If you’re as obsessed with shiplap as I am (thank you, Joanna Gaines for filling me with the desire to move to Waco!), you may have wondered how you can fit it in to your home decor in some way. For me, a shiplap wall might work in our basement, where the theme is more like a hunting lodge (thanks former homeowners!), but the rest of my home doesn’t really lend itself to this beautiful feature.
But I really love how shiplap can look rugged and swarthy for men or crisp, clean and beautiful for the ladies. It took me a while to figure out how to get that coveted look without doing something drastic. After all, if I did a feature wall in wood and it didn’t turn out well, my husband would probably divorce me! I didn’t quite have the wherewithal to attempt a whole room makeover anyway.
But then, inspiration struck! We had this old dark wooden desk frame that used to have a black glass top. My brother in law gave it to my husband when we first moved here, as we were lacking in furniture, and we needed to accept whatever we could get. But after a few years, we’d replaced the desk, and it was gathering dust in the garage. As I walked by it one afternoon, I realized how easy it would be to replace the glass top with something prettier. I had just updated my home office, and I had a big space in the middle of the room for a table, so I decided to try my hand at some DIY!
First, I measured the top of the existing glass piece for the desk. I was pretty sure I’d need to keep to the same measurements in order to have the best success. Then I headed to Home Depot, measurements in hand to find everything I’d need.
Here’s what I used:
– shiplap, enough for your measurements
– circular saw
– plywood, big enough to match the desk top
– wood stain
– wood glue
– clamps, or heavy items to hold project together
– an old rag or paintbrush for the stain
– vinyl gloves
In full disclosure, this project was done nearly a year ago, and I’ve been meaning to post it forever. So many apologies if I can’t quite remember exact measurements, but since you probably will need to bespoke it to your own size, I don’t think it’s THAT important.
Anyway, once at Home Depot, I found an aisle endcap that had a good selection of shiplap boards. You can buy them in packages, but I like picking out my individual boards so I can make sure they aren’t warped or full of holes/knots. The boards were much longer than I needed, and each was about six inches wide. You’ll want to make sure you choose enough boards so that when they are glued together, they are at least as wide as your desktop measurement. My measurements were about 36 inches, which meant I’d need six boards to have enough. I bought a few extra, though, as I was worried about screwing up and starting over.
Once I’d picked my boards, I took them to one of the store employees and asked them to cut them down so that they were the right length, in this case 48 inches. I LOVE that Home Depot does this, as it made it so much easier for me to put them together. I kept both sides of the board, as I wanted to be able to stagger them on the desk instead of just having six same-sized boards. As luck would have it, these shiplap boards came in lengths of 72 inches, so when I cut the boards down, the remaining ends were exactly half the size of the full sized boards (48 inches for the long boards and 24 inches for the short boards). This meant, two of the end cuts could be put together to form one full board. This will probably make sense later when you see the final project.
I also grabbed up a huge sheet of plywood and had the man cut it into the correct sizes I needed. Since my desk was 4 foot by 3 foot, and plywood comes in 4 foot by 8 foot, that meant I got two pieces of 4×3 and one piece of 4 x 2. I figured if I messed up, I’d have another chance to fix it! Otherwise, I’d have plywood to use for another project later!
I played around with the boards, laying them out in different patterns until I was fully happy with them. It’s important to dry fit everything first to make sure there aren’t any issues with the layout. Sometimes you’ll find a piece of wood is bent or warped, so dry fitting ensures that you don’t try and glue things together that just won’t fit!
Once everything was perfect, I took it all apart again and started the process of gluing it together. Shiplap comes with a tongue-in-groove appearance, so I simply used my wood glue in the grooves and then stuck in the tongues! Now, if I did this again, I’d probably do two boards at a time and use some clamps to hold them together. But since this was totally a spur-of-the-moment project, I simply glued every piece together, one after another, and hoped for the best.
One thing to remember is that when you’re gluing the two short pieces on, you want to make sure you glue them together in the middle before attaching them to the long pieces. It’s something that’s easy to forget. I should know because I forgot to do it!
Once the pieces were all glued together, I set the whole piece aside, standing up, so that it could dry. I left it for an hour or two, but you should probably give it at least a day. As I said, I was fired up and had no patience for waiting!
Once I lost patience and couldn’t wait any longer, I set about attaching the shiplap top to the plywood. I wanted to ensure that the desktop was very sturdy so that it could stand up to whatever I might use it for. Since there was every likelihood that I would abuse it in some way, I figured the sturdier the better!
I took the plywood piece that I’d had cut and laid it down on the floor. I used my handy wood glue, dumping out as much as I could all over it, and then I set the desk top onto it.
Now here’s something to consider BEFORE you attach. The shiplap has two sides to it. One side will have grooves in the tabletop, and the other will be smooth at the seams. It’s important to decide which side you want showing. I had originally intended to have the grooved side up because it was so pretty. But I ended up gluing the wrong side and had a seamless tabletop. Thankfully I was happier with that, but you should probably make sure you’ve thought about it beforehand!
Anyway, here again would have been a great time to consider the use of clamps. It is really important that the shiplap top fully adhere to the plywood, so clamping them together would have been smart. But since I am CLEARLY winging it at this point, I started grabbing all the heavy items I could find and putting them on top of it. This included an inverted coffee table, a five gallon bucket filled with rocks, and several cases of bottled water. I’m a secret genius, clearly.
At this point, due to my realization that I am kind of an idiot, I decided the best course of action was to leave the whole project for 24 hours. It was nearly time for my husband and kids to come home anyway, so I set the whole thing aside and allowed it to cure.
The next day, I removed all the weight and checked out how it looked. It seemed to be fine, all the shiplap had adhered nicely to the plywood. But there was one issue that stood out. The shiplap was not square to the plywood. Each end stuck out slightly in a jagged pattern, which wasn’t ideal. I wanted it to be more even.
I tried first to use my little hacksaw to go through the ends…. It did not go well.
Then, I brought out my circular saw (the one I’d bought years ago and was still brand new in its packaging) and attempted to saw the ends. Once again, I was kind of miffed because it turned out the saw blade wasn’t attached correctly. After an hour of trying to figure it out on my own, I finally called my dad to ask him for help. After he got done laughing at my incompetence, he talked me through it, and I was able to attach the blade properly and set to work.
Finally the ends were nice and even… though please don’t measure the corners, as they are definitely NOT totally square.
My next step was to use some sandpaper to sand down the ends so they were a bit smoother, and I wanted to make sure the top was nice and smooth, as well. Once that was done, I could choose my finish!
I ended up having a few colors mixed for me at Home Depot. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go for a dark top and paint the desk frame or to leave the desk frame dark and have a lighter top. In the end, I went for a Minwax color called Pearl Gray. It was a sort of blue-gray color that I thought looked really nice.
I made sure I had gloves on, and I used an old washcloth to apply a coat of the stain.
I wasn’t sure what I thought of it, so I kept going until it was finished. But once I’d had a couple of coats applied, I was pretty sure it wasn’t exactly what I was going for.
I thought the final look was a bit too dark, and I also wanted something that looked a bit more battered. So I grabbed an old tester pot of white paint, watered it down and used my stain-soaked washcloth to sort of rub it in. I didn’t want it to look white, but for the colors to sort of blend and give it the look of an old seaside cottage. Does that even make sense? Whatever, I liked how it turned out.
I think the paint kind of got in the grooves, as well as making the grain of the wood stand out more. It gave the whole thing depth instead of a flat appearance, and I was pretty happy.
I let it all dry, and then I finally set it on top of the desk frame. I love the contrast of dark wood and light wood.
It looked great in my office, especially paired with my favorite chair. It felt really sophisticated, but also really kind of country chic.
I set about decorating it a bit to see what worked on it.
As I said, it’s been almost a year, and it’s still in perfect shape, working well and doing duty as desk, photo backdrop, homework station, drawing space, and on one memorable occasion – sawhorse.
Despite all my amateur DIY mistakes, it came out GREAT and was really so simple to make. The best thing was that it cost so little to make! The shiplap was on sale, so each board was about $3. I got 6 of them. The plywood was only $10. And everything else I already had on hand from other projects. So in all, it cost me less than $30 and a couple of afternoons. If you don’t have a desk frame already, you can buy them cheaply at IKEA or other stores. Or even grab some old crates to stack up as your desk frame!
You’ll also notice I put the whole thing together in my home office without making much of a mess. The worst part was sawing the ends off and the little bit of sanding I did, but both were easy messes to clean up.
I hope you all enjoy the project. Let me know if you attempt it yourself! I’d love to see finished projects!
Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.