Which Is Better, Shiplap or Tongue and Groove?

With timber cladding experiencing a resurgence in popularity, which is better, Shiplap or Tongue and Groove? As a current favourite of home renovation shows, timber cladding has caught the attention of the viewing public and is very much ‘on – trend’ as a decorative medium.

With spring approaching, many homeowners are considering renovation or new building projects. Additionally, with working from home at an all time high, purpose built outdoor home offices are also becoming more common.

Timber framed buildings with wooden cladding are a relatively inexpensive, easily erected solution with low environmental impact. Add the natural rustic appeal of oak cladding to its innate weatherproof properties and the surge in demand is inevitable.

A Note on Design

Before discussing the differences between the two styles, it is helpful to understand the way they are machined and fit together. Their physical shape gives them distinct strengths and advantages and the following points make far more sense when this can be visualised.

Tongue and Groove has a channel cut along one narrow edge (the groove) and a corresponding thin projecting ridge on the other (the tongue). When two planks are pushed together, the tongue slots into the groove along their length to give strong join with no need for glues, nails or tacks.

Shiplap connects together similarly, but each plank has an added overlap at the bottom when laid horizontally. A corresponding chamfered, curved edge sits under this, giving a repeating step and curve design down the wall.

Shiplap or Tongue and Groove - Hardwoods Group


When used indoors, tongue and groove is by far the most common choice of cladding. The individual planks fit together almost seamlessly, making them perfect for plain wooden flooring or modern wall panelling.

This has the added benefit of making tongue and groove easier to clean and maintain, as dirt and dust cannot build up in recesses. For a more modern farmhouse or coastal style, shiplap can be used, particularly for bathroom and kitchen panelling.

For a compromise between the two styles, tongue and groove cladding is available with a chamfered edge on each side of the board. This tongue and groove with ‘v’ design gives a shallow ‘v’ shaped recess where the boards connect to add visual appeal without overt decoration.

For further decoration, bespoke oak mouldings can be added to create picture rails or dado rails at the top of oak wainscotting on the lower portion of a wall.

Strength and Weatherproofing

Tongue and groove cladding was originally designed with two main properties in mind, strength and waterproofing. The interlocking timber adds to the strength of the building by connecting more surface area together than boards laid one atop another.

The added friction between boards that results prevents movement, and the natural strength of oak enhances this. Coupled with an oak frame, this makes an exceptionally sturdy structure.

For a shed or home office storing valuable gardening and DIY equipment or technology, this is harder to break into, keeping valuables secure. The shape of the tongue and groove profile also prevents water seeping through joins and into the structure.

Shiplap, apparently designed after the interlocking boards on wooden ships, is even more waterproof. The overhanging lip prevents backflow of water through the boards and the curved edge beneath speeds up runoff.

For use in areas with particularly high rainfall, this gives it a clear edge in weatherproofing. This also makes shiplap an attractive choice for bathrooms or kitchens with high levels of condensation. While slightly less robust, shiplap is still strong enough to make most outdoor buildings secure, even more so when made of oak.


Due to the added lip and chamfered ‘valley’, shiplap takes more time and effort to produce than tongue and groove. In common with moat construction materials, this comes with a corresponding increase in price.

For larger projects, especially in a premium material like oak, this can drive the cost of the project up considerably. If the choice is mainly an aesthetic one based on looks, tongue and groove may be a more cost effective option.

Also, if used in large amounts, the choice of tongue and groove with ‘v’ could be more expensive for no gain in performance for the same reasons. For those on a particularly tight budget, simple overlap profile cladding may be worth considering.

While some concession on strength and weatherproofing will have to be made, it is still perfect for basic storage buildings, particularly in oak.

Ease of Construction

With their interlocking design, both tongue and groove and shiplap are quick and easy to erect. It is always important to pre drill holes to avoid splitting the timber and only use stainless steel or brass screws.

While fitting tongue and groove and shiplap cladding is almost identical, there is one important instruction to bear in mind. While the finished appearance will be identical in either case, if the boards are upside down it can lead to water damage in the future.

Always make sure the first board is fitted with the tongue pointing up and subsequent boards will then have the same orientation. If the groove is on the upper edge, water can flow into the groove, where it will stay and penetrate the wood.

Even with oak, this will still eventually cause decay and leave the timber open to fungal infection that can spread to other areas. Due to the chamfered depression on shiplap, it is virtually impossible to make this mistake if care is taken.

Obviously, if cladding is being fitted vertically rather than horizontally, this will not be an issue as water will flow off the timber at the same rate regardless.


Hardwoods Group are specialist European Oak suppliers with a huge range of wholesale oak timber of all types. We offer air dried, kiln dried or freshly sawn oak green oak cladding in five standard profiles, cut to your specifications. We also produce bespoke oak mouldings for individual projects for customers seeking a unique finish. Whatever your needs, contact us with your requirements, we will be happy to help.




Helpful Links:

Types of Timber Cladding

Cladding A Brick House

Oak Cladding


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