tongue and groove edge on wood panels

Tongue and Groove

Originally contributed by • last updated 3/9/2021

Unemployed Redneck Hillbilly Creations

One of today’s top trends in home design is to try to recreate the look of functional wood paneling. With throwbacks to both nautical and cottage origins, people are looking for both real and faux options, especially for their bathrooms and hallways. One popular method of achieving this look is to join your planks together using a technique known as tongue and groove. But, the end results look similar to another popular method known as shiplap, so try not to get confused.


The term tongue and groove commonly refers to a method of joining two pieces of material, most commonly planks of wood, together from edge to edge. In this method of assembly, one edge of the plank has a tabbed ridge jutting out (aka the tongue). And the other edge has a long thin slot cut into it (aka the groove). To fix two planks together, the tongue edge is inserted into the groove edge, creating a locking bond. The tongue and groove method can commonly be found in the assembly of wooden floors, walls, ceilings, and other projects. Nowadays, adhesives, laminates, and stickers are also used instead of traditional methods to achieve similar design effects, typically at lower costs.

What is The Best Paneling Option For My Project?

In a lot of situations, designers and homeowners are trying to recreate the look of antique wood paneling. And, in many cases, they can accomplish that with prefabricated panels or even wallpaper. But, if you're looking to create something more functional and utilitarian, you may want to consider using a more traditional method, such as tongue and groove or classic shiplap. Here are a few tips to help you decide:

  • Modern shiplap and tongue and groove designs can be achieved at a range of prices, including inexpensive wallpapers and paneling.  These options are more decorative than functional, typically being secured with adhesives and/or finishing nails.
  • Traditionally, shiplap joints were formed with overlapping edges, creating a support structure to secure pieces and create a protective barrier. This method is still used today to create functional design elements, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Tongue and groove joints create an interlocking support structure with a tab and slot configuration. This method is typically found indoors and is used for both flooring, walls, and ceilings.