Wainscoting is my favorite architectural element in a home. Whether you are building a new home or in the market to buy an existing one, don’t discount wainscoting as an impossible, difficult or too-expensive option. On the contrary…it’s one of the most inexpensive and easiest DIY upgrades you can tackle.
We have continued adding wainscoting throughout our home, including up the stairs in the foyer, and along a wall in our living room. Never once have I felt like it’s “too much”. It’s more like not enough! We decided to leave one or two walls blank just to differentiate walls and break up the flow, but we are so pleased with the results.
DIY Wainscoting Tutorial
Total Cost: $500 or less (cost of materials for the entire foyer and it wrapped around hallway)–we did the stairs later
Time Involved: One weekend (with the right tools and a good tutorial)
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- Chop saw
- A Level
- A pencil 🙂 — (for some reason we never have one handy)
- Caulk with wet cloth
- Colonial molding (casing) in various sizes (see image for our measurements to duplicate our look)
- Paint of your choice. We went to Home Depot and purchased Behr Semi Gloss White Interior Paint.
- Recommended Tutorial: I followed this tutorial. But much of our wainscoting project was just “eyeing it up” to see what looks best in our space.
I was tired of my dirty white walls in my foyer, as well as the oak railings in my house. I was itching to brighten up the house a bit yet wanted a low-cost upgrade and having wainscot was always on my mind. When I built this house, it would have cost an additional $10K – $20K to have the builder do it. I knew one day I could do it myself for much less.
I tackled this DIY myself mostly on the weekends or at night (after work). Yes, I did this myself! What got me pretty far along was this amazing tutorial which will give you a lot of advice. Knowing how to cut 45 degree angles and remembering which angle to cut is the trick. Any gaps, you simply fill in with caulk and smooth it with a wet cloth. It immediately closed all the gaps and made the wainscoting look like it was part of the house for years.
My trick for caulking? I use a bathroom caulk since it expands/contracts more effectively with the varying humidity inside of my home. You simply lay a bead of caulk along the gaps and corners, then use a wet cloth to push the caulk down into the gaps and create a finished seam. Then use the same rag to clean up the excess. It fills the gaps and trims out the piece beautifully.
Next step below. I filled the nicks in the wall with a nail filler and a scraper. Then I sanded and primed. Eventually we continued installing wainscot around the corner where the basement door is (on the right). Note the front door is still white in this picture, and the oak railing painting project hadn’t taken place (yet).
As I did this project, I was shocked to find that the “studs” in the wall were not the standard distance. It was a trick finding a stud to nail into. I would highly recommend using a stud finder to avoid placing multiple holes in your walls.
What you see upon entering my home (I’m going to tackle that table with paint soon just to brighten things up….it’s been pretty scratched up from dropping keys on it over the years).
Before painting the front interior door black.
This convinced me that I wanted the rest of the interior doors black. What do you think?
Up to this moment, the entire project was completed for under $500 (excluding my curtains from Bed, Bath & Beyond).
Below is what you see now when you enter my house (on the right). Extending the wainscot up the stairway not only covered up little fingerprint smudges all the way down the (once) white wall, but what a major change when you walk in the front door. It added cost beyond the initial $500, but what a difference! We couldn’t stop staring at the results after the first weekend we did it!!
Would you like to see more? Click through for a full home tour. Every room is a work in progress around here 🙂
There are many varieties of wainscot to choose from, (an entire library can be found here) but I decided to go for a more classic version with colonial trim pieces layered throughout.
Some ask, “don’t you think wainscot will go out of style??” My answer? And emphatic “NO!!” I’ve lived in many old brownstone apartments which were built turn of the century with built-in cabinetry, arched doorways, leaded glass cabinets, old radiator steam heat, I would say this architectural style is quite possibly is here to stay.
Have you tackled this DIY? What is your favorite style of wainscot? We are thinking of adding board and batten next to some of our bathrooms, too.