Move Over Shiplap, Nickel Gap Is the Siding Style You Need to Know

updated Jan 7, 2020
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(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Though we now live in a post-“Fixer Upper” world, many of the things Chip and Joanna Gaines have given us are still going strong. Modern farmhouse style just won’t die, and “shiplap,” one of its hallmarks, is still super popular with anyone who wants that classic rustic look Jo seemed to perfect. But what if I told you there was an alternative out there to those kind of finicky, often expensive overlapping wood boards joined together with a rabbet joint. Yes. Something that essentially looks and feels like shiplap but just may be a technically superior product. Maybe you already know the deal and still want old school shiplap. And that’s totally cool. But for those of you that are curious and open to something a little more contemporary, please allow me introduce you to nickel gap siding.

Nickel gap siding is similar to shiplap, but these planks are made with an interlocking “tongue and groove” profile on all four sides, so they don’t overlap at all. The “tongue” actually fits in the “groove,” and once installed on a surface, the boards have a gap between them that’s about the width of a nickel, hence the name. So you don’t get the warping that causes shiplap to look crooked or uneven. And you often don’t have to prime nickel gap either or worry about filling knots. And to that end, did I mention that these planks can be blind nailed for a cleaner, totally smooth look? Nickel gap siding is basically the modernist way to do shiplap that still has a tiny bit of a vintage appeal. The materials nickel gap comes in run the gamut—wood, MDF, etc., and you can find it in a variety of finishes or paint it as well. Generally, it’s quite a bit cheaper than real shiplap too.

So how do you use nickel gap? Well, all the same ways you might use shiplap. Let’s take a look at some Instagram inspiration.

Forget subway tile—all the cool kids are going with nickel gap backsplashes. Not exactly true, but this style of wall covering certainly is becoming more popular in the kitchen because it’s visually interesting and easy to wipe down in certain painted finishes. Alder wood was used in this cookspace, but it could easily be plain white paneling or painted a bold color. You can also find nickel gap used as range hood coverings or to clad an island.

Sick of brick or stone fireplace surrounds? Try nickel gap. It’s the perfect transitional style treatment, especially if you can find it with rounded corners. That literally gives nickel gap a contemporary edge.

Wallpaper accent walls used to be big in master and guest bedrooms, and they still are. But why not try nickel gap instead? This simple linear look has such a calming, orderly presence in a space, which can’t be said of all wallpapers or paint colors. You still get some visual interest and charm here too, even if you keep the boards white.

There are quite a few advantages to using nickel gap MDF boards in a bathroom. You won’t have to worry about steamy showers warping your boards and the subsequent unevenness of their gaps. This material also looks pretty good paired with graphic wallpaper, if you’re the texture and pattern-loving type.

And don’t forget that nickel gap can also be installed vertically, if you want to switch things up a bit. Part of me thinks installing your boards this way could make a room appear taller, you know, like the vertical stripe effect, only in an interior.

Of course, you can take nickel gap onto the ceiling as well. Give your fifth wall a little love. You won’t regret the look of it. Why not try the natural wood look here if you want? All of those myths you heard about putting a darker shade overhead aren’t true. Your room won’t feel any smaller. Just think of it as cozier.

Convinced that nickel gap is the way to go? Start your shopping list here with our picks.

(Image credit: Home Depot)

A good budget nickel gap option you can get at the home center. And the panels come already primed for a paint job.

(Image credit: Lowe’s )

When installed, the shadow gap between each of these plank pieces is thicker, meaning each plank offers slightly more square foot coverage than some competitors.

(Image credit: Wayfair)

These planks are made from Paulownia, a hardwood that resists rot and is lighter than pine, meaning it’s much easier to lift and install too.