How to Use Wainscoting


Wainscoting adds instant architectural detail and interest to a wall. This hard-working paneling comes in many decorative styles, and most of those styles provide physical protection to the lower portions of walls. With a raised panel appearance, wainscoting becomes formal. With a bead board appearance, wainscoting evokes the beach and lake. Dark stained wainscoting adds a masculine touch for a man's room or den. White painted wainscoting against pastel walls becomes a youthful, feminine combination. How the wainscoting is designed and finished makes it usable in almost any room in the house.

Things You'll Need

  • Wainscoting
  • Bead Board
  • Chair Rail
  • Installation

Using Wainscoting

  • Use wainscoting to protect the lower 36 inches of walls in mud rooms and laundry rooms. Try a bead board application in these more casual rooms to maintain the informality of the space. Finish the bead board with a durable, easy-to-clean finish like a urethane on natural wood finishes or a high gloss with painted wainscoting.

  • Use wainscoting in the dining room under a chair rail to define the space and protect the walls from the tops of chairs. This type of wainscoting is often paneled and painted, allowing for a contrasting paint or wallpaper treatment above the chair rail.

  • Use wainscoting in stairwells where people may touch walls, leaving scuff marks and dents. This type of installation is excellent for both the bead board style wainscoting for more casual homes and panel style for more formal and traditional homes. Paint is often the best finish in stairwells as light is diminished and stained trim will tend to make stairs look dark.

  • Use wainscoting in dens, libraries and home offices where dark colors reign supreme. Panel walls up to shoulder height when the paneling is stained. Apply a dark paint above the paneling and mount memorabilia This type of paneling can also be matched to an entertainment center in the same wood finish creating a built-in and cohesive look.

  • Use wainscoting in bathrooms and bedrooms to add immediate charm and detail. Particularly nice in bathrooms when paired with pedestal sinks and freestanding bathtubs (like claw foot), this application usually favors bead board painted white or cream with beach or cottage summer colors above. Protect the surface of this application with water-resistant finishes.

  • Use wainscoting in kitchens as back splash or along the kitchen dining wall. Bead board style panels can be installed in the central panel of cabinets to bring old-style charm into the room. Paired with butcher block counter tops and a hardwood floor, this style can transform a standard kitchen into a comfortable retreat. Paint the bead board with a strong durable finish to make cleaning easy.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wainscoting works with many architectural styles and can be adapted to modern applications by running boards horizontally and mixing the installation with stainless steel ribbons. Paneling of this type adds dimension and detail and is considered a value-adding feature when done appropriately.
  • Poor installation will ruin the appearance of wainscoting. Preparation and measuring are crucial for a professional appearance.

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