using a level to mark the wainscot layout
Photograph: Kolin Smith

Step 1: Mark a Level Line and Create a Layout

Remove receptacle plates and protect floors with kraft paper. Measuring from the baseboard, use a pencil to mark the top edge of the wainscot that will sit below the chair rail. With a level, transfer this line around the room; the top edges of the panels will follow this level line, ensuring that they will hang plumb. Next, just below the level line, use a pencil to mark where the sides of the panels will fall during installation. Shift the placement left or right as needed so that the panels you'll cut to fit at corners or around moldings are no narrower than 4 to 6 inches. This makes matching the seams easier.

To help you determine the panel layout, use a length of cardboard or scrap wood as a stand-in to see how the panels will land at the corners.
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    Tools List

    • four-foot level
      4-foot level
    • Pencil
    • utility knife
      Breakaway utility knife with extra blades
    • 12-inch stainless steel ruler
      Metal ruler or straightedge
    • wallpaper smoother
      Smoothing tool for liner
    • j-roller
      Smoothing roller for panels
    • Natural-bristle chip brush
      4-inch chip brush for adhesives
    • synthetic brush
      2½-inch angled paintbrush
    • paintroller
      Roller frame with ½-inch-nap covers
    • grout sponge
    • hardboard
      Piece of hardboard that's at least 1 inch taller than base molding
    • caulk gun
      Caulk gun
    • eye goggles
      Safety goggles
    • miter saw
      Miter saw for chair rail
    • pneumatic brad nailer
      Pneumatic brad nailer gun for chair rail

    Shopping List

    Lincrusta Available through Lee Jofa, 800-453-3563

    Kraft paper

    Painter's tape

    Lint-free cloths

    Heavy-duty wallpaper liner

    Premixed vinyl wallpaper adhesive

    Clay-based adhesive for panels

    Odorless mineral spiritsLatex gloves

    Vinyl or acrylic adhesive caulk

    Universal acrylic primer-sealer

    Latex paint. Get an eggshell base color and a matte highlight color.

    2-inch brad nails for chair rail

    Wood filler for chair rail

    Fine-grit sandpaper for chair rail