Adventures in Wainscoting

May 10, 2010

Did you know I’ve had my little heart set on wainscoting in my living room for like ever ?  Have I mentioned this before ?   Perhaps I have. 

So this past weekend was Mother’s Day.  My husband asked the obligatory question, “Dear, love of my life, mother of my children and wife extraordinaire, what is it that you want for Mother’s Day?”  

It took approximately 1.2 seconds for me to shout “Wainscoting!”  

Wish you could have seen him wince. 

I think he was hoping for “Spa Day” or “Chocolate” instead of “Wainscoting” since he had his heart set on a relaxing weekend watching the San Jose Sharks win the playoffs, woot woot !   No, my idea  of relaxation is a home improvement project – call me crazy. 

I started my Saturday morning with some coffee and research.  I learned the following.

thibaut wallpaperWainscot (paneling on the lower part of a wall) comes in many different styles. 

You’ve got your tongue and groove beadboard, board and batten, inverted panel, flat panel, and raised panel wainscoting.  Researching the ‘how to’ is enough to make your head spin.   This Old House has a great article describing all the different kinds of wainscoting.

I had my little heart set on picture frames sitting on top of smooth panels with a chair rail above, or really something that looks a whole lot like this photo to the left. 

Plenty of websites want to sell you prefabricated kits.   Some online articles recommend hiring a carpenter.  For what I had in mind, I was pretty sure we could do it ourselves in a weekend with some simple supplies. 

And so we did ! 

Sort of.  We’re not finished, but we made great progress.

sat a.m.

sun pm

 

Here’s the step by step on our version of this picture frame wainscoting. 

Get your second cup of coffee, you’ll need it.  Boring pictures ahead. 

Supplies: 4” x 8” x 1/8” panelboard cut to height; construction adhesive; chair rail; trim molding; spacers; spackle; caulk.   Tools: jig saw; nail gun with brads (or hammer & finish nails); compound miter saw; level; measuring tape.

We chose to use some smooth 4 x 8 panelboards available at Lowes for $12 dollars each.  They are made by this company, and they are only 1/8 inch thick, so we knew we could place them right on top of our existing 5 inch baseboard and not have to remove the baseboard at all.  Whew, big time saver there. 

We wanted our wainscoting to be 41” high, so we had the panelboards cut to 33” at Lowes – they do it for free.  5” baseboard + 33” panel + 3” chair rail = 41” in height. 

We brought it home and had the panels acclimate to the room temperature and environment for 24 hours. 

 paneling

Well, it’s official. 

That has to be the most boring picture ever posted on the internet. 

I think it deserves a gold star.

 paneling with star 

Yay, that’s much better.

Next, we used a jigsaw to cut out the square around the electrical socket.  switch spacersThen we realized we had to extend the electrical socket to accommodate for the extra 1/8 inch smooth panel we were adding to the wall. 

We used spacers on the mounting screws to extend the outlets so they would be flush with the new paneling.  

When working with electrical outlets, be sure to turn off your power !  Also, check with an electrician and your local codes to make sure you are following the proper procedure.  Safety first !

Once our electrical sockets were extended, we dry tested our panels on the wall to make sure they fit and the seams were straight. 

Next, we added some construction adhesive designed for wood paneling to the backs of the smooth panelboards.

** Update  ** Several people have asked why not just paint the wall and skip the paneling ?  We have troweled walls that are not smooth so it would look obvious, at least to my eyes, that I had painted instead of paneled.   You can still achieve the same look with just paint, but I wanted to add the paneling for the textural difference and since the panels are only $12 each and Lowes cuts them for free, we went for it.    

adhesive

 

Then we secured the panels up on the wall with a brad nail gun.  You could also use finish nails and a good old fashioned hammer, it works just as well. 

brad nailer

 

One other problem you face when tacking up panels and chair rails is gaps between the boards and your door trim, and also gaps in the seams between the boards.  So I used some caulk to fill in those gaps.  

latex sealant

 

Once the chair rail was up, the panels looked like this:

panels up

 

Next, we measured out where we wanted the picture frame boxes to go, then trimmed our molding with the compound miter saw and tacked it to the wall.

I like to use this little level that Santa brought me in my stocking.

chic level

See how it holds your finish nails with a magnetic strip on the side?  Mr. CG called it a “chick tool” but secretly I think he’s jealous.

After my picture frames were attached to my smooth panels, I used a little spackling to fill in the holes. 

I hope you’re paying attention, there will be a quiz at the end. 

patch n paint

 

Once the spackling was dry, I gave my new wainscoting a coat of white paint. 

wainscot after

 

Class, are you with me ?  

Who can tell me the difference between spackle, caulk and wood filler ?

**  crickets chirping  **

Bueller ?

 

Have I put you to sleep ?

If so, feel free to bookmark this page for your future bouts of insomnia. 

 

So by Sunday night at 5:00 p.m. I had one wall looking like this:

wainscot after 2

 

wainscot after side view

1.25 walls complete. 

2.75 walls to go.

So much for this being a one weekend project. 

Next weekend is my husband’s birthday. 

Do you think he’ll ask me for more adventures in wainscoting ? 

My fingers are totally crossed.   

smiley

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