More in Wainscoting

Step-By-Step Guide to Installing Wainscoting

Buying and installing wainscoting can be done affordably and easily.

Steps for Wainscoting
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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.

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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Phase I: Prep and Paint

 

Phase I: Prep and Paint

wainscoting: step-by-step 1-6
Photo by John Nasta

The first step is to lay out the panels and stiles along the walls to determine the proper sequence and alignment. This process also reveals if the electrical outlets align favorably within the panels. Measure the wall length and mark its centerline. Lean a panel against the wall, centered on the mark, then slide a 3-inch stile up against it. Be sure the rabbet milled in the edge of the stile overlaps the panel. Continue laying out panels and stiles until reaching the corner (step 1). The last corner piece must be a stile, which you'll rip down later to the proper width. If it turns out to be a panel, go back to the centerline and shift all the parts so the layout begins with a 3-inch stile centered on the wall. The goal in making this adjustment is to have a stile at each corner. Now, with the panels and stiles still leaning against the wall, locate every electrical outlet. If you're lucky, each one will be positioned behind the flat portion of a panel, but chances are you'll need to move at least one or two a few inches to the left or right. Moving electrical outlets isn't a particularly difficult task, but if you don't have experience or aren't up on the code, hire a licensed electrician. It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to have two or three outlets relocated. Once the final layout has been established, you can start painting all the parts. To save time, we used a Campbell Hausfeld Easy Spray paint sprayer (HV2050, $299; other models start at $189). Using a high-volume/low-pressure sprayer helped us achieve a smooth, professional-quality finish with no brush strokes. Apply one coat of latex primer, let it dry and then lightly sand with 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe off the sanding dust with a tack rag ($2) before applying the topcoat of paint. To save time, build a long easel across two sawhorses and paint several panels at once (step 2).

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Phase II: Installation

 

Phase II: Installation

step 1: lay out the panels
Photo by John Nasta

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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Step by Step

 

Step by Step

wainscoting step 2: paint all parts
Photo by John Nasta

Step by Step

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Where to Find It:

 

Where to Find It:

wainscoting: step-by-step 6-12
Photo by John Nasta

Campbell Hausfeld
100 Production Drive
Harrison, OH 45030
www.campbellhausfeld.com
888-247-6937 New England Classic Interiors
465 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101
www.newenglandclassic.com
888-460-6324 OSI Sealants
7405 Production Drive
Mentor, OH 44060
www.osisealants.com
800-624-7767
Maker of PL and Polyseamseal caulks and adhesives.

 
 

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