Shiplap fireplace: design ideas, styles, and DIY tips

The fireplace in modern interiors is endowed with a wide variety of functions and meanings. This is both a symbol of the home’s hearth and an element of comfort, as well as a necessary attribute of zoning and a sign of certain social status. Today, even the house’s area and size do not matter: elegant and graceful or small charming fireplace surrounds decorate luxury cottages and living rooms in apartment buildings.

Materials for the construction and decoration of fireplaces are no less diverse. The most popular decoration is still a stone of various types and textures. It is these designs that seem to be something unshakable and embodying traditions. Nevertheless, gradually all the attention to themselves began to pull the finishing with the help of shiplap. At the first second, such a decision may seem paradoxical. However, it is enough to look at the photos to catch the extraordinary charm and visual warmth that “wood” fireplaces radiate. If you are interested in using the wood planks in this capacity, you will find many inspiring ideas for yourself in this article.

Shiplap as a finishing material: a little history

Do not think that shiplap is something completely new in design. Despite the growing popularity, this material has been known since the distant 18th century. For the first time, such technology was used by the inhabitants of Northern Europe to construct their ships. The planks’ tight fit (formerly called lapstras) eliminated water penetration and ensured the highest possible tightness. Later, with the emergence of the well-known “groove & tenon” technique, shiplap began to be widely used in construction.

Until the beginning of the 2010s, hardly anyone could have imagined that tongue-and-groove boards would one day become a finishing material that performs a decorative function primarily. Until that time, it was used as a smooth and practical base for the application of other finishing coatings – mainly wallpaper and decorative plaster. However, in 2013, this attitude towards shiplap was first revised.

It was then that a couple of Michigan designers, Chip and Joanna Gaines, had to take on a project to remodel a house with tongue-and-groove walls. Since the project was on a tight budget, Joanna decided to skip covering the shiplap with drywall sheets and merely prime and paint the walls. The house owner was delighted, and the inspired Gaines spouses began to actively use the board both for decorating accent walls and for individual interior elements.

Gradually, other designers began to apply and develop this technique, and the transition from the wall and floor decoration to a fireplace was only a matter of time. Elegant simplicity, contemporary ease, stylish brevity, and total comfort turned out that shiplap has many indisputable advantages.

Is it possible to use shiplap for a fireplace?

In the photos, the fireplaces decorated with the shiplap look charming. However, those who have not yet encountered such a design in life are concerned about how safe is such a use of wood for a real fireplace. Of course, everything is somewhat more straightforward with modern electric models, but what if you dream of real living fire?

In fact, everything is not as terrible and dangerous as some might imagine. The suitability of wood materials for fireplace cladding in the USA is regulated by the National Fire Code NFPA 211. According to this document, wood elements should not be located closer than 5.9” (15 cm) from the fireplace opening, and when cladding, a gap of 1” (2.5 cm) is required for every centimeter of material. Also, do not forget about other important points:

  • Wood species. Of course, almost all wood burns, but choosing a material with a higher density helps to significantly reduce the risk of ignition and the rapid spread of fire. So, the most stable in this regard are oak, hornbeam, and maple, the least – spruce, fir, and cedar.
  • Treatment with protective compounds. Fire prevention preparation of wood planks is a prerequisite for finishing a fireplace. You can use two types of products for this – heat-resistant paints and varnishes and pastes, or special impregnations. The second option is preferable since it does not interfere with staining and other decorative finishes.

Shiplap fireplace: compatibility with interior styles

As we said earlier, a shiplap fireplace gives to the home a stylish and casual look. Such a design is close to various interior styles, in the list of which you can find the most relevant ones.


Over the past three to four years, designers have noted a clear gravitation of modern towards natural wood – however, without unnecessary decorative details. Painted shiplap walls have long turned into a must-have for modern style, which gave the green light to the design of fireplaces and accent walls above them with the same shiplap’s help.


One of the most unique and fantastic interior styles, offering a harmonious combination of traditional and modern solutions – and the ratio of classic and trends can change depending on your preferences. With their clear hints of the past and stylish conciseness, shiplap fireplaces fit perfectly into such a concept.


When it comes to wood finishing, thoughts of Scandinavian style come naturally. Indeed, stone fireplaces sometimes look too bulky in such a charming and straightforward manner, which cannot be said about the shiplap design, which allows you to achieve the maximum authenticity of the North European design.


Another design trend, for which the fireplace’s decoration with a shiplap seems to be something for granted. The unique charm of a tongue-and-groove board in such an interior is that in most cases, it is not necessary to thoroughly prime and paint it: the open texture of the wood creates a cozy and hospitable atmosphere characteristic of a farmhouse.


Wood fireplace and rustic style is one of the most harmonious alliances in design history. In the case of using shiplap for decoration, in this case, it is necessary to be guided by specific rules – to avoid unnecessarily delicate surface treatment, you have to leave the wood texture open, and not to mask the noticeable parts of the irregularities.

Industrial and loft

Today, metal fireplaces, cubes, and aquariums made of refractory glass are often seen as typical for these fireplace designs. However, suppose you want to soften the excessive severity and coldness of such an interior. In that case, decorating the fireplace and part of the wall with a shiplap will be the most attractive way out. Smooth wooden surfaces and even laying of the board are in perfect harmony with both metal and concrete surfaces typical for industrial and loft – it is enough to choose the suitable color scheme.


The mid-century style is not widely known, but its popularity has risen significantly over the past few years. Muted, as if worn out and dusty tones, smooth surfaces, the absence of decor, and natural, roughly processed materials perfectly match modern interior concepts. Shiplap fireplace design allows you to recreate the atmosphere of unpretentious simplicity, asceticism, and slight negligence characteristic of the Mid-centuries’ interiors.


Bright fabrics, large and unusual prints, colorful wallpapers and corduroy sofas, brick and macramé, plush pillows and retro posters – eclecticism allows you to indulge any desires in designing your own home, even if your selection somewhat contradicts traditional canons. A shiplap fireplace enables you to add the necessary element of harmony and order to such an interior without violating the style’s diversity characteristic.


A charming and fresh design inspired by American coastal homes decades ago, an incredibly harmonious base for shiplap fireplaces. Smooth surfaces, delicious white and milky tones – and the fireplace already seems to be an integral part of your living room.

Shiplap fireplace: decorating ideas

Decorating a part of the surround with a shiplap and creating an accent on the wall above the fireplace is attractive enough in itself. However, this does not mean that the fireplace does not need additional decor, especially since there are many extra design options today. Here are some of them as an example:

  • Installing the TV above the fireplace. One of the most popular solutions, also because of its aesthetics: against such a background, TV does not look like something alien and overly technological.
  • Various mantels. The most popular shiplap colors are white, beige, gray, brown, and open wood grain. Building a shelf in a contrasting shade will create an excellent base for placing various decorative elements.
  • Paired lamps. Sconces of various designs look especially elegant on a wooden surface – and also provide additional illumination for the fireplace area. That’s all you need if you like to read in such a romantic setting, but you are afraid to spoil your eyesight.
  • Wall decor. Decorative letters, clocks, posters, mirrors, wreaths – the shiplap’s surface will be an excellent backdrop for any decorative solutions of this kind.

Can you DIY a shiplap fireplace?

One of the advantages of shiplap as a solution for finishing a fireplace is the ability to perform such a finish independently and quite quickly – according to those who have already tried to implement such an idea, with the right choice of material and the presence of all the necessary tools, the work takes only a few hours and implies the following steps :

  • Careful measurement of the surfaces under the shiplap. It is necessary to measure all the planes that are planned to be finished with wooden elements – this can include both the ends and space around the fireplace’s front plane and a particular part of the wall above it.
  • Calculations and purchase of materials. Based on the measurements obtained, you calculate the number of boards – in this case, you also have to consider the planks’ estimated width. Also, you need to take care of tools and hardware. The list usually includes a nail gun and the nails themselves, a miter or circular saw, a fretsaw, a level, as well as putty, primer, paint, and sandpaper.
  • Marking the wall and fireplace. The entire surface under the shiplap is sequentially marked with an indication of the places for fastening the elements to the nails.
  • Placing the boards. Wooden elements are laid from bottom to top, combining the spike and groove (if required) and fasten them with nails according to the marking.
  • Edge decoration. If the board’s edge spike or groove is noticeable, these are filed or covered with a special decorative corner.
  • Painting. If your idea involves painted wooden surfaces, then the planks must be thoroughly cleaned with sandpaper, primed, and painted.

Decorating the fireplace with shiplap is another opportunity to reveal the versatility of this beautiful material. By choosing the suitable color schemes and taking the necessary precautions, you can turn your fireplace into a relevant, attractive, and incredibly harmonious element of the interior.

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