How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (2023)

" I love adding wainscoting to a home,” says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. “I install it in pantries, hallways or anywhere walls could get damaged,” he says. “It protects the wall and looks great.”

Wainscoting has protected walls since the 1600s, when it consisted of wood panels framed by stiles and rails. With the advent of industrial milling machines in the 1850s, however, less-formal beadboard wainscoting became available. So called because of regularly spaced bumps along the edge of each piece, beadboard has hardly changed in appearance or installation: The tongue-and-groove strips are snugged together and nailed in place, one after the other.

Installation is easy, yes, if you know how to handle obstacles, such as doorways, windows, or electrical outlets. Or, how to make beadboard gracefully turn corners. Says Tom, “With a little know-how, this is a project you can easily tackle yourself.”

Step 1

Beadboard Wainscoting Overview

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (1) Illustration by Gordon Bowyer

What to do at Doors , Windows, and Floors

Where a cap rail meets a door or window casing, Tom notches the rail so it overlaps the casing. (As a rule of thumb, the overlap should extend the width of the rail minus the casing thickness). Sandpaper and a dab of finish is enough for simple rails, and more complicated rails may require a miter or cope.

When beadboard meets the horn of a stool, notch out the back of the horn (where it meets the wall) and slip the boards behind it. The best tool for making this cut is a backsaw with a offset handle to save knuckles from getting banged.

For added trim detail, set the wainscot on a baseboard and cover the joint with a cap molding.

Step 2

Draw Layout Line

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (2) Photo by David Carmack

Cut all the wainscot pieces to length. Tom commonly sets his height at 32" to 36" and then cuts all the pieces he needs on a miter saw.

Using a 4-foot level (or longer), find the floor's highest point along the wall. At this high spot, place a cut board vertically against the wall and set the level on top so that the bubble is centered in the vial.

(Video) How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting | Wall Ideas & Projects | The Home Depot

Pencil a layout line on the wall using the level's underside as your guide. The top of each beadboard will land on this line.

Move the level around the entire room, drawing a continuous layout line.

Tip: For large rooms, a water level and chalk line make it easier to create a layout line.

Step 3

Start at a Corner

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (3) Photo by David Carmack

Most installations begin at an inside corner. But, if a room has an outside corner, you should start there.

Stick a mitered corner piece (assembled earlier) to the wall with some construction adhesive. Insert shims if the piece isn't plumb. Toenail 4d nails nails through both tongues to hold the piece in place while the adhesive sets.

Use the level while nailing to make sure the piece isn't knocked out of plumb.

Tip: Start a wainscot installation where it's most visible, and try to end it where it's least conspicuous.

Step 4

Glue and Nail

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (4) Photo by David Carmack

Apply 4 or 5 horizontal stripes of adhesive, each about a foot or two long. Slip each board's groove over the tongue of the previous one and align top edge with the layout line.

Step 5

Nail up Beadboard Planks

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (5) Photo by David Carmack

Press wood into adhesive and toenail the tongue, top and bottom. If hammering, drill pilot holes first and use a nail set. Bowed strips may need a third nail halfway down.

(Video) How to Install Beadboard or Wainscoting

Check every third or fourth board for plumb with a level. If necessary, make slight corrections in subsequent pieces until plumb is regained.

Tip: Don't apply too much adhesive at once. It won't hold the beadboard after it skins over.

Step 6

Cut Around Electrical Outlets

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (6)

When a board must be notched around an outlet, rest the board's bottom edge on the upper lip of the outlet box. Hold it tight against the previous board and mark the board where it meets the corner of the outlet.

Hold the same board alongside the outlet so the board's top edge touches the layout line. Mark the board's edge where it touches the top and bottom of the outlet.

With a combination square, draw horizontal lines out from the marks on the side and connect them to a vertical line running up from the bottom mark. The connected lines outline the notch where the outlet will go.

Cut out the notch with a jigsaw, then glue and nail the board as in Step 3.

Repeat on opposite side of the outlet, if necessary.

Tip: “When cutting boards with a jigsaw, use a metal-cutting blade to reduce splintering.”

Step 7

Fit Against Door Casing

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (7)

Within 2 feet or so of a doorway, measure how far the casing is from the top and the bottom of the beadboard. If there's a difference between these measurements, gradually fan out successive pieces until they become parallel with the casing.

(Video) How to Design and install Chair Rail + bead board / wainscoting

Dry fit the last two full-width boards and measure the remaining distance to the casing. Cut the third piece to that width on a table saw.

Apply adhesive to the wall. Then put all three pieces together, bent to form a slight curve, and press them all at once between the casing and wainscot.

The same approach works for inside corners, but doesnâ?™t demand the same precise fit; any gap with the wall will be covered by the next piece

Tip: A back bevel, planed along the edge of the board that touches the casing, ensures a tight fit.

Step 8

Mark Cap Rails to Length

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (8) Photo by David Carmack

When an outside or inside corner isn't exactly 90 degrees, use this technique find the precise miter angle:

-Hold two pieces of 1x2 cap rail in place, overlapping them at the corner.

-Draw a pencil line on both sides of where the upper rail overlaps the lower one.

Step 9

Mark Miter-Cut on Cap Rails

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (9) Photo by David Carmack

Move the upper rail aside and hold the line-marked lower rail in place atop the beadboard.

Use a combination square to connect the two lines, creating a diagonal line that represents the angle of the miter joint.

(Video) How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting

Cut the first miter, then use that rail to mark the angled cut on the adjoining cap rail.

Join the two rails at the corner with glue and compressed wood biscuits.

Step 10

Nail on Cap Rail

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (10)

Start by fitting the cap rail between inside corners. Miter and glue all joints.

Toenail cap into edge of beadboard with 4d finish nails.

Tip: For fast, accurate cuts, Tom uses a miter saw. For strong joints, he uses a biscuit joiner to scoop out matching slots for “0”-size biscuits.

Step 11

Attach Moldings

How to Install Beadboard Wainscoting (11)

As with cap rails, start between inside corners.

Secure ogee molding to the underside of the cap with ¾-inch brads. (Tom easily pushes them in with a hand-held brad driver.) At outside corners, join moldings with miters. On inside corners, use cope joints, which stay tight as wood moves.

Follow the same steps to install shoe molding against floor.

Tip: Before coping, make relief cuts into the mitered end to reduce the chance that the blade will wander.

(Video) Easy DIY Board and Batten Wall | How to Install Wainscoting


Do you glue or nail beadboard? ›

Use wood glue on the lap-joint seams and apply either a wood glue or construction adhesive on the back of the beadboard panel. You don't need a lot of glue behind the beadboard panel. Nail each panel through the lap joint up high within the top 1 /2" so that nail will be covered by the top cap molding and down low.

Does beadboard go behind the baseboard? ›

For the beadboard, you just slide your board snug right on top of your existing baseboard. As long as it's flush and flat it will look seamless once finished.

How do you attach beadboard to drywall? ›

The beadboard sheets can go directly over the drywall. To adhere the beadboard, use industrial adhesive and press it gently but firmly. Nail the beadboard at the top and bottom, hiding the nail in the grooves of the board. You may need to cut beadboard sheets with a jigsaw to fit around door frames and corners.

Do you glue or nail wainscoting? ›

If your molding is delicate, like ours, just glue it in place. For thicker trim, nail it in place with a nail gun and 1½-inch finishing nails. Once all the pieces are installed, fill all nail holes with wood filler, and joints with latex caulk.

What do you use to fill nail holes in beadboard? ›

Step 5: Finish Beadboard (caulk, fill nail holes, paint)

To finish this project off, fill all the small nail holes with wood filler. Use paintable caulk to caulk all the seams.

What is the best adhesive for beadboard? ›

The best beadboard panel glue for the job is LePage No More Nails Paneling & Moulding Construction Adhesive. It features nearly instant grab, so you won't have to clamp or nail the panels if you don't want to. It is also water resistant for use in kitchens, bathrooms and other places where dampness is a possibility.

What goes first beadboard or baseboard? ›

Remove the baseboards, attach the beadboard and then install baseboards on top of it. This way we could ensure the beadboard is level. The baseboards will follow the slope of the floor (like how it is now).

What is the best adhesive for wainscoting to drywall? ›

Wainscoting can be done with a variety of materials like tile, wood, plastics, particle board, and more. For an adhesive that fits a multitude of surfaces, reach for Loctite PL 505 Paneling and Trim Adhesive. Because it's a water-based adhesive, one of the surfaces needs to be porous, e.g. wood or drywall panels.

Do you glue beadboard to wall? ›

Hang the Beadboard Wainscoting

Apply a generous amount of adhesive to the back of the first panel and press it against the wall (Image 2). While holding in place, use either a nail gun or a hammer and trim nails to nail the panel into the studs.

Can you install beadboard directly to studs? ›

Panels 1/4" and thicker can be installed directly over even framing members–studs or furring strips (check building codes for your area). All paneling may be put up with nails or with a combination of panel adhesive and nails.

Can you nail wainscoting into drywall? ›

The quickest and most affordable method is called the glue-and-nail method of installing wainscoting. To do this you apply an adhesive to the wainscot panel to hold it in position so that it can be nailed to the drywall. The panel should be nailed with a fine finishing nail or with a pneumatic pin nailer.

How do you hide seams in wainscoting panels? ›

To prevent the drywall from showing through the seams in the paneling:
  1. Mark the paneling seam with a pencil.
  2. Move the sheet of paneling out of the way.
  3. Spray black spray paint on the seam along the pencil line.
  4. Install the paneling on the wall.

How do you hide seams in beadboard? ›

Apply wood putty

In order to build up a strong patch over the seam, spread on an ample supply of wood putty. Then use a wide putty knife to feather it out, sreading a portion of putty both above and below the seam. Feathering it out and spreading the wood putty over a larger area will help hide the seam.

Should I caulk wainscoting? ›

You'll want to caulk the gap between the panel and the baseboards or door trim, the top of the trim piece where it meets the wall and the bottom of the trim piece where it meets the wainscoting.

Do you paint beadboard before installing? ›

Note: If you're installing new beadboard paneling, it's best to paint it before installing, since it's more convenient to do it while it's on a flat surface. Tape off any areas around the beadboard that you don't want painted.

Can I use Liquid Nails for beadboard? ›

Does beadboard need to be glued? I would highly recommend gluing your beadboard using a construction grade adhesive such as liquid nails.

Do you nail beadboard? ›

Beadboard installs over drywall with panel adhesive. While the adhesive cures, use brads or nails to hold the panels in place temporarily.

What causes beadboard to buckle? ›

High Humidity

Wood naturally absorbs the moisture in the air and expands, which causes warping or buckling. Additionally, high humidity levels can lead to other issues like mold. Any moisture trapped under paneling can increase the risk of warped paneling or hidden mold growth.

When should you not use wainscoting? ›

Bedrooms are the wrong place for wainscoting because it's a little too formal. It's better to do one accent wall in a bedroom by painting it a different color or putting up wallpaper than to put wainscoting throughout the whole bedroom.”

Does trim go on top of beadboard? ›

Step 4: add your trim

Now that the beadboard is installed, it's time to add our 1×3 trim boards to the top. You will simply place this on top of your beadboard and nail it into the studs. Grab a level before you start nailing to make sure your board is level.

What kind of nails do you use for beadboard? ›

We recommend using a 2” 18 gauge finishing nail. Always nail at an angle of approximately 45 degrees both towards the top and the bottom, creating an “x”, this will fasten the board to the wall whether you hit a stud or not.

Is there a difference between wainscoting and beadboard? ›

The difference between wainscoting and beadboard is style. Wainscoting looks like wooden panels with raised or recessed squares finished with a chair rail cap. Beadboard, while typically constructed in panels, looks like narrow vertical strips of wood with a raised edge – the bead – between them.

How high should beadboard wainscoting be? ›

Tip: Installation is typically 32 to 36 inches off the floor or roughly one-third the room height. When installing wainscoting, adjust the top edge to avoid running into windowsills or other trim in the room.

Do you need to caulk beadboard? ›

Caulk the Seams

Never fill cracks or seams with material that hardens like wood putty or wood filler. Caulking the seams allows the panels to expand without causing more splitting. Opt for a paintable caulk or ensure you match the caulk color to your beadboard.

Should beadboard be vertical or horizontal? ›

Traditionally, beadboard is hung vertically on walls. For a more modern look, install it horizontally on walls.

Does wainscoting go on top of drywall? ›

Tongue-and-groove boards make great wainscoting because they're easy to install with just a few basic carpentry tools. We show you how to install wainscoting directly over your existing drywall or plaster so you don't have to cut into the walls, and we include details for making custom brackets and mounting the shelf.

Is beadboard out of style? ›

As far as I'm concerned, while things like herringbone floors, gently curved side splashes, and beadboard walls have never gone “out of style”, there's no denying that these old world-esque additions are hot in the design world right now, and for good reason.

Do you paint wainscoting with a brush or roller? ›

You'll probably have better luck by using a roller to get paint onto the wall and mostly into the crevices, then quickly following up by brushing with a mostly dry brush to even out thick or thin areas and whisk away paint globs, especially in the grooves, before they dry into visible drips.

What is the best fastener for beadboard? ›

For best results, use fasteners with thin shanks, blunt points, and full round heads. 8D finish nails or 2” #8 trim screws are acceptable provided they penetrate 1-1/2” through a flat, solid wood substrate into a framing member.


1. How to install beadboard / wainscoting DIY
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2. Installing Wainscoting/Bead Board
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3. How to Install Wainscoting | Skill School | Better Homes and Gardens
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4. Installing Wood Trim. How to install bead board wainscoting & chair rail.
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5. DIY WAINSCOTING and BASEBOARD INSTALLATION for Beginners // Small Bathroom Space // Part 2/3
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6. How to Install Wainscoting | DIY Board and Batten
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