Super Easy DIY Wainscoting
This DIY wainscoting project is my favorite home renovation project that we have done. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait to share the results.
DIY Wainscoting is a project that anyone can do. You need some really basic tools like a saw, hammer, nail gun, tape measure, and paint supplies. Depending on the size of your room, you can complete this project in a day if you work fast.
This room looked like this for months.
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The project starts up fast with cutting and nailing boards. After the boards go up, that’s when the work begins. Puttying, sanding, caulking, and painting. All four of those tasks are at the bottom of the favorite pile and (naturally) that is what I was in charge of with this wainscoting project. Wainscoting or board and batten? Honestly, I’m not sure. I have called it both.
Another before and after.
Choosing the size of framing boards
At our house we have a 5.5″ baseboard around the house. That made our base board selection easy. Just use what was already there.
For the top piece and the vertical separators, we used a 3.5″ board. The bottom is slightly larger than the sides and top, which I believe gave it a really nice appearance of depth overall. I believe if we would have went with 5.5″ all the way around it would have been too bulky.
I have also seen others use molded trim with additional designs. For us, cutting those 45 degree angles and possibly mitering corners was a no-go for molded trim. Using flat boards kept the project simple so that anyone could do it.
- 3.5″ x .5″ primed boards (top piece and separators)
- 5.5″ x .5″ primed board (baseboard)
- Nail gun
- 1 3/4 ” nails
- Paintable caulk + caulking gun
- Putty – I like this one because it goes on pink and dries white.
- Sanding blocks
- Paint – I used Benjamin Moore’s, Cloud White.
- My walls in the main living room is Revere Pewter, the hallway is Classic Grey.
TBK’s Pro Tip: For paint, I used both the Ben line and the Aura line in my rooms. Go with Aura. You save so much time.
How I did it:
Measurements and Spacing
Floor to top of wainscoting: 36″
Spacing in between: 24″
This was our ideal choice for spacing. 36″ tall by 24″ wide. Depending on your room size however, you will need to adjust. In some of our rooms we went a little bigger, and in some we have slightly different size panels on the same wall to accommodate the space.
The most important part about creating your own wainscotting is to get your top line straight and then fill in squares as you deem appropriate for the room.
Things to consider to determine spacing for your wainscot panels:
- Do you have furniture or a TV that your vertical lines should frame or try and match?
- You will want to always have multiple panels to ensure the effect you are going for is understood. If you have a smaller wall, the vertical spacing will need to be smaller.
- My personal preference is that the vertical spacing remain consistent throughout all walls in a given room. So if one of the walls in the room is shorter, decide how that will affect your design throughout the other walls in the room.
Caulk to remove the seems
Caulking is the savior of this project. As you can tell with the following two images, it fills the cracks and makes everything look seamless. Use putty on the nail holes (and any dings in the walls or the wood) and fill the gaps and cracks with caulk (just make sure it’s paintable).
To create really even caulk lines, run a light bead of calk as consistently as possible directly in the adjoining cracks. There are a number of tools available to help the caulk smooth, but for me, a finger does the trick. Just lightly run your finger down the bead of caulk to press it into the crack and create an even seamless look.
We also used a simple putty to fill in all the nail holes. Again, a finger application works great. Apply the putty, let it dry, and take a really light sand paper to it to make it disappear.
Choosing the right colors
In both living rooms, the Cloud White wainscotting is paired with Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter. In the hallway, it’s paired with Classic Grey. For me it was important for the batten board elements to have some contrast with the other color on the wall. The contrasting paint colors helped the simple design to pop a little bit more and take on a deeper 3D appearance.
I do believe you could paint the wainscot dark and the upper part of the wall light and it would look great too. The most important part is to have different colors on the wall to provide that illusion of greater depth.
Two coats of paint
The Benjamin Moore paints covered everything well in two fast coats. Because we used primed boards all the way around, it was simple to tape a top line on the wall and then use a roller and brush to apply the neutral color to the panels.
As you can see in the photos, we covered both the framing boards and the inside of the panels in the same color. The first coat looked good, but after looking at it again the next day, it was obvious we needed a second. The second coat of paint made it perfect!
Once things dried just a bit, we removed the tape we placed on the wall, and applied new tape to the top edge of our paneling.
Pro Tip : Take extra time to get this step right as the line could make or break the project.
We then applied new paint to the top of the wall.
More DIY house projects I’ve done: