How to do Easy Wainscoting

Last summer we bought our first home.  It was very exciting. There's so many things about being homeowners that my husband and I really enjoy.  But making the home really ours has been the most thrilling.

Early on we knew exactly what we wanted our dining room to look like.  However we had No Idea where to even start.  So I started my research.  I had no idea what wainscoting was.  I just knew I liked this look-- but what was that bottom wall stuff called?

BM Revere Pewter
Image Source

Eventually, with the help of Houzz I discovered what it was that I liked so much-- Wainscoting!

With that helpful keyword, I began my research.  I read tons of tutorials and pinned the useful ones on my Home pinterest page of how to do wainscoting.

But really, we used this tutorial by Make it and Love it (one of my favorite bloggers- anyways) and this one by Jenna Sue and mixed them up and made them our own.

We thought about covering the walls, like the Make it and Love it post, but our walls really aren't textured and we decided it was a lot of extra work that we didn't need to do.  It was then that we came across the Jenna Sue post and learned about using our original baseboards and building the thin wood on top.  It was just what we were looking for.

Here's how we did it!

Materials Needed
1. Paint
2. Primer
3. Wood Filler
4. Caulk/caulk gun
5. Wood glue
6. Poplar boards (1/4" x 48" x 2") = underneath chair rail and under the crown molding on windows
7. Poplar boards (1/4" x 48" x 3") = vertical slats
8. Poplar boards (1/4" x 48" x 4") = vertical window and door trim
9. Crown molding = above the windows
9. Saws = Miter and jigsaw
10. Sander
11. Brad nail gun

For those of you not too interested in reading all the details, here's the quickest explanation of what we did.

For the rest of's the nitty gritty:

STEP ONE:  Prepare the walls.  
For us, this included taking off that terrible, faded gingerbread man boarder, and weird corner wall wood-things.  Then we had to decide on our wall color.

STEP TWO: Paint your top paint color going down far enough to where your wainscoting will be.
  We looked at many, many different hues of blue, but finally settled on Buckland Blue.

STEP THREE:  Glue and staple (using nail brads) the boards onto the walls.
We used poplar boards because they were smooth and worked great.  We used the 4" boards to trim the windows and the doorways.  We used the 3" boards for all our vertical slats.  The 2" boards were on top of our vertical slats (underneath the chair rail) and under the crown molding, on top of the windows.

We started with the 4" boards that were the trim to the doorways and windows, then we placed the horizontal 2" boards all around the room. We wanted a good level surface to work with so we were very careful leveling each horizontal board. We wanted our wainscoting to come up 38 inches, so after subtracting the height of the baseboards and the chair rail, we nailed the 2" boards 32.5 inches off the ground.

Once we had those in place, we cut the vertical slats and placed them around the room, 16 inches apart. We had to play with the placements a little to ensure it looked good going around the corners and so we had equal numbers on both sides of the wall. Sometimes the spacing was 16.5 inches to make a corner look good and other time it is 15 inches. But once it was done, you can't tell there was a difference in the spacing.We quickly discovered our floors we not perfectly level, so sometimes we had to cut a vertical slat 32 inches and other times 33 inches, even though the majority of them were just about 32.5 inches. So instead of cutting them all at once, they were all individually measured and cut. This added a considerable amount of time to the project.

STEP FOUR:  Wood fill all the staples and spots where the wood meets.

STEP FIVE:  Once dry, sand down the wood filler until smooth.

STEP SIX:  Any board pieces that are over outlets should be carefully measured and cut out with a jigsaw.

STEP SEVEN:  Measure and cut out the chair rail to fit in each corner, make sure the corner fit at 45* angles.
Then staple the chair rail on top of 2" boards.

STEP EIGHT:  Wood fill staples and sand smooth.

STEP NINE:  For the windows, measure and cut out the crown molding to be placed on top of the 2" boards.  Cut crown molding with a 45* angle to make a cap, with a miter saw.  Staple and glue in place.  Then fill in the staples with wood filler and sand down.  Any gaps can be filled with caulk.

STEP TEN:  Once everything is stapled in place and filled and sanded smooth, it's time to Caulk everywhere. Basically everywhere where there's a gap, it needs to be caulked.
 I liked caulking it with the gun, then using a wet finger to smooth it down and into place.  I kept a wet paper towel in a bowl and re-wet my finger very often.

STEP ELEVEN:  Prime everything!

Because I was covering red and did not ever want to see any red, or even a hint of pink, I ended up priming just my red walls twice.

Then I did a third layer of prime on the red walls and a first layer all over the wood.

With the primer over everything I could finally see a hint of what we were hoping for.  It was very exciting!

STEP TWELVE:  Paint everything!
I painted everything Ultra White, it was semi-gloss.  It was paint and primer in one, so I basically did four layers of primer (only necessary if you're covering red).
And guess who happily does not see any more red in my dining room?
  Yep, me.

All done!  Enjoy your beautiful new room.
  It really wasn't that hard, but a bit time consuming.

The room is so bright day and night it really is one of my favorite places in the home, now.

One last before and after to make me happy.

This wasn't the only place we added wainscoting.
Check in next week to see what we did to the living room.


annie said…
Looks fantastic. You guys did a great job.

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