How To Fill Shiplap Gaps & How To Fill Nail Holes In Shiplap [For An Expert Look!]

Shiplap can give your home a rustic vibe. However, gaps and nail holes can be visible in shiplap, and you might want to fill them in. We've researched how to do this and provide information on the process in this post.

You can fill the gaps in shiplap using caulk or trim. For the nail holes, you can use wood putty or spackling paste. You should paint the shiplap only after you've filled the gaps and holes.

Filling the gaps and holes in shiplap is a simple process. When it's done right, you can achieve a clean and professional look for your home. Continue reading to learn more about how to fill the gaps and nail holes in shiplap.

Farmhouse entryway. Wooden bench near white shiplap wall. Interior mockup. - How To Fill Shiplap Gaps & How To Fill Nail Holes In Shiplap [For An Expert Look!]

Filling Shiplap Gaps And Nail Holes

Shiplap layouts have a standard space of 1/8 inch between panels. The shiplap rabbets form 90-degree angled gaps that create a rustic look. However, you can make the gaps look seamless for a polished, modern look.

The nail holes in shiplap panels can be an eyesore. Filling them in will give the material a cleaner appearance. 

There are various ways to fill the gaps and nail holes in shiplap to help you achieve an expert finish. Read along to learn these methods.

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Filling Gaps

You have two ways to fill the gaps. Choose from the two methods below.

Applying Caulk

Caulking is the most common solution for filling in gaps. Caulk conceals the gaps between shiplap panels effectively, creating a seamless look. Also, mistakes in the installation or cutting are not obvious. 

You should use acrylic or latex caulk for shiplap. This type of caulk is suitable indoors, where there is no direct contact with water. It is inexpensive and fast-drying. The caulk should be paintable so the gaps will not be obvious.

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Here is the process of adding caulk to shiplap:

  1. Apply a bead of caulk to the gaps between the panels and to the seams where the shiplap meets the walls, corners, and molding.
  2. While the caulk is still wet, smooth it with your finger or a wet rag. Wipe away any excess caulk before it dries. 
  3. Allow the caulk to dry. The drying time will depend on the type of caulk used. Paintable acrylic caulk should take 30 minutes to dry. If the caulk is not paintable, it should take 24 hours to dry. 
  4. Once the caulk has completely dried, you can proceed with painting the shiplap.

Using Trim

Carpenter brad using nail gun to Moulding trim, with the warning label that power tools

Another way to cover up the gaps in shiplap is with trim. It is up to you to use this method to supplement caulk or not. Either way is fine. With trim, the finish will look more professional because there are no irregular edges.

You can use various trim types to match your preferred style.

Listed below are the shiplap trims:

  • Quarter round: common and easiest for filling around shiplap
  • Crown molding: use this trim if you want a classy look
  • Flat trim: great to use for fireplace shiplap or to create a modern look 
  • Corner trim: for shiplap butts that are on the corner turns

You should measure the trim so that it will fit in the gaps. You should have the trim cut at your hardware store. If you are making your own trim, cut it with a saw or table miter.

After you have the trim, follow the steps to cover the gaps:

  1. Use glue, such as Liquid Nails, to place and secure the trim on the gaps. 
  2. Nail the trim at the bottom of the shiplap panels.

Filling Nail Holes

Even if they are tiny, nail holes can detract from the appearance of shiplap panels. Leaving the holes exposed does not help you achieve a polished look. You can use materials, such as spackling paste or wood putty for filling the holes. 

If you use wood putty, make sure that the shade and finish closely match the shiplap. 

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Filling With Spackling Paste Or Wood Putty

Below is the procedure for filling the holes:

  1. If you use wood putty, add some tape around the hole before filling it.
  2. Using a putty knife, fill the hole with the spackling paste or wood putty. Remove the excess with a clean putty knife.
  3. Allow the paste or putty to dry for an hour.
  4. Use 400-grit sandpaper once the area has dried. Lightly sand the area to make the surface even. Wipe the dust away with a clean cloth.
  5. Paint the holes using the same color as the shiplap.

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D-I-Y Spackling Paste

You can also create your own spackling paste instead of buying it. To make the paste, you have two options:

  1. Grind 0.25 inches of toothpaste with a tablet of aspirin 
  2. Mix 1 tablespoon of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a few drops of water

Once done, apply the mixture with a small flat tool on the nail holes. 

After filling in the gaps and holes, you can proceed to paint the shiplap.

How To Paint Over Filled Shiplap Gaps And Holes

Using paintbrush a wooden molding carpenter works on painting wooden moldings for doors

After filling the gaps and holes, you can start painting. Doing so completes the process of concealing the unwanted gaps and holes in shiplap. 

If possible, select a paint color similar to the shiplap's color. You can get a sample of your shiplap panel and compare it with paint swatches available in your local hardware store. 

After choosing the color, sand the excess dried paste or putty. Then, paint the holes using a small paintbrush with enough paint to cover the area. Avoid applying a heavy coat to cover the holes.

If you are going to paint the gaps, it's easier to paint if you caulk or add trim to fill in gaps. Picking the right paint color is crucial because having a different shade along the gaps will be obvious.  

Can You Fill Nail Holes Without Painting Shiplap?

It is possible to fill the nail holes without repainting your shiplap. Painting can have different results if the colors do not match the shiplap panels. You can use household materials to fill in the holes.

Below are the methods you can follow. 

Bar Soap

If you don't have any tools, you can rub a bar of white soap to fill in the holes. Remove the excess soap with a dry cloth. If the shiplap is white, you won't need to paint it. For other shades, you can use different-colored soaps.

This method is only a quick fix, because the soap will not last long. So you will still need a permanent solution.


Another way is to use white craft glue. Just squeeze out the glue to fill the holes. You can sprinkle baking soda if you want a thicker consistency. Allow the glue to dry before scraping off the excess.

If the shiplap has a wooden color, you can mix very fine wood shavings or sawdust with glue.   


You can also use a wax crayon to fill in the holes. Rub the crayon over the hole until it's filled. This method is tricky, because you need to find a crayon color that matches the shiplap.

The methods mentioned above are good for only short periods, so you might need to repair them often. 

Can You Hang Shiplap Without The Nails Showing?

 beautiful foyer entrance with a light hanging above the dark hardwood floors, a bench in front of a shiplap wall, and a dark door with windows.

Some people want the nails to be visible in shiplap, and some people want to hide them. The nails can be annoying, but there are ways to hang shiplap without showing them. 

If you don't want to see the nails, hang the nail board on the shiplap rabbets or tongue. If you want to avoid using nails altogether, you can use Liquid Nails.

It is also possible to hang a shiplap panel without nails. You can use no-nail permanent adhesives that bond with wood and other surfaces, so you don't have to worry about hammering nails and creating unattractive holes.

The products are paintable and sandable to match the shiplap.

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In Closing

Filling the gaps and nail holes in shiplap for an expert look is possible. Caulk is the most common material used to fill gaps.

If you want to achieve a cleaner look, you can use trim for the shiplap edges. Various types of trim are available to help you attain your preferred style.

If you are filling in nail holes, you can use spackling paste or wood putty. You can create a spackling paste at home that will also work well to hide the holes.

After you fill the holes, you can paint them to complete the cover-up. You can also try a few quick-fix methods that do not require painting the holes. You can achieve a seamless look for your shiplap if you fill the gaps and nail holes correctly. 

Learn more about shiplap from these posts:

Can You Put Shiplap Over Paneling?

How To Hang Pictures On Shiplap Walls

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