What is shiplap? Fixer Upper’s popular design feature, explained

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Shiplap is experiencing a serious surge in popularity in new renovation, thanks in large part to its extensive use on HGTV’s Fixer Upper. But just what is shiplap? And why do Chip and Joanna Gaines use it so much? The main reason (in addition, of course, to Fixer Upper‘s influence) is that shiplap is a cheap, simple, effective way to construct. Traditionally, shiplap consists inexpensive wood, such as pine, with rabbets cut into the opposite faces of each board. The cuts allow each board to slide into and overlap the next, and likewise form a relatively tight seal against weather.

In the photo above, which was taken during construction of the Fixer Upper bed & breakfast, you can make out the rabbets at the end of each board. Below is another example of shiplap, taken from one of the bedrooms in the B&B after the project was completed:

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Shiplap is distinct from the stronger (and more time-consuming) tongue-and-groove joint, which, as illustrated in this image, involves a central protrusion–the tongue–carved out of the plank on one side, and a groove carved into it on the other. The distinction is important to the show’s aesthetic: Joanna has called sliplap “sort of like hardwood flooring for your walls” on more than one occasion, and that’s technically true, though most hardwood floors use a tongue-and-groove joint to connect. When there’s no overlap in the wood, though, the result can be a bit less interesting to look at: consider, for example, the two images above with this photo of a tongue-and-groove hardwood floor. The floor is seamless…but there’s something about Joanna and Chip’s style that just doesn’t want to be seamless.

In addition, Joanna recently took to Instagram to further explain the difference between shiplap and lath, when demo day on a house toward the end of Season 3 revealed what, for their part of Texas, is an unusual feature in a home:

Of course, Fixer Upper hasn’t just popularized the use of shiplap: the show has also made the very term something of a buzz for aspiring homeowners and / or renovators. To that end, then, it should come as no surprise that you can pick up the following T-shirt–

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–over at the Magnolia Market store. The #shiplap hashtag shirt is among the store’s mostpopular, though it seems the immortal #DemoDay tee remains the king of Fixer Upper clothes.

As for the show itself, Season 3 just finished, but, as the Gaineses & their crew remaind fans on social media, #SeasonFourIsComing. Until it does, you can check out Fixer Upper reruns Tuesday nights at 9 PM EST on HGTV (along with assorted marathons throughout the week).

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(Photo credits: What is shiplap via Instagram, Magnolia Market)

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