How to Combine Beadboard Wainscot and Drywall

White beadboard below beige wall
  • 2-40 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50-1,000
What You'll Need
Beadboard (either prefab sheets or individual slats)
Finish nails
Miter saw
Utility knife
Drywall mud
Drywall tape
Drywall knife
Tape measure
Wood trim for cap

Beadboard wainscot installed over drywall creates an aesthetically pleasing, traditional look in whatever room you decide to incorporate it. Wainscoting is a decorative effect in which the bottom four or five feet of a wall are covered with some type of patterned wood with a baseboard finishing the bottom and a cap on the top. The upper portion of the wall remains as it is–either painted or wallpapered.

Traditionally wainscoting served a practical purpose. It helped to delay the effects of rising moisture that would rot away the lower part of an interior wall. Nowadays it is part of the décor. Real beadboard comes in thin strips that are about 2 ½ inches thick. When aligned with the next piece, they form a bead between them. Imitation beadboard comes in prefabricated sheets that are thinner and less hassle to work with because it already resembles several slats nailed together. Combining beadboard with drywall will create wainscoting, but there is an order to it.

Step 1 - Measure and Hang Drywall

The first step in combining drywall and beadboard to create wainscoting is to hang the drywall from ceiling to floor. It will take some time getting all the measurements and making the necessary holes in the drywall for the various fixtures. The entire area that will have beadboard installed should be hung with drywall first.

Step 2 - Drywall Mud and Tape

Cutting through sheetrock for an outlet

Everywhere the pieces of drywall come together, whether they are seams at the corners or in between adjacent pieces, cover with drywall tape and mud to prepare the drywall for eventual priming and painting or wallpapering.

Step 3 - Fixtures

Any outlet boxes or other preliminary containers for light switches, lamps or other in-wall fixtures set in place now. At this point you are just putting in the boxes that will be concealed later on.

Step 4 - Measure and Cut the Beadboard

If you are using imitation beadboard sheets, measure how much of it you need per wall and make the necessary straight cuts with a straightedge and a utility knife. If you are using the traditional 2 ½ inch slats, you have to determine how many you will need per wall and blind nail them together with finish nails. The sheets are typically 4x8 feet. Wainscoting that is four feet in height is commonly installed. Make sure the slats are the same length. Make sure you make the necessary cuts in the beadboard to compensate for fixtures as well.

Step 5 - Install Beadboard

close up of white beadboard

The beadboard sheets can simply be adhered to the drywall using a special adhesive. Make sure the cuts are in the right place and there are no buckles or bumps when you glue the beadboard to the drywall. Glue the traditional slats to the drywall in the same manner.

Step 6 - Paint or Wallpaper

Depending on how you are going to decorate the upper part of the wall, at least complete the section immediately above the beadboard before you install the cap. Prime the drywall, texture it and paint it first. If you are going to lay wallpaper, it would be better to do it first.

Step 7 - Paint or Stain the Beadboard

If the beadboard is already decorated, forgo this step. If you have to first paint it or stain it, do so before you install the baseboard and cap.

Step 8 - Cap and Baseboard

After the upper wall is decorated and the beadboard is finished, finish the cap and baseboard for the entire room and prepare to install it. Use a miter saw to make the necessary cuts (before you finish). Attach them to the beadboard or wall with finish nails.

Combining drywall with beadboard involves several distinct steps, but when done right it will create a lovely traditional wainscoting look that will give the room an old fashioned charm.