Basic Board and Batten

January 11, 2011

Board and batten is all the rage in DIY land, and for very good reason.  It’s a fantastic way to add architectural interest to your home and a project any homeowner can tackle.  Board and batten adds clean lines, breaks up bare walls, and complements many styles of modern homes, and these days it’s de rigueur to install it yourself, and then blog about it. 

I call my project basic board and batten because for me it was extremely simple to install, but that was because I had no corners to deal with, no strange angles to cut or windows to work around.  Just a simple light switch to accommodate along a straight wall. We did a full room of board and batten, you can read about that here.

basic board and batten

I’m going to install this same board and batten treatment in my son’s room, and in that space, I will run into all those issues named above, so I’ll be sure to do a follow up post addressing those more difficult cuts and installation when I tackle that project later this year.

For yesterday’s before and after project, I had the four supplies I needed to whip up this wall treatment rather quickly:  1) pre-primed MDF, 2) a compound miter saw, 3) a fast brad nailer/compressor, and 4) a handy husband helping me cut and nail boards on his extended lunch hour.  

Installing Simple Board & Batten

My Supplies:  4 x 8” panel (1/8 inch thick);  ½ x 3 ½” pre primed MDF boards for base and top; ¼ x 2 ¼ pre primed MDF boards for battens; ¼ x 2 ¼ strip for ledge; 11/16” cove molding; jigsaw; compound miter saw; brad nailer; Gorilla glue; spackle, caulk. 

1) Remove your existing baseboards if their thickness will not accommodate the bottom of your battens (the vertical strips).  Most existing baseboards will not allow for the battens to sit on top, which is why I replaced it (see below). We talk about cutting and reusing baseboards for board and batten in this post.

new baseboard



Before you shop for supplies, measure measure and remeasure your wall, starting at the baseboard and taking the width measurement every 18” or so until you reach the height where you want to stop on your wall.  Decide how far apart you want your battens to be, it’s up to you, but 12” to 16” in distance works well, and map out a sketch to take with you to the home improvement store.   

(Optional) If you have smooth walls, you can skip the addition of a smooth panel below.  In this loft, the homeowners have ‘orange peel’ texture, so to provide contrast and a smooth wall below, I purchased a 4’ x 8’ flat panel at Lowes (the same boards used for our own picture frame wainscoting project) and attached it to the wall with construction adhesive and a few brad nails.  Be sure to notch out any light switches or electrical outlets with a jigsaw. 

2)  Attach the new ½ inch thick baseboard below, and the same ½ inch x 3 ½ board above.  (Ignore that skinny trim piece you see below next to the baseboard, that’s the cove molding that’s installed much later).  You can see the panel had been notched to make room for the light fixture all the way to the left.



3) Now that your top board is set, map out the placement and distance of your battens, then cut those pieces with your compound miter saw.  Use a level and brad nailer to secure them in place. 

level and brad nailer

You’ll save more money for larger projects than this by cutting up one board of MDF at your home improvement store, but you’ll have to prime/paint them after they’re cut.  For this simpler smaller project, I bought the individual boards at Lowes that are pre-primed on all sides. 

4) To create the small shelf on top, run a strip of Gorilla glue, lay your ledge down, then again secure with a brad nailer. 

glue and nails

At this time, I would like to pause to say, this is my definition of a romantic lunch date. 

5) Attach your cove molding trim underneath the same way, with some Gorilla glue and a brad nailer.  You can see it underneath the ledge here, I think it finishes the look nicely. 

cove molding


You can choose a thicker or deeper ledge, but in this case, I chose a more shallow shelf so the homeowner wouldn’t run into it coming out the adjacent bedroom door to the right, whack her arm, and curse my name.  These things I think about.  Smile

ledge side


6) Fill all seams with caulk and patch any nail holes with spackle.  Cover it all up with at least one coat of paint! 

board and batten view


The hooks were attached later for added utility for this loft wall, and you can see the rest of the accessories in yesterday’s before and after post.  For an even more detailed look at how we finished an entire room in the same wall treatment, check out this bedroom.

Want to see more great tutorials for board and batten?  Check out this handy diagram over at This Old House.   Also, pay a visit to Melissa, Karla, Kimba, Nester, Sarah, Chris, AnNicole, and Jen for more inspiration and great ‘How To’ posts.  Did I miss anyone?  If you’ve done your own DIY board and batten, be sure to list it in a comment for all to see! 

Happy home improvement! 




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