How to Install Wainscoting

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Many homeowners, house flippers and DIY-lovers are turning to wainscotting as their next renovation project. The wood panelling is used in many homes to accentuate the lower parts of walls and distract from any damage or for lack of a better term ‘ugliness’.

To install your own wainscoting you will need to prepare. First you will need to gather tools, and materials.

What Tools Do You Need to Install Wainscoting?

  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Wood glue
  • Tape Measure

Materials Needed to Install Wainscoting

  • Wainscoting panels
  • Moulding
  • Construction adhesive
  • Panelling nails
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Step 1: Prepare the Area

A lot of preparation goes into any renovation endeavour and that includes wainscoting. So before you start the installation, follow these steps:

  1. To prepare the panel for installation allow the panels to acclimate in the chosen room in which they will be installed for 48 hours prior to installation. Be sure to leave at least 1/16″ gap between panels to allow for seasonal wood movement.
  2. Measure the total linear footage of the room and divide by the width of the panels, in feet. If the answer is fractional, round up to the next whole number. The whole number is the number of panels you need.
  3. Remove any base moulding or chair rail moulding in the room. If you intend to reuse the moulding, be careful not to damage it during removal. Remove all outlet covers in the room.

If you are reusing the baseboard you already have, make sure to carefully pry it from the wall. You may prefer to use new baseboards with a groove to hold the lower ends of the wainscoting boards. Install outlet box extension rings that allow you to bring the outlet to the wainscoting surface.

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Step 2: Draw a Line and Locate Studs

Locate the wall studs and mark them lightly just above the level line. The marks are useful when you nail the wainscot panels in place.

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Step 3: Glue Wainscoting in Place

Use the wood glue to install the wainscoting in the right place, making sure the top edges of the wainscoting panels align with the level line. The top of the panel should be flush with the level line on the wall and 1/16-in from the adjacent wall.

wainscoting installation

Step 4: Nail the Boards When Over a Stud

Hold the panel in place and secure it with paneling nails. Be sure to take into account the light switches and power outlets on walls and ceilings. You may need to cut your panels to fit these areas.

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Step 5: Adjust Corners When Needed

Wainscoting panels that you install at corners need to be cut accordingly. Measure from the top of the last full panel to the wall and subtract 1/8-in from the measurement (Mark 1). Measure from the bottom of the last full panel and subtract 1/8-in (Mark 2). Transfer your measurements to the back of the panel you need to cut and draw a line between the marks.

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Step 6: Install the Cap Rail and Baseboard

Nail the cap rail in place with #6 or #8 finishing nails where the wainscoting panels meet the floor. Countersink and fill all nail holes. If you paint the wainscoting, seal any gaps with a paintable caulk.

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