Shiplap vs. Tongue and Groove: Which Is Best for Your Project?

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated March 17, 2023
A luxurious renovated bathroom
Photo: Joe Hendrickson / Adobe Stock


  • Shiplap and tongue and groove both offer a rustic touch to a room.

  • Shiplap has L-shaped ends that overlap.

  • Tongue and groove panels have notches and indents that interlock.

  • Tongue and groove tends to be more expensive but more durable.

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With modern farmhouse style reigning in popularity, it’s no surprise to see a rise in interest in wood wall paneling. Although many wood-paneled walls look similar, there are actually differences in styles, like shiplap versus. tongue and groove. 

From how each panel connects to the next to the cost to install them, here are the main differences—and similarities—between shiplap and tongue and groove panels.

Shiplap Pros and Cons

A bedroom with Shiplap
Photo: TriggerPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Shiplap is having a moment, and you’ve probably seen it in action on your favorite home improvement shows or across social media. This style offers a rustic touch that’s commonly found in farmhouse interior design. What sets shiplap apart is the L-shaped notches, called rabbets, that overlap when the panels are installed.


  • Shiplap is incredibly versatile and can work as wall or ceiling paneling. 

  • You can stain or paint it to match your decor, and white is often a popular choice for shiplap to make it more modern. 

  • Shiplap costs about $2.50 to $7 per square foot depending on the type of wood you choose, so it’s relatively inexpensive.


  • With all of its little notches, shiplap can be tricky to keep clean because dust settles into the crevices. 

  • If you install shiplap in a high-moisture area, like a kitchen or bathroom, you’ll need to add a protective coating to prevent rotting as well. 

  • You’ll need to spend more time measuring and fitting shiplap boards as close together as possible to minimize dust and moisture damage.

Tongue and Groove Pros and Cons

Tongue and groove panels look similar to shiplap, but they interlock through notches and indents that fit together like puzzle pieces rather than overlapping. The result is a more streamlined look with panels that fit cleanly together.


  • The interlocking panels offer great durability and an airtight seal. 

  • Tongue and groove, like shiplap, is incredibly versatile. Its strength makes it just as great for a decorative ceiling or long-lasting flooring.


  • For homes in dry climates, the wood can shrink and cause gaps in the tongue and groove panels. 

  • Although generally considered fairly easy to install and cost-effective, tongue and groove panels are slightly more difficult and more expensive compared to shiplap. Tongue and groove panels cost about $4 to $8 per square foot to install.

Shiplap vs. Tongue and Groove

Illustrated comparison of shiplap versus tongue and groove boards, with shiplap having an L-shaped notch where the boards overlap

Both shiplap and tongue and groove can add a rustic vibe to a room, and they have a lot in common. The biggest difference between the two is how they fit together, but they do have other differences to consider as well.


Because of its larger gaps, shiplap tends to look more rustic. Tongue and groove panels click neatly together, offering a more streamlined and modern appearance. Both options can add warmth and character to a room, but they are slightly different. The best-looking wood paneling depends on your personal interior design style.

Best Appearance: Depends on your personal preference

Options and Customizations​

Shiplap and tongue and groove are both available in many different types of wood and can be stained or painted to match your home’s design. Shiplap is often painted white, but don’t let that stop you from going for a natural look with wood stain or vibrant colors for a modern touch.

 Most Customizable: Both


Tongue and groove panels fit tightly together, making them more durable. The nails have to be secured through the “tongues” of the panels, offering a longer-lasting installation. Tongue and groove panels are especially strong in cold climates and can help offer more insulation thanks to their tight seal.

Most Durable: Tongue and groove


Ultimately, the final cost for either shiplap or tongue and groove depends on the type of wood you choose. In general, shiplap is less expensive because it is easier to manufacture. Tongue and groove tends to cost more time and money to develop the carefully measured protruding pieces and indents that fit together.

Most affordable: Shiplap

Ease of Installation

DIYers may feel more at ease installing shiplap, which doesn’t have to overlap perfectly. The rabbets are more forgiving, whereas with tongue and groove panels, the pieces need to fit into one another perfectly for installation.

Easiest to Install: Shiplap


Tongue and groove panels fit tightly together with little to no gaps, so you’ll spend less time dusting the nooks and crannies. The gaps in shiplap tend to collect a lot of dust, and if the shiplap is rough-sawn, you’ll need to take extra care to clean the panels.

Easiest to Maintain: Tongue and groove


Both types of panels can be made from various woods and even other materials like vinyl or metal, so how sustainable they are depends on the material you choose. For eco-conscious homeowners, choose shiplap or tongue and groove panels made from sustainably sourced wood.

Most Sustainable: Both

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