Add Char­ac­ter with a Bead­board Wainscot

If you plan and buy ahead, you can get this room-trans­form­ing project done over a week­end. A wainscot lends pro­por­tion, ar­chi­tec­tural de­tail, tex­ture, and tra­di­tion to a kitchen or bath, hall­way, or in­for­mal room.

Old House Journal - - Ohj -


A bead­board wainscot gen­er­ally comes to chair-rail height. The usual mis­take is to set the chair rail much too high. Clas­si­cal pro­por­tions and his­tor­i­cal prece­dent sug­gest that the chair rail (and thus wainscot height) be about 30" from the floor, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the ceil­ing height—though for prac­ti­cal rea­sons a wainscot is of­ten taller in kitchens and baths. You do not want vis­ually to split the walls in half, or even close. Once you have set­tled on a height, snap a level chalk line around the room. With a stud finder, mark stud lo­ca­tions along the level line and the floor. Re­move any ex­ist­ing base­board— care­fully, if you in­tend to reinstall it. Mea­sure from floor to level line to get the height for cut­ting planks.


Work­ing left to right, in­stall the first tongue-and-groove plank (or panel) in a vis­i­ble out­side or in­side cor­ner. Ap­ply con­struc­tion ad­he­sive to the back and smooth with a notched trowel. With the grooved side abut­ting a cor­ner, nail the board in place with panel nails. Re­peat for the next board, slid­ing its grooved end onto the tongue of the first, leav­ing 1 /16" space for ex­pan­sion. Make sure the top of the board is flush with the level line and check for plumb. Press to bond ad­he­sive with the wall. At studs, nail through a groove in the bead. Cut out out­let open­ings as needed. The last board along a wall may need to be planed to fit. Slide it into place from the top down. Move to the next wall.


On­line tu­to­ri­als can help with mak­ing pre-mitered out­side cor­ner pieces, notch­ing win­dow stool ends, etc. In­stall the chair rail (mould­ing at the top of wainscot), se­cur­ing with fin­ish nails. Miter cor­ners. Re-at­tach the old base­board or in­stall a new one with fin­ish nails. Check that chair rail and base­board are par­al­lel. Ad­just base­board if nec­es­sary; use quar­ter-round shoe mould­ing to cover a gap be­tween floor and base­board. Caulk the gap be­tween chair rail and wall. Fill any vis­i­ble nail holes with spackle (for a painted wainscot) or wood putty (for clear-fin­ished wood). Paint or stain and var­nish as de­sired.

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