• DIY Wainscoting

    Finished Wainscoting


    Several days before painting or installation, bring the panels inside to acclimate them to your house. Stack them horizontally, placing thin blocks of wood between the panels so air can circulate. This allows any excess moisture to escape and helps reduce expansion or contraction.

    •  Remove any base moldings in the room where you will be applying the panels; you’ll add new ones to complete the project.
    •  If your panels are unfinished, painting or staining them before installation is better. .
    •  Note: Use safety equipment for the cutting, sanding, and painting necessary to complete the project.


    What You Need

    •  Beadboard panels
    •  Base molding
    •  Cap molding
    •  Electrical outlet box extenders
    •  Construction adhesive
    •  Finishing nails and brads
    •  Paintable caulk and putty
    •  Paint
    •  Tape measure
    •  Carpenter’s level or water level
    •  Chalk line
    •  Safety goggles
    •  Handsaw or circular saw
    •  Jigsaw or keyhole saw
    •  Hammer and nail set or air-driven nail gun
    •  Miter box
    •  Caulk gun
    •  Paintbrush or roller


    Step 1

    Chalk lineBecause most floors are not level, you’ll want to create a level line on the wall to mark the top of your panel installation. Base molding installed later will disguise any variance at the bottom edges. Choose a starting point on your wall, and measure the desired height of the wainscoting. (Remember that the cap molding applied along the top edge of the beaded-board panels will add slightly to the finished height.) From that point, use a level to draw a horizontal line and extend it around the room. Use a chalk line to connect the points.

    Step 2

    Using a handsaw or circular saw, cut the panels to the desired height. Measure the positions of any outlets or other electrical boxes on the wall, then sketch the dimensions onto the backs of the corresponding panels with a pencil. Use a jigsaw or keyhole saw to cut the holes. Install a box extender at each electrical point to contain wires.

    Step 3

    Construction AdhesiveSqueeze construction adhesive in a zigzag pattern onto the wall side of a panel and press the panel into place. Nail along the edges as indicated by the manufacturer. If you’re hammering the nails by hand, use a nail set to indent each nail so you can cover it with putty. Repeat with the remaining panels. As you apply each panel, make sure you space and overlap them according to manufacturer recommendations. This allows the panels to expand and contract in response to seasonal humidity and temperature changes.

    Step 4

    Miter BoxUse a miter box to cut angled joints on the cap molding where walls meet. Fasten the cap molding with brads at the tops of the panels. Install base molding with brads.

    Step 5

    Fill visible nail holes with putty, and caulk gaps as necessary. Touch up with paint.

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