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How To Install Wainscoting

Wainscoting gives character to a room. You can mount it yourself, but make sure you know what you’re doing before you start.


  • Step 1: Install one board at a time, butting each against the last. Cut tightly against sills and jams to close seams and prevent gaps.
  • Step 2: Add a top molding or chair rail when you have finished the wainscoting. Then you can apply floor molding with finish nails.
  • Step 3: Fill holes, gaps, and seams with paintable caulk, or use matching putty on natural wood wainscoting.
  • FACT: In 2007, Americans used a total of 45.9 billion board feet of lumber.
  • Step 4: Measure from the wall's corner to the electrical outlets, and then from the tops of the outlets to the height of the wainscoting or chair rail line. Transfer the measurements to the back of the wainscoting board and cut outlet holes with your jigsaw.
  • TIP: Let the wainscoting sit inside the house for a couple of days to "move" – to expand and contract according to the home's temperature – before installing. It will be easier to work with.
  • Step 5: Measure the height for your wainscoting, and use a chalk line to mark the height on the walls. Use a level to double check your lines.
  • TIP: Be sure to dry fit boards as you go, as floor levels may change around the room.
  • Step 6: Cut the first board with a circular saw. Lay a jagged line of wood glue across the wall and spread it with the notched trowel.
  • Step 7: Direct your helper to press and smooth the board for a tight seal, and to hold it while you nail it at the top, bottom, and middle.
  • Step 8: Remove the baseboards, unscrew and remove faceplates, and get rid of any other impediments to the wainscoting, so that the wall is clear and smooth and ready.

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