DIY Shiplap Over Mantle

If I were a betting woman (I am not, I prefer to play roulette), then I’d predict that this will be my most popular post in 2017… especially once Pinterest gets it’s little DIY hands on it.

First, a word on shiplap.  This is a term that Joanna Gaines, from Fixer Upper on HGTV,  has made popular.   I believe that Joanna had a specific type of wood in mind.  One that was already covered up by sheetrock in the Texas homes they remodel.  America has expanded the definition to be any type of wood that you attach to a wall to make it decorative.  Since then, Joanna’s trend has led to thousands of trees being cut down and installed in people’s homes.  I digress…

But, if you want to get all technical, here is what Wikipedia has to say.

Somehow, I managed to talk my husband into putting his tools (of the construction variety, to be clear) to use updating some walls in our 1957 ranch home.  I had complained about hauling these tools during three moves in three years and I finally figured out why we have them.  Because he knows how to use them.  Total shocker over here.  He has been holding this information from me for almost 10 years of marriage.  I’m betting he wished he had made it 25 years before I figured it out.

As you know, we had a very tight budget for our home.  Anything that we were able to do, we wanted to do and save the money to pay the pros to do what we could not.  I priced out buying the wood for the first project and it was under $60.  Ok, sold.  Let’s do it.

Here is our before pic:

Click here to see the post on whitewashing a fire place!

DIY Shiplap Recommended Tools:

  • Chop saw
  • Nail gun
  • Air Compressor
  • Small level
  • Large level
  • Finished nails to fit nail gun
  • Pencil
  • Stud finder
  • Caulk
  • Paint


1. Measure the area where you are going to install the wood/ship lap.  You will need the height and the width.

img_3841-12. Determine which type of wood you’d like to use.  I chose a tongue and groove “knotty pine pattern” board.  The top of the board has a groove and the bottom has a lip.  When installed, the bottom lip slides into the groove of the previous board to make a solid joint and appears as a continuous board.

3. Do math.  Many of you know this isn’t my strong suit.  It’s also important to know that even though the board is advertised as 8 inches wide, it’s actually 7′.  There is probably a “that’s what she said” joke in this but it was lost on me because it messed up my math.  So, I guess the second part of this step is measure the width of the board you are using so your math will be accurate.

img_3859-14.  Purchase the wood.  Make sure you check for imperfections before checking out.  One of my selected boards had a long crack in the tongue portion that was causing it to break off.  The nice gentlemen at Home Depot helped me track down more inventory.  The wood for my two projects cost about $60.  Safely load the wood in your SUV/truck.

5. Decide what the “center” is of your project.  For ours, the center of the ceiling, mantle and fireplace were all a bit different.  We marked the center of each then went with a median line for our project.

6. Locate the studs behind the Sheetrock so you know where to install the nails.  An electric stud finder makes this very easy.  You can draw a line over each stud or mark with painters tape.  This will save you time later.  The blue tape on the front of the mantle is where our studs lined up on the wall above the mantle.

IMG_02607. Measure twice and cut once.  We started at the bottom of the wall and worked up.  Since I originally thought I needed 4 boards, I had Home Depot cut two of the 12ft boards in half for me, so we installed those first.  We needed one final board to finish.  The width had to be cut down to fit.  Also, our ceiling is a bit uneven- so we had to specialize the cut to be accurate.  ***Home Depot will cut wood for you.  The first two cuts were free and after that they are 25 cents each.  This seems really reasonable if you are sure of your math and don’t have a chop saw.

IMG_39168. Be sure to use a level for each board.  Being off just a little at the start can cause you to be way off by the end of installation.

9. Finish the edges.  It’s important to know that getting boards the exact same length is hard.  That’s why we did a trim piece on the sides to hide the imperfections.  The wider the trim piece is the more it will cover.

10. Finish the top.  The top is tricky and it’s up to you on your preference of how it should look.  You can tie it in to your current molding, trim it like the sides, or frame it out with it’s own crown molding over your current molding.  We opted to “tie it in” to our current crown molding buy bringing the shiplap right to the bottom of it.  I’m not 100% thrilled with this look- and we may do it’s own crown molding one day.

img_3926-111. Paint the wood.    I’d recommend priming first (kilz is your best friend) then doing a coat of paint.  Next, do some caulking to fill in the gaps.  This will make the look more cohesive.  Don’t forget to caulk between the mantle and wood, along the trim piece and ceiling.  Once the caulk dries, do one more coat of paint.  I recommend a satin or semi-gloss to give the finished product a bit of a sheen.  

We are very happy with the final product!


learn, brooke

How to Save During Home Improvement

I am a big believer in sweat equity for a home. Yes, it’s dirty and hard work but it’s so worth it once you are done!  Plus, you can stretch your budget so much further if you can put the time in and save on labor costs from paying others.

Here are a few ways we helped our budget by doing updates ourselves or making purchasing decisions to keep costs low:

Savings Ideas

Cabinet Hardware 

If you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, they have a decent selection of hardware but it’s expensive. Most of it is sold individually and that adds up quickly especially when you have 11 drawers and 16 cabinets. Some of the options are sold in “contractor” boxes but it’s only 10-20% savings. My tip is to shop Amazon. In my experience, that’s the best place to get bang for your buck for cabinet pulls. Be sure to measure the distance of the pre drilled holes so you get the correct size for handles. By shopping Amazon, I’d estimate that we saved ~$40.

This is what I bought

Ceiling Fans

My theory is if you have a working fan, it’s better than no fan. But, obviously you don’t want to have something really ugly nor in my case, did I want to spend a fortune (especially since I needed to buy 3). I settled on something very basic from Home Depot for about $42 each. They were an 80% upgrade from what we had. I just couldn’t justify the price jump to $150/fan to get to 100% upgrade.  Plus, I feel like stylish fans go out of style in just a few years, so sticking with something basic is always a good idea.

Tip: Be mindful of the blade length when you are buying fans. I didn’t think it mattered that much if the room was small, but I am glad I went with a less fancy fan but with longer blades (52inch). It may not be super pretty but it works really well!

Sweat Equity Ideas

Painted Kitchen Cabinets

This is the THIRD home we have owned that I have painted it’s kitchen cabinets. Every time I do it, I swear I’ll never do it again… but it makes SUCH a big difference! The lower cabinets were black and I just felt it was too contrasting between the granite color and dark parquet floors. Plus, they weren’t painted well (think silver hinges painted over with black paint). Long story short, they needed a face lift. I’ll do a later post on my cabinet painting technique, but for now, I’m guessing we saved a few hundred dollars in labor costs.


An inexpensive exterior upgrade to your home is to paint the front door and shutters. We spent $50 on a good gallon of paint (Chelsea Grey by Benjamin Moore) and had plenty left over after these projects. It took a few hours to sand, prime and paint but I’m super happy with the result! I’m estimating that we saved ~$250 on labor paint costs.

For more info on our shutter refresh, click here.

Pressure Washing

This was a pretty big undertaking for our dirty house. My husband and I divided up the house to conquer it all. He worked hard on the exterior- cleaning the gutters, soffit siding, brick and patio. I tackled the driveway, carport and wood walkway. Our generous friends lent us their pressure washer. But, I’d happily rent one to see the house sparkle! I’m guessing we saved about ~$700 in labor costs for this project.

Air Vent Covers

We had the air ducts professionally cleaned and a anti-microbial spray applied to drastically improve the air quality of our home. Once they were done, I asked them to leave all of the vent covers off so I could spray paint them with a fresh coat of white gloss. This was a really nice face lift for most of the aged vent covers. Next, we were able to easily re-install them. 

Vent covers range from $6-20 each depending on size and material. I’ll estimate that we saved $75 by buying a $4 can of spray paint.

I’d love to hear your sweat equity projects!  Please share!

learn, brooke

DIY Updated Lighting

Updating Recessed Lighting

Y’all, these are the coolest things.  They replace your old, outdated recessed lights with clean, white, insulated LED bulbs.  

We had old, nasty recessed lights that all looked different.  Some had black lining, some were alabaster and others were “fish eyed” to point on to a decorative wall or piece of art.  Needless to say, they did not match, they looked old and the bulbs in them put off LOTS of heat.  Time to go.  I had never even heard of them before but thanks to my awesome electrician, he showed one to me during our initial consult and I was sold.  

I’d recommend buying the contractor multipack for the best deal.  We ended up paying ~$12 per light.  Since this wasn’t in the initial budget, I scaled back on our ceiling fan budget and added these beautiful little upgrades!

My electrician wanted $10 per light just to install.   Thankfully, my husband found a good YouTube video to watch and figured it out to save us $160!

It’s also good to know that you can buy dimmable ones.  I’m not a big fan of overhead lighting (can give me a headache) so dimmers are my best friend.

Tip:  if you are painting your ceilings, remove the old fixtures before painting so that if the new ones are smaller, you won’t have a ring of color difference.  

Bathroom lighting

Both bathrooms had these tulip style globes.  I tried to twist them off and was unsuccessful and I thought I was stuck with them because replacing them wasn’t in the budget.  Thankfully, my electrician showed me how to get them off:

-To start, I’d recommend turning the light switch off during this activity.  

-First step is unscrew the light bulb and then carefully unscrew the ring around the socket.  Hold on to the globe while you unscrew because that’s what holds it on.  

-Once it’s removed, you can replace it with whatever globe you’d like (that fits).

-Screw the ring back on then add the light bulb.  And wahlah, you are updated while still staying in budget!

Home Depot had a great selection of globes (sold individually).  We got lucky and were able to reuse three globes off a ceiling fan that we replaced.  Then I bought the other four globes at HD for ~$5 each.  So, I spent $20 to update two bathroom lights!  That’s so much less money than replacing two entire fixtures.  👍🏼

Matching Light Bulbs

When we sold our last home, our agent’s awesome marketing pro came to our home to make suggestions on things to do to get our home ready to sell.  One thing she pointed out was to put matching bulbs in light fixtures.  Ever since that realization, I’ve become a light bulb snob.  I pretty much dislike any “bulb color” that’s not soft white.  Personally, I think compact fluorescent bulbs should stop being made.  And they definitely should not stick out of a chandelier to see.  But I digress…

You can imagine my horror when I saw this in our “new” guest bathroom.  I am pleased to say that the offending wallpaper is no more and the bulbs all match.  👍🏼

Hopefully a few of these inexpensive DIY lighting tricks can help update your home without blowing the budget!

learn, brooke 

Old Chairs New

When we bought our house, it was an as is purchase.  This means that the owners were not going to do any clean up, repairs or removal of personal items at the home.  Obviously, we had a home inspection done to find out the condition of the home.  A lot of the personal items, we planned to just toss but I decided to give these old plastic chairs a second chance rather than tossing them.  

None of them were cracked/broken so I thought it might be worth a try to clean them up.  Enter the pressure washer.  

I managed to get completely soaked in this process.  But it’s worth it!

This chair I planned to toss because the stain was so bad but after seeing how the first 4 turned out I decided to try.

Excited to keep these cute chairs out of the landfill for a while longer!

learn, brooke 

DIY Emotions

Anxiety 😬

Which contractor should we hire? What unforeseen issues are going to come up? What’s wrong with this house since no one else bought it? Is my budget going to be busted? Will our timeline work out? Will my painter bail on us? Which color should I choose? Will those fixtures get shipped here in time? It rained so much last night, will the basement be dry?

Relief 🤗

Thank goodness that paint color matches the brick. I’m so glad the handyman showed up today since he was a no show yesterday. Whew, I only needed one gallon of $50 paint after all. That repair cost less than what was expected, So glad that wall we demo’d didn’t have an unexpected pipe running through it. Yay for the rain holding off today so we could work in the yard. Woohoo for the electrician working with us on the budget. Thank goodness the county yard waste workers picked up all our yard trimmings. Yay the basement is dry!

Excitement 🙌🏼

I can’t wait to make this house a home. All of our planned projects are going to turn out well. This yard is perfect for our son to play in the sprinkler with friends. I can’t wait to have our housewarming party and have all of the work behind us. I wonder what memories we will make in our new home. We got so much accomplished this weekend!

Annoyance 😫

I’ve done four coats of paint on the inside of these cabinets and they still need another one. We measured twice and cut once but it still need lots of caulk. The one spot I missed on the shutters is right next to the front door and I look at it each time I walk in the house. I’ve bought the wrong light bulbs twice for this fixture and have to return them again. This house is 60 years old and I feel like I’m putting lots of lipstick on a pig.

Pride 💪🏼

After three hours of sweat, the yard looks so nice! We really can DIY a shiplap accent wall! The shutters turned out so well. The cabinets I painted look so much nicer. Our neighbors are so happy we are cleaning up our curb appeal. This house is looking so much cleaner and updated.  

Exhaustion 😴

If I never go to that house again, I’ll be ok. I didn’t know I had muscles in that part of my back. Is it ok if I go to bed at 8 pm? I didn’t know my feet could hurt this much without doing a half marathon.  

Endurance 👊🏼

I just slept nine hours… I’ll jump up and be at Home Depot when it opens to beat the crowd!! Oh, painting without climbing a ladder?!… I can do that all day! I only have three more yard waste bags… let’s go ahead and fill them! Even though I’ve been pressuring washing for an hour, I really want to finish the driveway today, so what’s another hour?! My arms are about to give out but I want these painted shutters up NOW. So what it’s dark outside?!… I can still finish painting the mailbox with the flashlight on my phone.

Hangry 😡

It’s 4pm… why am I starving?! Oh, because I didn’t eat lunch. Who ate the last granola bar?! WTF!! How long will it take Papa John’s to get here?? I should probably wash my hands before eating… but I need pizza in my belly NOW. Why did I just eat half of a pizza?!

laugh, brooke

More Curb Appeal 

Last week, I shared about our efforts to clean up the front exterior of our new home by painting the front door and shutters.  Since then, I’ve been working on some other parts including cleaning, gardening and more painting.


We have this cool front yard lantern that reminds me so much of my grandmother.  She had one in her front yard at the same spot as this new house.  As you can see, it was pretty faded and a few different colors.  I had leftover paint from spray painting the fireplace insert, so I used it on this project too.  The hardest part was getting the lids to come off (rusted screws) so I could spray paint those on the ground.  It took a few coats and couple climbs up the ladder with some blue tape but it looks SO much better!

Sadly, I don’t have a before photo of the mailbox.  Just imagine it being a faded white and the planter box being exposed wood.  The numbers were there already, although, the 7 was actually stainless in color but had been wrapped in black electrical tape to match the rest.  Now, they all match after a coat of the leftover spray paint.  I also painted the post and wood planter Chelsea Grey (same color as shutters and front door).

Pressure washing

Wow, this is a lot of work/time but the difference is astounding!  So much cleaner and newer looking.  Thankfully our kind friends let us borrow their pressure washer so we didn’t have to buy/rent one!

My Tips:

1.  Start on the highest point and let gravity help you.  Once you do a section, go back to the start of it and make sure all the dirty water is blown off.  Otherwise, it will just sit and dry on your freshly washed driveway.

2.  Wear sunglasses or safety glasses.  Trust me, you don’t want mud/dirt/trash blowing into your eye at a fast speed.

3.  Wear closed toe shoes for protection.  Know that they will get wet.

4.  Wear clothing that you are ok with throwing away later (if necessary).

The day after I did the driveway, a friend texted me to say he had an attachment I could use to make the driveway go faster.  I’ll remember that for next time 😉

I also pressure washed this walkway to our back yard.  It had a slimy/slippery coat of dirt on it that made walking dangerous.  Thankfully, it’s not slippery anymore and the wood is in better shape than we expected.


The house came with four giant planters in the front.  Each had a basket of plants put on it but none were actually planted and most of the baskets were on their sides.  I took a few minutes to remove the baskets and plant them appropriately.  The are all doing well now!


learn, brooke

Painting Shutters & My Front Door

Our new house has beautiful wooden shutters but man were they in need of a face lift!  I knew that I wanted to paint them but went back and forth on choosing a paint color for several days.  I wanted something lighter than black that would help update the exterior look without painting the brick.  I decided to go with grey but there are SO many shades of grey.  It’s super overwhelming.  After debating between five color swabs, i finally just decided to go for it with Benjamin Moore Chelsea Grey.  I went with a semi gloss finish in their exterior paint.  It was about $40 for a gallon but it was so worth it!  The paint goes on like a dream and the coverage after one coat was at 90%.  I highly recommend that paint!  Plus, since we did the labor, spending only $40 to update the exterior of our home was a great price!

After the tedious task of choosing a color, the next step was remove the shutters from the house.  Thankfully, two sets of our shutters are on working hinges and they just slide up and off. Only one set is screwed into the brick (aka slightly more difficult to remove). Peck took them all down for me.  I opted to remove them to paint on the ground in the shade of the carport instead of hanging off a ladder in the sun.

Next, I used our electric sander to smooth them out.  One shutter had English ivy attached to it so I used a Sheetrock knife to help scrape those remnants off.  I like to sand wood (especially old wood) before priming because I think the primer adheres much better and then the paint does too.

The next step was to prime them with a grey tinted kilz (leftover from kitchen cabinet painting).  I’m a big believer in primer.  If you do a really good first coat, it prevents extra coats of paint (which is more expensive than primer) later.  I had a fan running in the carport to keep me cool and help dry the primer more quickly so it only took about 2 hours to dry completely.

Next came the paint.  I was relieved to see the paint color and realize I wasn’t making a huge mistake.  I let them dry over night and did a second touch up coat the next day.  It was pretty easy once I got going.  I found that using a brush to hit the joints in the wood first and then using the roller was a good use of time.  I let them dry for about 3 hours and then they were ready to hang!

In hindsight, my only regret for the project was I wish I would have numbered them and marked which way was up.  This would have made rehanging them a bit easier.  Nonetheless, we figured it out with minor complaining from my tall husband.

You will notice that I also painted the front door the same color.  I mean, I had a whole gallon of paint- so why not?  I used wood putty to fill in holes, then sanded, primed and painted it.  I like how the door details stand out more prevalently now.  

learn, brooke