultimately glean from going with tongue and groove. The upfront cost may be steeper, but tongue and groove wood paneling has been known to stand the test of time better than shiplap and require fewer repairs over the years. Ultimately, the price of both types of paneling will depend on the species of wood you select.


If you’ve ever watched Joanna Gaines in action, you already know that the aesthetic of shiplap paneling lends itself well to a rustic or elevated farmhouse look. This may be in part because shiplap has often been used for structures like barns. Overall, shiplap tends to give off a relaxed, casual vibe.

Tongue and groove wood paneling, on the other hand, is typically associated with a more polished aesthetic and may prove perfect for more modern design tastes. 

One thing to note when comparing the style of shiplap or tongue and groove—either can be stained or painted.


As we already touched on when discussing cost, the overlapping design of shiplap paneling enables quick installation. It’s usually nailed right into wall studs and calls for almost no prep work to the walls before installation.

The same can’t be said of tongue and groove paneling. To achieve the tight fit that sets this type of paneling apart, the installation must be precise. The walls should be as flat as possible. Some even go the extra mile when installing tongue and groove paneling by nailing it in at an angle through the tongue to hide the nail heads. This method is sometimes called “blind nailing” and gives the paneling a clean look. 

Both types of paneling should be installed by a professional for the best results.

We can help you decide on shiplap vs tongue and groove.

How Do I Make the Final Decision On Shiplap vs Tongue and Groove?

To decide between using shiplap vs tongue and groove, you should assess what factors ultimately matter most to you. If you love the lived-in look of shiplap, need to save money in the short term, and are perfectly fine with the look of gaps in your walls, you’ve got your answer; shiplap is for you.

But if you’ve dreamed of more modern walls that scream “refined,” are onboard with a long-term investment, and are okay with a slightly tricker installation process, we would recommend tongue and groove wood paneling.

Most people you talk to in the lumber space are likely to have a preference. As you saw in the video, Reliance founder Gary’s is for tongue and groove. To back up his pick, he points to the stability of tongue and groove, which is held in place by its interlocking design and by a nail.

You can always reach out to your friends at Reliance Timber for more information and guidance as you make your choice!