Phase II: Installation
Place a long level on the floor near each wall to find the highest spot in the room. Start the installation in the corner nearest the high point. Set an 8-foot-long base rail in place with one end pressed tightly into the corner of the room. Mark the other end of the rail at the center of a stud. Cut the rail to length with a power miter saw. Set the rail back into position and, if necessary, shim it level. Then nail it in place (step 3). Don't worry if there's a gap along the floor — the shoe molding will hide it. Continue installing the base rail level around the room. Next, install the panels and stiles, starting at the center of a wall and working toward each corner according to the layout. Set them into the rabbet milled in the upper edge of the base rail. Secure the parts to the wall with construction adhesive (step 4). Be sure to use a high-strength adhesive with a one-hour working time; we used PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive ($3 for a 10.6-oz. cartridge). When you come to an electrical outlet, set the panel into the base rail beside the outlet and mark the top and bottom of the electrical box onto the panel edge (step 5). Then, hold the panel above the outlet with its edge butted into the adjacent stile; draw hash marks for the left and right sides of the box on the panel end (step 6). Use a square and pencil to extend the four marks onto the back of the panel. Cut out the box access hole with a sabre saw where the lines intersect. Next, turn off the electricity to the room. Unscrew the outlet and gently pull it out of the box, but don't disconnect any wires. Lower the panel into place and carefully pull the outlet through the hole. Slip an adjustable extension ring (about $3) over the outlet and push the ring into the electrical box (step 7). Fasten the ring to the box, then adjust the four screws until the ring is flush with the face of the panel. Push the outlet back into the box and fasten it to the extension ring. Turn the power back on and continue installing panels and stiles. When you come to a window, turn the panel horizontally and center it directly beneath the window. The space between the panel and the window stool is filled with either a top rail or stile ripped down to fit. Finish the window area by notching a 10-in. stile to fit tightly around the stool and casing (step 8). At end of the wall, cut a stile to fit into the corner. Apply construction adhesive to the back of the stile and slide it into place (step 9). Set the top rail into place along the top of the paneled wall (step 10); be sure all butt joints fall over a stud. Fasten the shoe molding along the bottom of the wall. Drive the 1 1/4-inch finishing nails into the base rail, not into the floor (step 11). Install the decorative cap rail over the top rail, making sure to miter the corners (step 12). Fill all the nail holes and corner joints with a paintable caulk. We used Polyseam-seal Acrylic Caulk With Silicone ($2 for a 10-oz. cartridge); it's silicone-tough but cleans up with water. Finally, use a paintbrush to touch up the caulked joints, nicks and scratches. You've now completed the installation, but you won't be able to truly appreciate the beauty of the wainscoting until all the tools are put away, the dust is vacuumed up and the furniture is back in place.
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