Around the House: Spice Up Your Room With Wainscoting!

Looking to update you home interior's look? Wainscoting could be the answer. You can do it -- and Home Depot's Mike Cartozzo can help!

What Is Wainscoting?

The decorative term wainscoting refers to paneling or planking and trim attached to the wall. Installation is typically one-third of the room height, but real drama can be created in a dining room by reversing that proportion and making the wainscoting the main feature of the room.

Tips For Wainscoting

Condition Your Planks: In order to minimize the expansion and contraction of your planks you must take the following steps prior to installation:

– Open all packages and place planks flat with spacers in between the planks to allow air to circulate.

– Allow 72 hours for the planks to adjust to the humidity and temperature of the room in which they are being installed.

– Seal the back and all four edges of each plank with a good quality paint if your installation is in a high humidity area such as a bathroom with a tub or shower. Take care not to flood the tongue and groove with paint.

Wall preparation: If your walls are in good condition you may glue and/or nail the planks directly onto drywall, plywood, or existing paneling.

Check for plumb: The first plank is the key to a successful and easy installation. Using a level, make sure the first plank is absolutely straight. Where necessary, scribe then plane the long edge to assure a plumb fit.

General: Angle all nails for greater holding power. Hammer nail to within 1/8” of face then finish with a nail set. If gluing, use a panel adhesive and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Tap boards into place with hammer and a wood block to protect the planking.

Wainscoting Styles

• Tongue-and-groove Beaded Board: This is the most common type, with the edges between the boards having a ridge or bead

• Flat-Plank Tongue-and-Groove: These planks do not have the bead running between planks

• Horizontal Panels Set in Frames: These panels are similar to a row of traditional cabinet doors. Sometimes there is a bead running down the center of each board so that a single board looks like a pair

• Plywood Wainscoting Sheeting: A fairly inexpensive and easy to install option. There are also several kinds of moldings that can be used for chair rail. And, if you want to get creative, you can combine moldings to create new, custom looks


• Base Trim: Make certain the base trim molding has the pre-grooved end up before it is nailed or glued. Cut that base trim piece to length and apply to wall, making certain the trim lengths are aligned on the wall.

• Wainscoting: Place each piece of wainscoting into groove and secure by either nailing or gluing. Work left to right if you are right handed or right to left if you are left handed. Each piece is tongue and grooved for better fit and easier application. Do not force fit lengths together. Allow 1/32” in groove between lengths to compensate for expansion and contraction.

• Chair rail: After all wainscoting lengths have been installed to base molding, apply decorative chair rail trim on top of wainscoting to complete the job. Decorative chair rail trim is pre-grooved on the bottom to fit over the wainscot planks.

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