ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Wainscoting Ideas

Updated on August 21, 2014

Wainscoting Ideas for Your Home

Wainscoting has a number of advantages. Firstly, it can be an excellent design decision. Whether you prefer a cottage style beadboard wainscoting or a more traditional/formal wainscoting, both can add a lot of appeal to a room.

Secondly, it can offer a bit of protection for your walls as well. Plaster and dry wall are susceptible to nicks, scuffs, and other small imperfections over time. Wainscoting can be very functional in reducing those problems. Unfortunately, having a lot of wood working in your home can be expensive, especially when you hire someone to do the labor.

Doing your own wainscoting however is really a fairly simple task in many instances. The cost is also within most budgets if you do it wisely. I will share with you how we completed our own DIY wainscoting project and share some information on other wainscoting ideas I discovered while researching our project as well.

The Problem

Our home has a very long, narrow hallway near the back door that leads into our garage. It's so narrow that we frequently brush against the wall when entering the house with any bags. In addition, the hallway is rather dark. It has canned lighting and ends up looking like a cave much of the time. The ceiling is 9 ft high and only adds to the sense of the hallway being very narrow.

It had been suggested that painting the walls a little lighter, breaking the wall in half or one third, and using some horizontal lines would both brighten and make the space appear wider.

In addition, the walls of the hallway were frequently scuffed and the flat wall paint resisted a good clean up. Painting with a semi-gloss paint on such a large span of wall wouldn't have added to the appeal.

In the end, my husband and I liked the idea of covering a bit of the wall with some panels or wainscoting to add a horizontal pattern and protect the wall a bit more. It would also cut the wall down into sections that could more easily be touched up when needed. With panels or wainscoting, the use of a more washable, semi-gloss paint would also be more acceptable.

Our Experience

Neither my husband nor I are handy. We have almost no experience in doing our own home improvement jobs. Caulking is a major challenge for us and just painting a wall can be a problem. Seriously, we are DIY impaired. To make matters worse, we have few tools to get the job done. We didn't want to spend a lot on tools that would probably never be used afterward. We didn't even know anyone who could really help guide us in completing the task.

Our Adventure in Wainscoting Begins

The first order of business then was to research some wainscoting ideas online, get together some options, and then determine which ones matched our budget and our skill level.

Paying someone else to design and do the work was beyond the budget we set for ourselves. I found many different kits online that were more affordable. As we evaluated them however, we saw numerous things that made us fearful we could botch the job up nicely, although anyone who has done a bit of DIY work competently in the past could probably handle it. I'll include some of the things I found below.

I also found a number of tutorials that were helpful in actually performing the work. Everything from how to use a mitre box to building your own wainscot panels. I'll share a few of these below as well.

The option we ended up selecting was one that would cost us very little, could be completed within a few days, and that we hoped would result in a look we would like for years to come despite our limited skills.

Wainscoting Ideas

These are the wainscoting ideas I discovered online.

The simplest form of DIY wainscoting that I found was beadboard wainscoting. With it, you can buy and install pre-cut beadboard panels which you can find at your local hardware store and then install chair rail above it. I've included a video below that provides a tutorial on the specifics of this process.

However, we decided that this style didn't suit our home.

The wainscoting ideas that I discovered for the type of design we wanted included:

Buying a pre-made kit that we needed to install ourselves. Many of these exceeded the budget we set, but some were more reasonable. I've included links to some of the more affordable options that we liked. In the end we didn't select this option because the kits we liked limited the height to 32-38 inches and we wanted it to cover more of the wall as the areas that were typically being scuffed were 38-42 inches up the wall.Buying wainscot panels, cutting them to fit, and adding any necessary trim work. We found affordable options here as well and I've referenced them below. However, we didn't feel comfortable that we could pull the job off to our satisfaction.Going the full DIY route and creating our own wainscoting with trim work. Oddly enough, we chose one of these options. We took an online tutorial we found from This Old House, made some adaptations, and did it ourselves. It required fewer tools and allowed us quite a bit of flexibility as far as the design and how high it came up off of the floor. Our wainscoting had a purpose, and it needed to be high enough to provide the protection against the scuffs that were routinely occurring on the wall. This was the tutorial that was the basis of our plan.Basically in entailed making some "picture frames" from some moulding, applying them to the wall, adding chair rail, and then painting. I'll share what we did in a slide show below.

Why We Chose This Wainscoting Idea

We finally selected the project below because:

We didn't have to remove and replace the baseboard.We didn't have to cut around any outlets.We could make the design as simple or complex as we liked.We could make the wainscoting come up higher on the wall. We preferred the look of the wainscoting being a few inches lower but it wouldn't provide the wall protection up higher that we needed.It was very affordable and used far less wood than many of the other options and required fewer tools.We felt we could complete the project within a few days.

The Tools We Used for Our DIY Wainscoting Project

We tried to minimize the number of tools and supplies we used and had to buy. Here's our list:

Mitre Box and sawFor making mitred cuts on chair rail and moldings; we just chose a hand saw versus a power saw.White panel board nails 1-5/8" and 2 inch nailsThese were used for holding frames and chair rail up as the adhesive dried. We used the panel board nails to attach the picture frames.Polyurethane Construction AdhesiveTo hold fames and chair railing to the wall.Hammer and Nail PunchA nail gun would have made putting up the frames and moulding faster, but we opted not to invest in one. We just used a regular hammer and then drove the nails in further with the nail punch.Picture Frame ClampDepending on how you choose to glue the frames, you may need some picture frame clamps. We borrowed some from a family member but ended up using a different method.Krazy GlueWe used Krazy Glue to put our frames together. I was concerned it would bond too quickly but it worked and we didn't have to use the clamps. We lined up the pieces using a square. We applied a bit of Krazy Glue and slid the pieces together, held each corner/joint tightly for 30 seconds, and they were done.Moulding and Chair RailOnce you've determined your design and measurements, you'll calculate how much moulding and chair rail you'll need. We ended up using PVC (rather than wood) to make the picture frames. It didn't splinter, it sanded easily, it was pre-finished/primed, and it was inexpensive. It's only disadvantage was that longer lengths of it can droop a bit when unsupported, but we had no problem even with the longest frames that we made.Primer and semi-gloss paintThe primer helped make sure we covered the old color thoroughly. The semi-gloss paint on the final coat made it washable and gave it the same finish that the wood trim in the house has on it.Stud FinderWhen I calculated what size frames to use on a given wall I made sure to avoid outlets but we also wanted to know where the studs were to use them for better support when hanging the frames and chair rail.SanderWe borrowed a sander from my mother and used it to make the wall as smooth as possible before we applied the primer. You can also rent these at some home improvement stores.Tape Measure, level, and squareThere is a lot of measuring that's required to complete the job and it needs to be accurate.Mineral SpiritsWe used the Mineral Spirits to clean up any adhesive that seeped out from behind the frames.One gallon white primer and one gallon white semi-gloss paintOf course we also used a small paint brush, a 3 inch roller, and a sponge to do the painting.Vinyl Spackling and Fine Sand PaperWe had this on hand and it worked nicely to fill all nail holes and small gaps.

Click on thumbnails below to view the photo slideshow showing our wainscoting project. Each photo includes a description of what we did.

Our DIY Wainscoting Project - Easy and Affordable Wainscoting

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The first step was to measure the wall sections we would cover. Determine frame sizes and the distance between, above, and below them. I used 4 inches above and below, and 3 inches in between. The important thing is to be consistent throughout with tUsing some paper we already had on hand, I drew one of the designs as it would look on the wall and taped it to the wall to see how it might look. We double checked that none of the frames would interfere with an outlet. We didn't want to be moving oA trip to the store was next to choose our moulding and chair rail. I took along a picture of the trim work around our doors to help in making the choice for the chair rail. We didn't get a matching trim because it wasn't as wide or have as high of aThe next day we cut the moulding to make the frames. Then laying them on paper, on the floor, we used a square to line up the pieces. Next we applied Krazy Glue, slid the pieces together, held the joint for 30 seconds, and they bonded. We then sandedThe next day, my husband sanded the wall to give it a very even, smooth texture. Luckily we found no holes or anything that needed filling and sanded. Next, I removed any wall plates and taped off the area around door ways and the baseboard, cleaned Once the wall was ready, my husband marked all of the studs so that we could nail into them when possible. He also marked where each frame should sit on the wall. Then we applied the construction adhesive in a single bead all the way around the frameNext, using a level, measuring tape, and a pencil we marked a line indicating where we wanted the trim to be placed, as well as the chair rail. Once this was marked, we applied wood glue to the back of the trim, and later the chair rail, placed it onIn the final step, I applied two coats of semi-gloss paint. The installation went just as planned with one exception on the final wall, I'll talk about that below.
The first step was to measure the wall sections we would cover. Determine frame sizes and the distance between, above, and below them. I used 4 inches above and below, and 3 inches in between. The important thing is to be consistent throughout with t
The first step was to measure the wall sections we would cover. Determine frame sizes and the distance between, above, and below them. I used 4 inches above and below, and 3 inches in between. The important thing is to be consistent throughout with t
Using some paper we already had on hand, I drew one of the designs as it would look on the wall and taped it to the wall to see how it might look. We double checked that none of the frames would interfere with an outlet. We didn't want to be moving o
Using some paper we already had on hand, I drew one of the designs as it would look on the wall and taped it to the wall to see how it might look. We double checked that none of the frames would interfere with an outlet. We didn't want to be moving o
A trip to the store was next to choose our moulding and chair rail. I took along a picture of the trim work around our doors to help in making the choice for the chair rail. We didn't get a matching trim because it wasn't as wide or have as high of a
A trip to the store was next to choose our moulding and chair rail. I took along a picture of the trim work around our doors to help in making the choice for the chair rail. We didn't get a matching trim because it wasn't as wide or have as high of a
The next day we cut the moulding to make the frames. Then laying them on paper, on the floor, we used a square to line up the pieces. Next we applied Krazy Glue, slid the pieces together, held the joint for 30 seconds, and they bonded. We then sanded
The next day we cut the moulding to make the frames. Then laying them on paper, on the floor, we used a square to line up the pieces. Next we applied Krazy Glue, slid the pieces together, held the joint for 30 seconds, and they bonded. We then sanded
The next day, my husband sanded the wall to give it a very even, smooth texture. Luckily we found no holes or anything that needed filling and sanded. Next, I removed any wall plates and taped off the area around door ways and the baseboard, cleaned
The next day, my husband sanded the wall to give it a very even, smooth texture. Luckily we found no holes or anything that needed filling and sanded. Next, I removed any wall plates and taped off the area around door ways and the baseboard, cleaned
Once the wall was ready, my husband marked all of the studs so that we could nail into them when possible. He also marked where each frame should sit on the wall. Then we applied the construction adhesive in a single bead all the way around the frame
Once the wall was ready, my husband marked all of the studs so that we could nail into them when possible. He also marked where each frame should sit on the wall. Then we applied the construction adhesive in a single bead all the way around the frame
Next, using a level, measuring tape, and a pencil we marked a line indicating where we wanted the trim to be placed, as well as the chair rail. Once this was marked, we applied wood glue to the back of the trim, and later the chair rail, placed it on
Next, using a level, measuring tape, and a pencil we marked a line indicating where we wanted the trim to be placed, as well as the chair rail. Once this was marked, we applied wood glue to the back of the trim, and later the chair rail, placed it on
In the final step, I applied two coats of semi-gloss paint. The installation went just as planned with one exception on the final wall, I'll talk about that below.
In the final step, I applied two coats of semi-gloss paint. The installation went just as planned with one exception on the final wall, I'll talk about that below.

Our Wainscoting OOPS

Things were going along smoothly, until the final section of the hallway wall where we were installing the wainscoting. We found as we began placing the picture frames on that particular wall, that it was bowed. Apparently the stud in the center of that wall section had moved a bit as the house settled. Unfortunately, with wood working going up on the wall this became quite visible for the first time.

We were a bit stuck for ideas, being the inexperienced "general contractors" that we were. Finally after a day or two of considering the situation, we decided there were two potential courses of action. Remove the dry wall and correct the problem or try to shim our wainscoting frames, moulding, and chair rail enough to hide or minimize the bowing. The first idea was not something we felt we could do, so we opted to try the second. The shims would be used to fill the extra space between the wall and moulding/chair rail as it ran down the wall which was created by the bow.

Using a string strung from door frame to door frame, across the bowed wall area, we could determine what straight looked like. With the moulding (and later the chair rail) placed against this, we determined what areas needed to be shimmed, marked them with a pencil on the wood moulding, and then proceeded to glue the shim to the back of the moulding. We actually used some thin paint stir sticks that had accumulated over the years in our garage to fabricate the shims.

Then, when we mounted the chair rail and moulding on the wall, they attached adequately and yet there was little bowing. We filled gaps with painter's caulk, sanded well, and then painted. We opted not to shim them to the extent that they were perfectly straight because we were concerned that the moulding and chair rail would look obviously "thicker" where they were shimmed. In the end, this compromise resulted in a look we felt was acceptable.

Helpful Tutorials - Installing Wainscoting

This is a series of tutorials on installing waiscoting panels. It is for a specific kit referenced above. However, we found the tutorials useful even though we didn't use this kit.

DIY Wainscoting

This was an instructional video for a DIY wainscoting project. This was another option we considered. We decided we preferred a different look for our project, but some may find this to their liking. We weren't sure about our ability to deal with the baseboard, and because we wanted it higher on the wall it might get costly. Another wainscoting idea to make such a design less angular would be to put some shaped moulding around the inside of the boxes that are created using this technique. I've seen this done elsewhere and it creates a very nice look.

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting

If you prefer a look more reminiscent of a cottage, then beadboard wainscoting may be a good choice.

Let Us Know You Stopped By!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • pauly99 lm profile image

      pauly99 lm 4 years ago

      Thanks for this lens. I am in the midst of rehabbing my basement and am trying to decide whether to drywall the whole darn thing or do a combination of drywall and wainscoting. You have definitely given me some ideas and tips to go with wainscot.

    • RoseAEckert profile image

      RoseAEckert 4 years ago

      beaded wainscoting is my fav, thanks for the tip!

    • ArmchairBuilder1 profile image

      ArmchairBuilder1 4 years ago

      Great job. An electric miter saw and nail gun would have made the task much easier...but it sounds like you made it happen anyway. The project really turned out nice. If you think you might want to build a new home, stop by and see my first lens!

    • dunky400 profile image

      dunky400 4 years ago

      Excellent job. Let me know if you decide to quit your day job. I can definitely use good talent like yours in my company.

    • profile image

      tamstone 5 years ago

      I don't dislike the idea just not for my home! Great post, though. I had no idea about this before.

    • chas65 profile image

      chas65 5 years ago

      These can add that special touch to any home.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Its fantastic lens

      Heated Towel Rails | Gazebo | Patio Heaters

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I stopped in and found ur site awesome, especially putting in the pictorial. I made it a favorite. I am about to do my entrance foyer and hall, but want to stain the final work. Any comments on closing the angles and the lines where the verticals meet the horizontals (maybe wood filler). If anyone ask, Im doing stain since all the wood in these areas: doors, crown, etc are stained and poly coated.

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      These are great tips that I can use, have always liked the way the beadboard looks and the wainscoting ideas.

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      These are great tips that I can use, have always liked the way the beadboard looks and the wainscoting ideas.

    • profile image

      BestLaminateInc1 5 years ago

      What a nice lens! You put here a lot of inspirational ideas as well as your own perspective. I agree that wainscoting has a number of advantages! I love it's chic and classic look as well as practicality.

    • chwwalker lm profile image

      chwwalker lm 5 years ago

      Awesome lens! I love wainscoting but probably won't have it for a long time as we're still renting.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

      We put up beaded wainscoting in our long, high, narrow hall. We kept the upper walls white, and painted the wainscoting cream. Every one said it would make it seem narrower...not a bit...it looks wider and certainly has more elegance and character. Fantastic resource here for anyone wanting to attempt this project.

    • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

      SecondHandJoe LM 5 years ago

      We wainscoted our living room walls and painted it clay beige. It provides a lot of texture and cottage feel while still feeling clean and somewhat more modern. We love it! Great lens with some very helpful tips! 'Liked' it a lot!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      I'd love to put wainscoating in our dining room. It really enhances a room.

    • profile image

      GiselleToner 5 years ago

      Very informative post, thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Pangionedevelopers 5 years ago

      Great info on Wainscoating

      thanks

    • BobZau profile image

      Bob Zau 5 years ago

      Very informative Lens on Wainscoating , nicely done.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      amazing that you documented all that and so helpful! nice work

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm very impressed with your project and even more on the way you documented it. This is going to be my bible for a project in my son's room. Thank you very much! This is the first time I've found a comprehensive step by step process that I really liked and felt I could do.

    • profile image

      mikeguerro221 5 years ago

      great lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Awesome post check out rentdumpsters.co for more info too.

    • profile image

      fixitlady 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing different methods and your reasons for choosing what you did. The results look great.

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 5 years ago

      Love the photo of the completed project! Thank you for sharing your tips :)

    • profile image

      crudeoilsystems 5 years ago

      wow, very beautiful and good tips for us, thanks for being so generous to your sharing.God bless!!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 5 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Very informative, and helpful. My house had this going in but it is interesting to see how to add it. Good for repairs too.

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 6 years ago from Havre de Grace

      Very helpful lens! Thanks for sharing your project!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great ideas here. Like taking a class. Love this look- so elegant!

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I love it! I am painting some paneling in my basement right now and it actually is looking pretty good...it almost looks like wainscoting.

    • profile image

      scsampson 6 years ago

      What a great resource!! I love your article on wainscoting and how you did it. Great instructional videos, SCSampson

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great information on wainscoting!

    • profile image

      poutine 6 years ago

      That is I would like to do in our kitchen.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      It is excellent idea, you convinced me

      Great practical lens and the resource are overwhelming.

      Thanks

    • profile image

      Apex_Carpentry 6 years ago

      Great ideas and pictures of wainscoting. You have some great information. Wainscoting can make a dramatic effect on a room.

    • kimbesa2 profile image

      kimbesa 6 years ago from USA

      Thanks! Love stories that tell how to solve problems. Inspired...and **angel blessed**!

    • passionatehouse profile image

      passionatehouse 6 years ago

      Well done wainscoting job, ane well done lens. I've done some of this myself - it definitely requires some detail work. Looks like yours came out great!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great lens! I love the look of wainscotting, so crisp and clean. I will stop by again, when I tackle my next project.

    • brutus1 lm profile image

      brutus1 lm 6 years ago

      Wow...great improvement! Thanks for all of the tips and details.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I love wainscotting. My son in law recently put it in the peak of a very plain bedroom (mine ;-D) and it transformed the room into something very special.

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 6 years ago from London, England

      Very good lens and nice wainscoting ideas.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wainscoting really does look nice in homes. It adds a nice warmth and makes a place feel cozy. Great lens, better than going to Menards.

    • Christene-S profile image

      Christene-S 6 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 6 years ago

      Very informative lens. Your instructions were very helpful. Blessed by an Angel. This lens will be featured on my angel lens: "angel-on-assignment".

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      Wow! What a beautiful improvement! I love molding and wainscoting in a home. Thanks for the instructions. Awesome!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love the look of wainscoting and your lens, I agree, this is one of the best DIY projects I have seen! Thanks! - Kathy

    • nebby profile image

      nebby 6 years ago from USA

      Wainscoting was one project that I had planned to do when we purchased our home 20 years ago. Never got around to it (either short on time or money) but still plan on.

      You have laid out the information in such an easy to understand way. Love it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is by far the BEST how-to I've ever come across. We are DIY challenged as well... But will be taking this project on in the near future. Thank you!

    • profile image

      WebSpinstress 7 years ago

      Excellent resource for wainscoting - great ideas and tutorials. I'm a huge fan of it myself, and I enjoyed reading about your own DIY adventures! :-)

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 7 years ago from Concord VA

      Great ideas for wainscoting! Lensrolled you back. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Just wanted you to know that I found this very helpful with my "journey" and I have bookmarked this page for future reference.

      Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Enjoyed your lens. I am not a do it yourselver. However, I have always wanted to take and old house or an old car and make it look good. Someone very recently took the house I am in now and completely renovated it inside and out. Looks good. Thanks for the lens.