The costs of installing beadboard wainscoting will vary depending on what materials you decide to use. The primary expense will consist of the actual beadboard or, more specifically, whether you opt to use real beadboard or imitation beadboard paneling. In addition to this main cost, you will spend money on any stain or paint you decide to use, sanding utensils and finish nails. Lastly, there is the added expense of the cap pieces and baseboards to finish out the project.
First Decision: Beadboard or Paneling
The decision that will affect the price of the project the most is whether you use real beadboard or paneling. Real beadboard is usually sold in packages measured in square feet. The wood beadboard comes in strips that measure about 2 1/2 inches in width. Each strip is usually 8 feet in length. The product is called beadboard because each strip has a tongue running along one edge and a groove along the other. When joined lengthwise, the tongue fits into the groove of the next piece and creates a bead.
Beadboard packages come in many varieties, from real wood to MDF. Real wood such as pine is going to be more expensive, but it is going to look nicer as well. MDF is often pre-primed and less expensive, but depending on the look you are going for, it might seem a little cheap. If it is going to be painted, however, MDF will work fine. For natural finishes, though, real soft wood is preferable. You should expect to spend over $1 per square foot for real wood beadboard. MDF will be slightly less expensive.
Paneling, on the other hand, is even less expensive than MDF. Per square foot, imitation beadboard paneling will be between $.50 and $.75. The reduced price is an advantage of paneling, but it does not look nearly as nice as real wood. Paneling comes in many styles. From a distance, it resembles actual beadboard. Close up, however, it feels and looks like paneling.
Caps and Baseboards
The next major expense for beadboard installation is for the cap pieces and baseboards. Cap or trim pieces come in a variety of styles and are sold in 10 foot lengths. The more ornamental the design and the more desirable the wood, the higher the cost will be. Because there are so many different types of wood trim, you can expect to spend anywhere from $.30 to $2.50 per foot of wood. The same rule applies to baseboards. Wood type and style will alter the price drastically. If you have the tools and the skills, you can manufacture your own trim and baseboards, but it will add time to the project.
Paint, stain and hardware for attaching the beadboard, trim and baseboards to the drywall are negligible, but they are necessary to get the job done. Finish nails, sanding implements and a variety of stains and finishes should be kept around your home shop anyway to be used when you need them. By far the biggest expense will be the beadboard you decide to install. Real wood beadboard slats will set you back the most money, but they will also look the nicest.