6 Tips on Shopping for Beadboard
Nothing adds cottage flavor faster than beadboard, and sheet goods go up quickly. Here's how to choose the right material for your space
Old-fashioned beadboard went up stick by stick, yielding a tough surface with a lot of character. But humidity is hard on wood, causing boards to pop and paint to crack. Quick-install plywood panels solved that problem but can't take a deep bead. Which brings us to panels made of medium-density fiberboard, or MDF—wood fiber and resin, in various proportions, melded under pressure. These sturdy, ready-to-paint sheets, typically 4 feet high and 8 feet wide, can be milled to look like the real thing. But before you gather your tools and put in an order, here are five things to consider.
MDF panels by Nantucket Beadboard, beadboard.com
For a traditional farmhouse look, try 2½-inch V-bead (far left) or 1⅝-inch V-bead (top). Wider "boards" tend to look less busy in a large space. There are also custom styles, like casual, random-width V-bead (near left).
For the most convincing look and best durability, choose panels at least ¼ inch thick with deep, clean cuts and beads. Get samples before you commit.
Panels in a bath should be specially formulated for moisture resistance; for porches and other outdoor areas, you'll need exterior-grade fiberboard or PVC.
If you're starting from scratch, ½-inch panels can go right onto the framing, reducing the need to build up window and door trim to accommodate beadboard installed over drywall; ½-inch is also easier to miter—at an outside corner, say—than ¼-inch.
MDF is about as tough as oak, but, like wood, it can scratch. Sand small blemishes, and fix larger ones with a polyester auto-body filler such as Bondo, which adheres well and sands smooth.
High-quality panels are carefully milled to create crisp profiles that mimic individual boards.