Installing Wainscoting

Add to the durability and beauty of your wall by installing wainscoting.

Installing Wainscoting

A traditional wall treatment that lends a quiet air of quality and warmth to a room, wainscoting also makes an extremely durable wall because it resists dents and scuffs better than drywall.

Wainscoting includes any type of paneling applied to the bottom portion of a wall. The tongue-and-groove, beaded-board wainscoting in this project is one of the most popular styles. Beaded board is available in various widths and in thicknesses from 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch. This project uses 1/4-inch-thick boards under 1/2-inch-thick baseboard to match the thickness of 3/4-inch-thick door and window casings.

Checklist

Time
About 6 hours for an 8-foot section of wainscoting

Tools
Tape measure, chalk line, chop saw or miter box, hammer, nail set, circular saw, jigsaw, block plane

Skills
Measuring and laying out, crosscutting, driving finish nails

Prep
Empty room of all furnishings

Materials
1/4-inch-thick beaded tongue-and-groove boards, 1/2x4-inch baseboard, cap molding, 8d and 4d finishing nails, construction adhesive, wood glue

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Step 1

This project uses a 1/2-inch cap rail. Snap a level chalk line 1/2 inch below the height you select for the cap rail. Cut 1/4-inch-thick beaded tongue-and-groove boards 1/4 inch shorter than the height. Position the tops of the boards along the chalk line to leave a gap at the floor.

Step 2

Apply a bead of construction adhesive to the back of each board. Insert the tongue of each board into the groove of the board before. To snug the board without damaging the groove, put the tongue of a 1-foot scrap of tongue-and-groove board into the groove of the piece you are installing. Then tap on the groove side of the scrap with your hammer.

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Step 3

Turn off power to the room at the circuit box. Disconnect the receptacle or switch. Use a jigsaw to cut boards to fit around the box. Insert a box extender to move electrical outlet and switch boxes out 1/4 inch. Reconnect the switch or receptacle and replace the cover plate before turning the power back on.

Step 4

Put the second-to-last piece before a corner in place without adhesive. Measure from the base of the tongue to the wall at top and bottom. If the measurements differ, transfer them to the top and bottom of the last piece to lay out a tapered cut. Make the cut with a saber saw.

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Step 5

Because of the tongue, the last two pieces at a corner must be snapped in place together. Put adhesive on the wall. Fit the last two pieces together. Bend them a bit at the joint and fit the second-to-last tongue into place. Press at the joint to snap the last two pieces into place.

Step 6

Before installing the first piece that turns an inside corner, shave the tongue off with a block plane. Install the piece with the planed edge toward the corner.

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Step 7

Attach 1/2x4-inch baseboard over the bottom of the wainscoting by driving two 8d finishing nails into each stud.

Step 8

Attach a cap molding along the top of the wainscot to cover the top edge of the paneling. At the corner, use yellow carpenter's glue and 4d nails driven at a slight angle toward the wall to ensure they don't come through the face of the top molding.

What If... You Have to Turn an Outside Corner? Step 1

If your wainscoting wraps around an outside corner, put the last piece in place without adhesive. Mark with a sharp pencil the location of the corner along the back of the piece. Using a table saw or handheld power saw, cut to the pencil line but don't cut away the line. The idea is to allow the last piece to extend very slightly past the corner, thereby creating a tight joint with the next piece.

What If... You Have to Turn an Outside Corner? Step 2

Use a table saw or block plane to remove the tongue from the piece that turns the corner. Put construction adhesive on the piece and attach it with the planed face flush to the face of the adjacent piece.


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