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.
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.
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.
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 WainscotingClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Wainscoting Ideas We Found, But Didn't Use
- Wainscoting Panel Kits
This is a kit we seriously considered. There are several designs. The Wall Panel kit was the most affordable. They have a number of training videos as well which provided valuable information. I'll post the first in the video tutorial series below to
- RJ Wainscoting Panels
These were some pre-made panels we found and considered for our project.
- Wainscoting America
This video shows you some pre-made panels/kits available through Wainscoting America.
- Stinson Waiscoting
These were some panels we also considered. Although it says they ship only within Canada, at some point, it says in their FAQ they will ship to the US as well.
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.
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.