Nickel Gap vs Shiplap: The Ultimate Guide

Popular designers like Chip and Joanna Gaines have helped explode the popularity of shiplap in recent years, and homeowners are taking note. If you like shiplap but want to explore alternatives, nickel gap cladding might be just the thing your home needs.

Shiplap and nickel gap each offer unique benefits. But which is right for you? Let’s dive deeper into the debate to help make your decision easier. We’ll start by exploring the basics of shiplap. Then we’ll look at what makes nickel gap’s interlocking edges so unique. To wrap things up, we’ll give you a few ideas for finishing and installing your shiplap or nickel gap paneling.

Shiplap Siding Explained

Shiplap siding is similar to a puzzle in the way planks connect. It’s made up of overlapping boards that fit together with a rabbet joint, creating a groove that allows the boards to interlock. Shiplap is often painted white and mounted horizontally, with a slight gap between the boards. This gives designers the freedom to choose how much space they want between planks.

Pro-tip: Love the look of shiplap, but prefer something with a more custom aesthetic? Test out smooth vs rough finishes and various paint options and install something one-of-a-kind.

Rabbet Joint Construction for Overlapping Boards

The rabbet joint construction used in shiplap paneling makes installation a breeze and adds a visually appealing effect to your walls. The interlocking design provides added stability while still allowing room for natural expansion and contraction of the wood. This is especially beneficial in wet climates where changes in temperature and humidity frequently occur.

Customizable Spacing Between Planks

One of the coolest features of shiplap is your ability to tailor the spacing between planks to fit a desired aesthetic. Wider gaps create a more rustic look, while keeping the gaps narrow results in a sleek and polished finish.

Did you know? Some DIYers use coins (like nickels) as spacers during installation. It’s not a perfect way to keep gaps identical, but it can help!

Overall, shiplap siding is a versatile and customizable option for homeowners looking to add texture and character to their walls. With the ability to adjust plank spacing and choose between a smooth or rough finish, you can create the perfect look for your living space.

If you’re considering installing shiplap, remember:

Nail holes:
When installing shiplap, nail holes will be visible unless filled with putty or covered by paint. This gives walls a cozy, rustic look.

Groove boards:
Shiplap features grooved edges that allow each plank to overlap, creating a unique visual effect.

Key Takeaway: Shiplap paneling is a type of wooden wall style made up of overlapping boards that fit together with a rabbet joint, creating a groove that allows the boards to interlock. It’s customizable and looks great in a variety of living spaces and offices.

Nickel Gap Siding Uncovered

Looking for a modern and clean look for your walls or ceilings? Nickel gap siding might be perfect. Nickel gap features tongue-and-groove interlocking profiles on all four sides, creating consistent spacing between each plank when installed properly.

Did you know? Nickel gap paneling got its name from the spacing in between each plank, which is roughly the size of a nickel coin.

Tongue-and-Groove Interlocking Profile Design

The unique design of nickel gap siding allows for seamless installation and ensures uniform gaps throughout the entire project. This is a major benefit for homeowners who want a more “perfect” look to their walls or ceilings. The built-in spacers between nickel gap planks still allow for expansion and contraction, so it can be installed in a variety of climates as well.

Benefits of Nickel Gap Siding

The built-in spacers of nickel gap allow for expansion and contraction of wood, and they also hide nail holes – resulting in a more polished finish when compared to shiplap.

But nickel gap siding isn't just about looks. It also offers practical benefits:

With proper care and maintenance, nickel gap siding can last for years, providing long-lasting beauty to any space.

Suitable for both traditional and contemporary design styles, nickel-gap paneling works well as an accent wall feature, on ceilings, or as a backsplash in kitchens and bathrooms.

Easy maintenance:
The smooth surface of nickel gap siding makes it easy to clean, requiring only occasional dusting or wiping down with a damp cloth to keep it looking its best.

Don't overlook the potential impact that nickel gap siding can have on your home's interior design. Its sleek appearance and practical benefits make it an ideal choice for homeowners seeking a modern yet timeless look.

Material Options and Finishes

Shiplap and nickel-gap paneling can be left natural or whitewashed for added texture. And solid hardwood isn’t the only choice in material you have. Primed MDF versions offer exceptional paint adherence and moisture-resistant MDF options are especially well suited for high-humidity areas, like kitchens or bathrooms.

Natural Wood Finish vs Whitewashed Textures

Natural wood finishes showcase grain patterns for a warm, rustic look. Whitewashing adds texture and creates a softer appearance, most popular for a farmhouse or coastal vibe.

Primed MDF Options for Improved Paint Adherence

If you plan on painting your nickel gap siding, consider using primed MDF boards for better paint adherence. This will ensure long-lasting durability and customized colors that won’t easily chip or lose their vibrance over time. 

On top of looks, primed MDF is also an environmentally friendly choice for any home improvement project. Who knew recycled wood fibers could look so good?

Choosing the right material and finish options for your shiplap or nickel gap siding can greatly impact the overall look and feel of your space. Consider factors such as humidity levels, desired aesthetics, and maintenance requirements to create a stunning feature wall that complements your home's design style.

Versatility of Installation Directions

Shiplap and nickel gap paneling are not just for horizontal walls anymore. You can install them vertically, too. Doing so adds elegance and height to a living space, and opens up opportunities for ceiling applications. If you want a cozy space without making your room feel smaller, vertically-oriented shiplap and nickel gap planks might be the solution!

Pro-tip: Vertically installing shiplap or nickel gap paneling works especially well in areas with high ceilings or as an accent wall that draws attention upward. It’s a great choice if you want to maintain a classic design while adding a touch of modern elegance.

Ceiling Application Possibilities

Living Rooms:
Add warmth and character by installing shiplap or nickel gap on your living room ceiling, creating a comfortable space where family members can gather and relax.

Transform your kitchen into a charming farmhouse-style haven with wood-paneled ceilings that complement rustic cabinetry and fixtures.

Create a soothing environment for your little one by incorporating soft-toned shiplap or nickel-gap planks on the nursery ceiling, fostering sweet dreams every night.

Elevate the ambiance in your bathroom with moisture-resistant MDF panels applied overhead, providing added protection against humidity while enhancing visual appeal.

Don't be afraid to experiment with diagonal patterns or herringbone designs for an extra layer of sophistication. Both shiplap and nickel gap siding provide endless possibilities for enhancing your home's interior design.

Key Takeaway: Shiplap and nickel gap paneling can be installed in a variety of orientations, resulting in different effects. Try installing your planks horizontally for a classic look, or vertically if you want a taller feel to your living space. Shiplap and nickel gap planks look great on ceilings, too!

Choosing Between Shiplap and Nickel Gap

Ultimately, the choice between shiplap vs nickel gap siding depends on your style preferences. Both options have unique characteristics, but offer similar benefits when it comes to functionality and durability.

Design Style Preferences

Shiplap offers flexibility in board spacing but may require extra effort during installation. If you’re concerned with consistency, nickel gap paneling might be a better choice. Built-in spacers ensure consistency throughout, and the tongue-and-groove style hides nail holes. Nickel gap’s precise spacing gives it an elegant feel that works particularly well in modern or minimalist designs.

Ease of Installation and Maintenance Requirements

Shiplap: Manual adjustments for consistent spacing may make shiplap installation take longer than nickel gap siding. That being said, it’s still relatively easy for DIYers to install shiplap boards. It just might take a little bit more effort.

Nickel Gap: With its tongue-and-groove interlocking profile design and built-in spacers for uniform gaps, nickel gap siding makes installation easier than shiplap – especially for DIY enthusiasts who want precise gaps without extra effort during installation.

Maintaining shiplap and nickel gap paneling is easy. In most areas, a regular dusting and semi-regular cleaning with a damp cloth and mild detergent is all that’s needed to keep your walls looking their best.

Remember: Never use harsh chemicals on shiplap or nickel gap paneling! This can severely damage the wood and hurt its long-term durability.

When deciding which of these two popular wood paneling options is right for you, consider your budget and the particular needs of the space, as well as any moisture-resistant MDF alternatives. For high-humidity areas like kitchens or bathrooms, moisture-resistant MDF options are more suitable for both shiplap and nickel gap siding.

Ultimately, whether you choose shiplap or nickel gap depends on your personal taste and desired aesthetic. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each choice carefully can help you pick what works best for your home improvement venture.

Nickel Gap vs Shiplap FAQs

Is nickel gap the same as shiplap?

No, nickel gap and shiplap are two different ways of installing wooden planks. Shiplap overlaps boards with a rabbet joint and allows for custom spacing, while nickel gap uses tongue-and-groove profiles with built-in spacers for consistent spacing between boards.

Is nickel gap cheaper than shiplap?

Prices on nickel gap and shiplap paneling vary, and depend largely on the material used, sourcing company, and size of project. Check out our selection of planks on to see a range of pricing.

Is shiplap supposed to have a gap?

Shiplap doesn’t require gaps between boards since it utilizes an overlapping rabbet joint design that creates a seamless appearance, but you can customize gap width if desired. Achieving a uniform look throughout your project can be a challenge, but the distinct look of custom gaps is one of the things that makes shiplap so special!

What is the best gap for shiplap?

The ideal gap size for your project comes down to personal preference and overall aesthetic goals. That being said, common gap widths range from ⅛ inch (nickel-sized) up to ¼ inch or larger in some cases. To determine which size will work best in your space, consider factors such as room size, wall height, and your desired visual impact. 


Shiplap is a classic choice with customizable gap widths and natural wood finish options, while nickel gap siding offers consistent spacing with built-in spacers and primed MDF versions for better paint adherence.

Looking for an easy-to-install solution for your next project? Check out a few shiplap design possibilities on