Tips on Painting Wainscoting


Wainscoting is interior trim located at the base of a wall. Typically composed of tongue-in-grove boards, wainscoting covers between three to five feet of the lower portion of a wall. Painting wainscoting isn't particularly difficult as long as the trim is properly prepared. Learn how you can hasten and ease the application process to promote a durable finish that is also pleasing to the eye.


  • Because wainscoting is smooth, it tends to promote runs and drips. Prevent unwanted stains by meticulously covering flooring prior to application. Bulky drop cloths aren't well suited for protecting adjacent flooring, because wainscoting fits so flush. For best results, tape masking paper over the area of the floor directly beneath the trim; then, cover the remainder of the floor, using drop cloths. Prevent paint overlap from staining the portion of the wall directly above the wainscoting by covering the area with painter's masking tape.


  • Unlike drywall which is porous, wainscoting trim requires a bonding primer to encourage adhesion. Latex primer is perfectly suited for bare wood wainscoting; however, it will not seal stained trim. If you apply latex primer over stained wainscoting, adhesion problems could result, and bleed-through will prove likely. Choose a stain-blocking shellac primer for stained wainscoting.


  • Though you can use ordinary eggshell or satin latex paint on your wainscoting, semi-gloss and gloss latex paint tends to prove more durable. Many homeowners also choose gloss latex paint because they believe the added sheen helps the trim stand out from the rest of the wall.


  • Use a roller to add primer and paint to your wainscoting. For best results, roll vertically, moving left to right. You will likely need to touch-up specific portions of the wainscoting, using a paintbrush. Nylon brushes may leave stroke marks in the finish. For flawless results, opt for a polyester brush.

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