Thursday, June 13, 2013

DIY: Beadboard Paneling

This weekend the hubby and I finally made some major progress on the nursery. First we sanded down the trim areas where the paint was chipping, washed, and then painted the walls. Then the challenging part - installing the beadboard paneling I had my heart set on.
Final Beadboard Paneling
Here's a reminder at how the original guest room looked.
A few notes before we share how we did this project:

  1. We originally were going to use the giant sheets of beadboard paneling (4' wide x 8' tall), but at the last minute I found some smaller panels at Home Depot (7" wide x 32" tall). The smaller panels were a little more expensive, but we don't have a lot of tools or a good work space, so the large sheets would have been unwieldy for us. Once we realized how uneven our 100-year-old house is, we knew we made the right decision with the smaller panels. 
  2. We wanted to keep our existing baseboards, but did NOT want to remove them from the wall to fit the paneling behind them. So we improvised and got a small quarter-round trim to cover the seam where the baseboard and paneling meet. This worked perfect for us, but if you don't have 100-year-old baseboards, it would be just as easy to add new baseboards with a notch at the top for the paneling to fit behind seamlessly.
  3. We had difficulty finding chair rail molding. You want the molding to have a little notch at the bottom so it fits over the top of the paneling and hides the seam. Most improvement stores only carried baseboards and crown molding, which could have worked if we had a router to create a notch, but we don't. Luckily we found a Home Depot out in the suburbs that had one option for a notched chair rail - made specifically for covering paneling. 
  4. In general, we have very limited tools but a lot of creativity. This project would have been faster if we had great tools and a workshop, but this just goes to show that where there's a will there's a way!


  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Beadboard panels (after measuring your space, remember to get a few extras for mistakes)
  • Chair Rail with Notch 
  • Quarter Round Trim 
  • Level
  • Circular Saw
  • Mitre Box & Saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Finishing Nails
  • Painter's Caulk
  • Caulk Gun
  • Caulk Edging Tool
  • Spackle
  • Painters Tape
  • Paint (we took the time to match our existing molding so we didn't have to repaint all the window casings and door frames)

Step 1: Determine how high you want the paneling to go. The "standard" height of beadboard paneling when used as wainscoting varies. Some say the finished height should be 1/3 the height of the ceiling and others say anywhere from 32" to 46". We wanted the paneling to end underneath the window casing and the trim to be in-line with the casing. That gave us a finished height (including baseboard and chair rail) of 40" (+/- 1" due to the inconsistencies of our house).

Step 2: Measure the panels to the correct height (finished height minus the chair rail height and baseboard height) and mark with a pencil line on the back. With our home being so old, we had a difference of up to 2 inches in the height of the panels to maintain a level top edge around the room. So we measured each panel before installing it. If your home is newer, chances are you have an even height around the room - in which case you can measure and cut all your boards at once and save time.

Step 3: Using a circular saw, cut each panel at the pencil line. We found that cutting on the backside was a little easier. 

Step 4: Start at a corner and begin nailing the panels to the wall. We have old plaster walls, so we used a nail gun with an air compressor to avoid cracking the plaster with a hammer. Our panels had tongue-and-groove edges to lock them together. We moved left to right around the room and used two nails for each board - one at the top left of the board and one at the bottom left. That meant the right edge of the board was loose and allowed us to easily fit the next board in place.

Step 5: Measure the chair rail molding to the correct length and mark with a pencil line. To cut the length of the molding for the corners, use a mitre saw or mitre box to cut the edge at a 45 degree angle. Fit the molding over the paneling and nail into place. 

Step 6: Follow the same process as the chair rail: measure, cut and nail the quarter round into place to cover the seam where the bottom edge of the paneling and baseboard meet. If not using existing baseboards, you would follow the same process as the chair rail for installing new baseboards.

Left: unfinished edge, Right: finished caulked edge
Step 7: Finishing. With our old house, some of the seams were imperfect at the existing molding, and where the chair rail met the wall. To fix that, we filled the gaps. Tape off the wall at the top edge of the chair rail. Fill any gaps with painter's caulk. While the caulk is still wet, use an edging tool to perfect the seam (similar to bathroom tile). Remove tape before caulk dries completely to ensure a clean line. Next, use a small amount of spackle to cover all the nail holes. You can either sand the spackle after it dries, or I found that using a wet paper towel to wipe off excess before it dried worked well.

Step 8: Paint. Don't forget to re-tape the top edge at the chair rail and the floor at the bottom edge. Also tape any existing molding if necessary. We used a special brush made for trim to really get in the cracks and seams of the paneling, and then used a roller to go over the paint to give even coverage and texture. 

This project took us two days, but was totally worth it. It would have been faster if we didn't have so many uneven areas of our house and if I wasn't 7 months pregnant and needing breaks. 

Now I'm ready to start furnishing the nursery and decorating!

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