Have you ever considered installing wainscoting in a room of your home? It looks great, adding class and elegance to just about any space. However, it can be expensive, especially if put in by a hired professional. Instead, consider doing it on your own. DIY wainscoting doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. It can be a fun and rewarding project that can be done in a weekend.
What Is Wainscoting?
The use of wainscoting began in the 18th century to improve the insulation of homes and individual rooms within them. It was primarily made of wood, and so it also provided a more durable surface than many other materials being used at the time, including sheetrock. As technology and time advanced, the need to insulate a home in this way became obsolete. However, it is still used in homes the world over as decorative wall accent.
The key feature of the design element is that it only covers the bottom portion of a wall; typically the lower third. The height of it highly depends on the look the homeowner wants to achieve. Wainscoting is no longer only made from wood, either. A wide variety of materials such as ceramic tile, wood, MDF (medium-density fiberboard), embossed metal, drywall, and even PVC plastic can now achieve whatever look is desired for just about any room.
Tips And Mistakes To Avoid
Completing your DIY wainscoting can be a fun and fulfilling project for your home. However, there are ways it can go wrong. Note these tips to make sure your DIY wainscoting project goes off without a hitch:
Consider The Material
One common mistake is to assume that all wainscoting is created equal and will work well in your space. Be sure to consider what room you are adding DIY wainscoting to, as this can make all the difference. For example, bathrooms, kitchens, or laundry/mud rooms typically have a generous amount of dampness. Therefore, MDF or softwoods may not be the best option. Instead, you may want to consider something like PVC, metal, or ceramic tile.
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However, you will also want to note that these different materials will also create a unique look and feel than wood might. You will also want to notice the trim or baseboards already present in your space. Any design you implement should complement these unless you are replacing them.
Get Correct Measurements
The single most crucial step in just about any DIY project is measuring correctly. This is no different with DIY wainscoting. Every wall, corner, window, door casing, stairway, baseboard, or any other particular element to the room should be measured in exact detail. These measurements must be precise to get the right materials and supplies for the job and to complete it. Wainscoting is designed to add symmetry to a room or wall. All it takes is one small miscalculation or misread measurement to create a rather significant problem.
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It is also essential to consider your ceiling height before you buy materials. While you might envision a whole wall of wainscoting, it may create the appearance of a stuffy room. A good rule of thumb to follow is to divide the height of your wall by three and cover the lowest section. However, if your ceilings are high, you may get away with covering half of your wall or even all of it in wainscoting. This is where the next tip comes in handy.
Lay Out Your Panels
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Once you have purchased all your materials, whether railings and molding or single piece panels, lay them out around your room just as they will be on the wall. This helps you to get the full picture of what your finished product will look like. It also enables you to notice any discrepancies you may have missed and make adjustments as necessary.
One thing to note in any room where wainscoting is to be installed is the placement of outlets and light switches. As you are measuring your space and laying out your pieces, you will want to make sure that outlets are not located where they will be problematic. This will depend on how you construct or install your DIY wainscoting.
If you find that moving outlets is necessary or will make for a better appearance, make sure you are doing so according to your local electrical codes. If you do not know how to do this on your own, contact a professional electrician.
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Many professionals recommend painting railings, joints, and moldings before installing them on your wall. This will make the painting process more manageable, as you no longer have to worry about getting paint where you don’t want it. Also, to avoid brush strokes in your paint, consider spraying the paint on or using appropriately sized rollers. Don’t forget to touch up any chips or scratches in your paint or finish when the job is complete.
Installing DIY Wainscoting Like A Pro
There are two main ways to install DIY wainscoting in your home. The difference is mainly in the price and how much work you will put into the project.
Single-Piece Wainscoating Panels
For those who will spend a little more but may not have a lot of time, single piece panels are recommended. These are prefabricated, single piece sections that can be customized for any wainscoting look, adding instant class to any room. You choose your style, height and size requirements, and the material you want it made from and it comes to your door ready to install. You can also choose complementary cap rails and base molding.
Once they arrive, you will need to measure them to make sure they are correctly sized. You may need to trim some or use shims below them if your walls or floors are not exactly perpendicular. You will then need to cut out any holes for outlets or other interfering structures such as a window or door casing.
When your panels are correctly measured and sized, installation can begin. To give the most professional look possible, minimize the number of nails used. Instead, use heavy duty glue such as Liquid Nails. Some nails may be needed to support the panels as this glue dries; however it is crucial only to attach them to the studs and use as few as possible.
After the panels are in place and secured on the walls, it’s time to finish it out. If you are adding a cap rail or any other moldings, these can be attached using nails and glue as well. We recommended cutting these using a scarf joint (comprising two 45-degree cuts in opposite directions) facing away from the most common view of the room when joining two pieces of this together.
When all pieces are put on the wall, you can set all nail heads and fill them with spackle or wood putty. Then caulk all your seams and let dry. The last step is to finish as desired. You may need to apply a primer and topcoat or just a polyurethane, depending on the desired style.
Using Railings And Stiles
The above approach can be rather expensive. A simple solution is to create the same look by using what appears to be picture frames that are then evenly spaced throughout the room with a chair rail or border at the top of the wainscoting space.
The first step is to measure your room exactly and decide on the style and size of DIY wainscoting you want. From there you can determine the number of frames and, therefore, the number of materials you will need. Don’t forget to include any upper or lower moldings.The frames can be made of anything you want, depending on the overall design to be achieved. Base cap molding is a popular choice and can be found in a wide variety of styles at most home centers. Some homeowners use panel molding for this instead, for its thicker and wider structure.
Once your supplies have been gathered, it’s time to construct your frames/panels. Cut your pieces to size, measuring each time carefully. Using a miter saw set at 45 degrees to the right cut one end of your molding. Change the saw to 45 degrees to the right to cut the other end at the final length.
Piece your frames together, making sure they fit well together and making adjustments where it is needed. Glue the pieces together at the corners and secure with a nail. Wipe away any excess glue as soon as possible. Continue until all of your frames are complete.Depending on the look you are going for, paint or stain your pieces if need be.
Once your pieces are dry, lay them out in the room where they will be attached. Measure out where each part, moldings or frames, will go and mark it on the wall. We recommended using a spacer block on all sides to make sure your measurements are correct and that each frame is placed evenly on the walls.
When attaching the frames and molding to the wall, use glue along each edge and put on its place on the wall. Holding the frame in place, use nails every 5-8 inches to secure it. Continue around the room until all frames and moldings are in place.
Installing DIY wainscoting in your home doesn’t have to be a chore or expensive. It can be a cost-effective and straightforward way to give your home or room an upper-class feel even with a tight budget. Just follow these tips and guidelines to ensure your room looks professional and flawless.