Best Panel Profile: Shiplap or Tongue and Groove?

Once natural wood, wood polymer composite, or aluminum siding is installed, it is hard to tell what profile the panels have. Shiplap and tongue and groove–two of the most popular panel profile–look all but identical in their finished, interlocked form.

Yet there are key functional differences to each, impacting both the installation of new siding and the suitability it will have for long life in your building’s particular environment.

When we are dealing with exterior design–these differences are of utmost importance. Each of these two profiles reacts to climates, including rain, cold, and heat differently–and the wrong choice can come back to bite you over long exposure!

Which Panel Profile Is Best For Your Project?

Do not fret, the modern cladding industry really has something for everyone’s needs! Read on to see which of these two panel profiles–shiplap or tongue and groove–is the right fit for your next project.

What is Shiplap Siding?

We start with the ever-popular shiplap. This profile gets its name from the days of yore when shipbuilders developed this method for interlocking panels for survival in the wettest environment we know: the open sea.

What is Shiplap Siding?

You can probably infer that shiplap’s greatest strength is sealing against water exposure–we will get to that in a moment. First, let us look at the composition of this profile.

Shiplap is known for its L-shaped profile design–almost resembling a step on a stairwell. On one side, the top is notched off, the bottom on the other. This allows each panel to overlap the next, leaving only a slight crease from one panel to the next.

Smooth this out with a bevel, or keep a right angle for a sharp, clean look–there is a reason why designers love working with this panel profile!


Affirmed by shipbuilders throughout history, shiplap is the king of wet conditions. The simplicity of this profile’s notches limits the amount of crevices and internal surface area for water to linger. The snug overlap keeps much of that water from getting inside in the first place.

Shiplap Siding- Strengths

When we are dealing with wood paneling–it is important to remember that cladding will dry out and dehumidify in hot seasons, causing the panels to shrink. The L-notch of shiplap is quite forgiving in this regard and will retain its water-tight seal even as two shrinking panels pull apart.

This shrinking effect is less drastic in wood polymer and aluminum, but still, something to keep in mind when working with these materials.

Installing cladding in a wet or hot environment? Think about using a shiplap profile for wood, wood polymer, and aluminum siding.


If shiplap was in a job interview, it would say that its biggest weakness is that it cares too much. But if it were being honest, this profile has a slight disadvantage that makes its counterpart–tongue and groove–a better choice in cold environments.

The simplicity of shiplap’s overlap provides less insulation when the weather turns chilly.

Shiplap Siding- Weaknesses

What Is Tongue and Groove?

Tongue and groove profiles fit panels together like puzzle pieces. On one side is a thin tongue that is designed to fit snugly within the groove on the opposite end. This allows less of a gap between planks or siding in comparison to shiplap.

What Is Tongue and Groove?

So how does a slightly more intricate profile design impact performance in exterior cladding?


Tongue and groove offers a tight look – as far as paneling and siding goes, it does not get closer to seamless than this.

This profile is also well adjusted to cold climates. Because one panel is going into another–unlike shiplap which has an overlap–the finished product is thicker and boasts superior insulation.

What Is Tongue and Groove?


Because tongue and groove requires a snug fit, panels (wood especially) with these profiles have less room for error when it comes to shrinkage in the heat. Rather than shrinking along an already exposed overlap, the tongue and groove leaves gaps within the cladding as the materials shift.

These gaps then leave space for water to get in, while not enough room for water to flow out. After a storm, water can linger–corroding the material after some time.

Which Panel Profile Costs More?

Pricing varies by material, but tongue and groove tends to be a tad more expensive. This makes sense, as its more intricate design warrants more time and money during both fabrication and installation.

Shiplap installation is generally simple to understand and execute. For this, it is a popular choice for DIYers renovating the interior of their homes.

For exterior use in cladding, professional installers who know how to expertly waterproof the substrate of your building are highly recommended. For these pros, shiplap makes for expedient and cost-effective work.

Tongue and groove profiles have a slimmer margin of error when it comes to installation–as the space that must be nailed is less wide, and hidden within the two planks.

Which Panel Profile Costs More?

Making The Right Choice Of Panel Profile

How does each profile meet your needs? The biggest consideration is cost and the surrounding climate of your building. Close behind is the slight discrepancy in look between shiplap and groove.

It may feel like a marginal decision, but the right choice is critical to the optimization of your new exterior design. At Wiedehopf, we are passionate about helping our clients, customers, and partners make the best decisions for their cladding projects.

If you now know what you need and are ready to execute, or if you would like to hear our opinion about what the best fit is for you–call our cladding experts at +1(905) 761 9791.


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