Introduction

completed wainscoting
Photo: Ryan Benyi
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We're the first to say all you need is a can of paint. But for a room revamp that brings dimension and lasting value to plain walls, nothing beats a traditional wainscot of richly layered wood panels. How they're put together may seem inscrutable to the average DIYer, but once you peel back the layers of this architectural onion, you'll find that each step is plenty doable, if a bit tricky at times. See for yourself on the pages that follow, as This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers assembles this paneled wainscot piece by piece—moving a pro-worthy project onto a can-do list for you.

Panel molding: WOBB002 Greek Revival Band Mold.
Primed lumber: WindsorONE and Protection Pre-Primed Trim Boards.
All from Windsor Mill.

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    Tools List

    • utility knife
      utility knife
    • flat prybar
      pry bar
    • chalk line
      chalk line or straightedge to mark cuts on the plywood
    • four-foot level
      4-foot level
    • circular saw
      circular saw
    • caulk gun
      caulk gun
    • studfinder
      stud finder
    • brad nailer
      nail gun
    • miter saw
      miter saw
    • japanese pull saw
      flush-cut saw to back-cut existing moldings
    • speed square
      Speed Square
    • cold chisel
      chisel

    Shopping List

    Painter's tape

    ¼inch plywood.
    Get enough to cover the entire area of your wainscoting with the grain running vertically.

    1x4 for the stiles

    1x5 for the corner stiles

    1x6 for the bottom rail.

    1x8 for the top rail and baseboard.
    Get enough to cover each wall twice.

    Stool for the chair-rail cap.
    Choose a profile deep enough to extend beyond the layered depth of the plywood, rail, and apron.

    Casing for the apron

    Panel molding to trim the panels Base-cap molding

    Shoe molding

    Panel adhesive

    2½-inch finishing nails to install the stiles, rails, baseboard, apron, and chair rail

    1½-inch finishing nails to install the panel, base cap, and shoe moldings

    Wood glue

    Wood filler

    Adhesive latex caulk.
    Choose primed boards and molding to save time.