royal mouldings logo

Do-It-Yourself: How To Install Wainscoting

Installing Your Own Wainscoting

Wainscoting is decorative paneling that is installed between a baseboard and chair rail.  It is a beautiful addition to any home and can really add a polished elegance to your space.  This detailing may look impressive, but it is a relatively simple do-it-yourself project if you have the correct tools.  Here we’ll walk you through the steps to complete this elegant upgrade.


  1. Clear The Area and Measure the Walls


The first step in installing wainscoting is clearing the area of any existing baseboards, chair rails, or skirt moulding.  You can use a pry bar to pull them off.


Next, use a measuring tape to calculate the linear footage of your walls and determine how many panels you will need to purchase.


  1. Let The Wood Breath


If you are using real wood for your wainscoting, it’s very important to let them acclimate to the space where they’ll be installed.  Because of wood’s tendency to shrink and expand, you should leave the panels in the room where they’ll be for at least two full days.


This would also be the time to prime the wainscoting if you’re planning on painting it.


  1. Mark The Walls


Use tape to mark a level line at the top of where the panels will lay the whole way around the walls.


Use a stud finder to locate the wall studs and mark them on the tape.


  1. Cut The Wainscoting


Cut the wainscoting to the desired height.  It makes since to cut as you go along, instead of all at once, in case parts of your floor are uneven.


Measure the sizes of electrical outlets and mark the outlines on the panels.  Use a jigsaw to cut out spaces for the outlets.


It is unlikely that a perfect number of panels will fit along the wall without needing to be scarfed at some point.  So, you will probably need to cut some panels into smaller ones to fit.  To do this, cut scarf joints so the seam between any joined panels isn’t obvious.


Pieces joining at a corner will be cut similarly, at 45-degree angles.


  1. Install The Wainscoting


Begin installing the wainscoting moving from left to right around the room.  Start in one corner and work your way around.


Use construction adhesive to help secure the panels.  Apply it to the back of each panel in a waved line and smooth with a trowel.


Carefully set the panel against the wall and press with your hands to help it set.


  1. Nail The Boards


When you come to a stud, use a paneling nail to secure the wainscoting in place.  Continue, moving around the room from left to right.


  1. Install The Base Moulding and Chair Rail

Once the wainscoting is up, it’s time to install the baseboards and chair rail to finish the look.  Using much the same techniques as the wainscoting, measure the lengths you will need for the baseboard and rail.


Cut the scarf and corner joints at the same angles as you did the wainscoting, to hide the seams.


Finally, nail the moulding and chair rail in place along the studs as you go along.


  1. Finishing the Wainscoting


Finish everything off by caulking any visible gaps and painting the wainscoting the color of your choice.


Now that you’re finished, relax and enjoy how this small architectural detail can add beauty and value to your home.