Wainscoting Adds Elegance To A Room

By Todd Fratzel on Finish Carpentry

DIY Wainscoting

WainscotingWainscoting is an easy way to add some elegance to a room. In our new home I wanted to have a more formal feeling dining room and wainscoting helped us achieve that feeling.

Do-it-yourself wainscoting can be achieved in a couple different approaches.

  • You can create faux wainscoting by applying small pieces of molding to create panels on the existing drywall. You can see a great example over at A Concord Carpenter at his wainscoting article.
  • The other approach is building up a section starting with wood panels, adding rails, stiles and molding as we’ve done.

How To Build Wainscoting

The rail and style details were created using the same techniques I’m currently using for my mantel project. The center panel is a sheet of 1/2″ MDF board glued and nailed to the existing drywall. Next the top and bottom rails are glued and nailed to the base panel. These are made out of 3/4″ thick MDF as well. The vertical stiles were also made using the 3/4″ MDF.

Laying Out Wainscoting

The most difficult part of installing wainscoting is the layout. There are many different styles and looks so the first step is deciding on a height. For our project we set the wainscoting height to match a standard chair rail height. Most chair rails are set between 32″ and 36″ (1/3 the wall height). Ours is set at 36″ above the floor.

Each section of the wall has equal panel widths which are similar to the other panels. At the door and windows the vertical casings are cut off and sit directly on top of the chair rail profile. The chair rail was created using 3/4″ MDF with a 1 1/2″ bed molding below it. Inside each panel a piece of 1 1/2″ band molding is applied with miter cuts in the corners. Finally the base molding is applied on top of the bottom rail. When you lay out the bottom rail make sure to make it wide enough that after the base molding is applied the rail will match the width of the top rail.

One small detail to consider if you’re going to put this type of wainscoting in a new home is the layout of the electrical outlets. Our wainscoting was an after thought so some of the outlets fell alongside the vertical rails and we had to modify the outlet face plate. This project is fairly inexpensive to do and adds some great value to your home and a unique factor that many people will find aesthetically pleasing.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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1 Comment

  1. Stephen Johnson says:

    I am doing a deckhouse addition to my home and want to do some wainscoting up to the window level of 38 inches. Total is 57 feet. Deckhouse is in Acton, MA but has gone through a bankrupt receivership, but am informed the receiver is buying the corportation and will be operating this summer! That aside, I am looking for a seller of wainscoting that will have styles that will complment the natrual wood look of deckhouse post & beam look.


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