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Installing Beadboard Wainscoting - Paneling

Updated on July 6, 2015
Lily Rose profile image

In my next life, I want to be an interior designer. I love decorating and home decor, taking on projects, and helping others do the same.

Beautiful Cape-Cod Beadboard Wainscoting
Beautiful Cape-Cod Beadboard Wainscoting

I've been considering changing the look of my dining room and I'm really leaning toward a wall treatment, such as wainscoting. Here's what I've learned, in the process, about how to properly install beadboard wainscoting.

Bead board can give a wall a classy look, and change the overall look of the room or hallway that it's in. Wainscoting is when a decorative paneling is attached to the bottom part of a wall, usually from about 36 inches above the floor, to the floor, and it's a super easy way to cheer up a room, or even dramatize it. Wainscoting can also go from the floor to the height of a plate-rail, 48 to 60 inches from the floor.

Lots of different panels and trims can be used when installing beadboard; it can be recessed, raised, of even flat. Tongue-and-groove beadboard is usually readily available at most local hardware stores like Lowes or Home Depot and it's usually not very expensive per sheet. You can get it in unfinished wood, primed and ready for paint or already painted white. There's a style of wainscoting to match pretty much any décor.

  • Tape measure
  • 4-foot level
  • Power saw
  • Hammer
  • Jigsaw
  • Safety glasses
  • Notched trowel

Materials you will need:

  • Bead board panels
  • Wainscoting ply cap
  • Finishing nails (6- or 8- penny)
  • Construction adhesive
  • Wood filler
  • Primer and paint or stain
  • Pry bar
  • Stud finder

pry baseboard off, being careful not to damage your walls
pry baseboard off, being careful not to damage your walls

The how to:

1. Use a pry bar, or even a strong chisel, to carefully pry the baseboard off the wall, being careful not to damage the baseboard or the wall.  Remember, you'll be re-attaching the baseboard when your project is complete.  Use a spare piece of wood up against the wall if you're using a pry bar like shown in the picture to the right to help avoid damage to the wall.  Turn off the electrical power and install box extension rings (metal collars that allow the outlet to be brought to the wainscoting’s surface) to all the electrical outlets that the wainscoting will be going affecting.

use level to mark your height all around the room
use level to mark your height all around the room

2. Figure out what height you want your wainscoting to be - typical installation height is chair-rail height, which is about 36 inches (slightly higher if your room has high ceilings).  Once you do that,  use a level and mark a line at the height you want all around the room, or hallway if that's what you're working on.  With a stud finder, locate and mark the the studs so that you know where to nail the top trim (cap rail) and baseboard.

You can also use a jigsaw for this step
You can also use a jigsaw for this step

3. Cut the first piece of paneling to the height you measured (floor to your level line) with a circular saw or jigsaw.

Don't forget your safety glasses!

4. Measure and mark the location of the affected electrical outlets and cut a rectangle out of the panel with a jigsaw.  Apply construction adhesive to the back of the paneling and use the trowel to spread it. Starting in a corner and place the beadboard paneling onto the wall and nail in place.  With your hands, press the beadboard against the wall to insure proper adhesion.

5. Continue to cut and adhere, then nail the panels where the studs are. The tongue-and-groove paneling has a lip at the edges that should hide the seams nicely, but you may want to apply a bead of paintable latex caulk if you plan on painting the wainscoting.  Once you're finished attaching all of the paneling, you can judge whether or not that step is necessary.  You'll probably want to put a bead of caulk in any corners.

Final step, applying the wainscoting cap.  Now step back and enjoy your improved décor.
Final step, applying the wainscoting cap. Now step back and enjoy your improved décor.

6. Determine the length of cap trim needed and cut and nail it in with the 6-penny nails at the location of the studs (you can use the 8-penny if you don't feel like you're hitting the stud).  For a nicer, more professional look, you'll want to miter all the corners, inside and outside ones.  All that's left to do at this point is reattach the baseboard using 8-penny nails, also at the location of the studs.  Be sure to countersink the nails and use a latex caulk to fill in the holes.  The caulk should also be used to fill any gaps you may have.

Now just sit back and enjoy your beautiful new room!


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    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 8 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks for the comments! I look very much forward to this project - I love the cape cod style pictured at the top!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I love beadboard! I've used it in a couple of houses.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 8 years ago

      I agree, wainscoting certainly does formalize a dining room.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      This is a great idea and looks wonderful. Thank you for your hub.