More sophisticated and elegant looking than standard beadboard paneling, raised panel wainscoting features a beveled-edge design rather than vertical slats. Raised panel wainscoting consists of several components: the panels, stiles, top railing, top cap, base railing and shoe trim. The installation is more complex than with beadboard, so a high degree of planning is needed. It's an ambitious project, but with the necessary tools and a do-it-yourself mentality, it's well within the scope of the amateur carpenter.
Step 1: Preparation
Remove all baseboards, switch plates and outlet cover plates from the walls to be refinished. Move furniture and any other obstacles well out of the way. Lay out the design. The raised paneling consists of a stile-panel-stile pattern, and so forth. Set the pieces against the wall to determine their placement and where you'll have to make cuts for corners or outlets.
Step 2: Measure and Mark
Draw a horizontal height line on the wall exactly 42.5 inches above the floor. Use the long level to ensure it's perfectly straight. Don't assume the floor is even. The wall line should be your guide, for the baseboards will cover up any unevenness on the floor. With the stud finder, locate and mark the center of every wall stud along the length of the line, intersecting the marks with the horizontal line. Extend the center stud line down from the height line to the floor with a straight edge.
Step 3: Install Base Rail
The base or bottom rail will be installed first. A pneumatic nail gun is the easiest tool for the task of affixing the boards. If unavailable, a hammer and finish nails work. You'll have to countersink the nail heads, though. Begin at the most level point in the room and frequently check the board's evenness with the level.
Step 4: Stiles and Panels
Beginning with the center stile determined by your layout, affix it to the wall with adhesive. Continue in the pattern, stile-panel-stile-panel, etc. The vertical lines and height lines will help guide you, but frequently check that the stiles and panels are both level and plumb. Ideally, any outlets will fall in the middle of a panel. Mark their position on the back of the panel, make small pilot holes with the drill, and use the coping saw to cut out the shape. Later on, you'll have to install an extender for the outlet. When you hit a corner, you may A) have to rip a stile with the table saw to fit or B) rip and re-router a panel. If you're lucky, the pieces will fit perfectly along each wall.
Step 5: Top and Cap Rails
After the panels, install the top rail with nails countersunk into the studs at 1/16 inch. Use the miter saw to cut the appropriate angles for joining rails at 90 degrees. The cap railing follows the top rail. It should be nailed and glued.
Step 6: Shoe Rail
The final installation step is the shoe railing, the small strip of moulding that runs along the bottom of the baseboard. It adds a touch of grandeur and helps conceal any gaps caused by an uneven floor.
Step 7: Spackle and Caulk
Cover all countersunk nails with spackle. Once dry, lightly sand it to blend it in with the unfinished wood. Run a bead of caulk to fill in any other seams. Once finished, you are ready to paint.