Wainscoting Tips from a Pro
Wall Trim Tips from a Professional Carpenter
By Robert Robillard
One of my favorite finish carpentry activities is to make and install wainscoting. Wainscoting is a broad term referring to trim that is added to the bottom quarter of the wall.
Wainscoting helps enhance the structure and design of the room by splitting the wall into two sections and giving the eye a line to follow. When placed at the right level, wainscoting can also give height and presence to a room by elongating the look of the wall or tying in a high ceiling.
Wainscoting functions to give formality and balance to a room. It can also give a room a textural interest that ordinary, flat painted walls cannot achieve.
The term wainscoting actually refers to the application of decorative paneling that’s placed between a baseboard running along the floor and a chair rail or wainscot cap on the wall. Wainscoting has been around for centuries and is a very popular finish trim option in the New England area.
Types of Wainscoting
The type of material used for wainscoting can be wood paneling, cope and stick panels, overlapping boards or applied moldings. Wainscoting can be as elegant and formal as a raised panel, or a simple as a flat panel with a chair rail.
A chair rail is a horizontal molding attached to the wall above the wainscoting. I’ve never seen wainscoting installed without a chair rail of some sort. The height of a chair rail typically ranges from 32 to 48 inches above the floor.
Wainscoting that consists of raised, flat or recessed panels provides a simple, clean look popular in Mission style and Arts and Crafts style homes.
Beadboard wainscoting consists of vertical tongue-and-groove boards that interlock to create vertical lines, as often seen in pantries, cottages or country style homes. This look has become very popular in mudrooms, kitchens and baths.
Often times you will see vertical beadboard wainscoting measuring 42 to 72 inches high, especially in dining rooms.
Finish carpenters and designers have used wainscoting for architectural design and visual appeal since the late 1500s. Although there is no structural purpose for wainscoting, the extra feature adds contrast and design to the living space.
Wainscoting is commonly painted to match existing trim in a home; however, employing different paint colors and treatments can add character and personality to a home’s interior. For example, a raised panel wainscoting gives a room a more formal appearance. Dark stained wainscoting adds a masculine touch for a man’s room. 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.
And then, there is faux wainscoting.
What is Faux Wainscoting?
Faux wainscoting has recently made its way into today’s homes due to its easy installation and cost savings in time and material. It’s a very affordable and interesting solution to blank walls.
Faux wainscoting basically entails attaching moldings to the wall to create the look and effect of solid wainscoting panels. Faux wainscoting can look as good as the real thing and is cost-effective when compared to solid wainscoting. Either way, both methods add instant elegance to almost any room.
The goal with installing faux wainscoting means gluing and securing molding, as well as chair rail molding, to create the look of solid wainscoting.
The moldings are mitered to create a square or rectangle, and the wall and moldings are painted one color to look like solid wainscot. It’s basically the process of using picture-frame molding to create panels.