wainscoting: finished room
photos: John Nasta
High-quality DIY wainscoting can be had at an affordable price. Yes, you read that right. It's time-consuming and expensive to fabricate and install frame-and-panel wood wainscoting from scratch. But we used a kit to skirt these obstacles without sacrificing quality. The Raised Panel System from New England Classic Interiors features a frame-and-panel design that captures the elegance of handcrafted wainscoting at half the cost. The prefabricated wainscoting comes in 32- and 36-inch pieces. The frame components include base and top rails (horizontal pieces), stiles (vertical), shoe molding and cap rail. The raised-bevel panels are 23 1/2 inches tall and are available in 6-, 9-, 12-, 23- and 31-inch widths. All the parts are milled from medium-density fiberboard and covered with a veneer, so they're ready for paint or stain. Veneer choices include red oak ($11 per square foot), maple ($18), cherry ($22) and paint-grade poplar ($7). For our job, we chose the 32-inch-high poplar and painted it a soft mossy green. To approximate the cost of this system for your room, add together the length of each wall, then multiply the sum by 2.66 (the number of square feet in each linear foot of wainscoting). Multiply the square-foot total by the cost of the material to get the total cost. For example, an 8510-foot room done in 32-inch poplar would require 96 square feet of material and cost about $672. Now let's discuss another precious commodity: time. It took us two full weekends to install nearly 180 square feet of wainscoting. The first couple of days were spent painting the parts and moving electrical outlets so they would fall on the flat face of the panels, not on the raised bevels. The installation of the wainscoting went surprisingly fast and only took one day. (Our pneumatic nail gun sped things up considerably.) The fourth day was needed for final trim installation and paint touch-up.
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