How to Complete a DIY Wainscoting Project

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Tape measure
6d finishing nails
Stud finder

Wainscot is a paneled wooden lining of a wall in a home. It is often found in dining rooms and bathrooms, although it can be used for a decorative and architectural touch in any room of the house. For any DIY wainscoting aficionado, this is a relatively easy project with the basic steps outlined below.

Prefabricated wood paneling comes in 36-inch or 42-inch pieces. It is the easiest and least expensive material for DIY wainscoting, especially if it comes pre-finished. The more expensive, but better looking method, is to use 3/8-inch tongue-and-groove bead board, which usually sold in packages of 8-inch lengths. Select a grooved or bead board type paneling, a chair rail, and baseboard from any building supply.

Step 1 - Measure

Measure the walls you plan to add DIY wainscoting, and make the appropriate cuts on the boards. Always cut paneling from the back side to hide the splintered face.

Step 2 - Pre-Stain

Pre-stain or prime and paint all wood paneling and trim. Add 2 to 3 coats of Tung oil or varnish afterward, noting the recommended drying time on the container. Lightly sand with 220-grit sandpaper between coats to achieve the best results from you DIY wainscoting project. Use a rag-tipped screwdriver to remove excess stain in any grooves.

Step 3 - Locate Studs

On the walls where you plan to attach the DIY wainscoting, pre-mark where the studs are using a battery powered stud finder. Locate a common stud; others will be either 16-inches or 24-inches apart. Mark the location of studs on the floor or carpet with blue masking tape. Windows will have 2 studs at the sides and outlets are always nailed to a stud.

Step 4 - Cut Paneling

Cut paneling holes for electrical boxes in your DIY wainscoting, but remember to flip the circuit breaker before working with the electricity. Cover plate first, unscrew the outlet, and feed it through the hole in the paneling. Screw the outlet cover to the paneling. If the old cover plates are too small, oversize plates are available at any electrical supply.

Step 5 - Apply Base and Rail

Apply the base and rail of your DIY wainscoting to the wall studs with 6d finish nails or a pneumatic finish gun and compressor which you can get at any tool rental place.

Step 6 - Attach Paneling

Attach the paneling tight to the window and caulk if needed. Carefully notch the window sills for paneling with a fine tooth handsaw and small chisel. The baseboard and rail of the DIY wainscoting may be thicker than the window trim, so cut a slight bevel on the ends to match existing trim. Inside corners are tough, but a simple square block nailed into the corner to butt the trim will make the tight joints easier.

Step 7 - Bevel

For a finishing touch on your DIY wainscoting project, slightly bevel the top and bottom of corner blocks.

To give give a new look to your home with another design project, how about Refacing the kitchen cabinets?