Wainscoting Paneling Ideas For Your Wall

Talking all about wainscoting today.

large staircase with white wainscoting along the wall


All about wainscoting

{This post first appeared here on February 6, 2020 and was recently updated on March 2, 2024.}

I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks, it turns out there’s a lot to say on this topic!

I also had to check the spelling on this term SO many times, even my spell check didn’t know if this was correct.

Also, when I was much younger, I actually thought this was Wayne’s coating! But, I digress…

But, I’m pretty sure I got it right!


What Is Wainscoting

Traditional Wainscoting

Wainscoting (pronounced weyn-skoh-ting) is a raised panel originally used as a protective function to keep out cold and moisture. 

This architectural element which once served as wall protection, dates back to the 16th century, Europe.

Nowadays we use these panels purely for decorative purposes – as a wall accent to add visual interest to otherwise bare walls.

It usually rises to around the height of a chair rail and helps make the room a little cozier and more aesthetically pleasing.

This wall detail can be installed in any room.

I love how these decorative panels can add an interesting architectural detail to your home.

These panels are usually made of wood and can be used exclusively for design, to cover damage, or to enhance the insulation of the room.

home office with white trim

If you’re planning on installing wainscoting, you should plan for it to cover the bottom 3-4 feet of your lower wall.

Because these decorative panels can really help you take the interior design of any room in your home to the next level, it’s a very popular home decor element.

In fact, you can often find these panels or bead board design elements at your local hardware store or Home Depot.

Whether you’re trying to give your dining room an extra punch or your living room could use a remodel, wainscoting is a great option.

There’s no doubt, this added element will increase the value of your home.

If you’re wondering how to get started with this popular design feature, here’s a rundown on how to install this feature in your own home.

front foyer with mirror


The Main Types of Wainscoting

There are 5 different types that you might want to consider before you make your selection.

How much does wainscoting cost?

The price varies, depending on the type of material, location and whether or not you choose to DIY or hire a professional contractor.

However, here’s a range of prices to give you a good idea-

As a rule of thumb, costs can range from anywhere between $5 to $45 per square foot.

This also depends on whether you choose to use real wood, which type of wood or a go with a polyurethane wall panel.

This is broken down further below.

The following prices are approximations based on the type of wainscoting you might choose and the size of your room.

Note – solid wood options will typically be at the higher end of this cost range.

Obviously paneling an entire wall will be more expensive than just the lower portion of a wall.

Let’s take a look at the different styles you might consider for your wainscoting project.

Raised Panel:

This style is classified by the wood panels being in front of the styles and rails.

The result is clean lines which look as if the panels are raised.

Price: Around $10-$30 per square foot.

We have this style of raised panel wainscoting in our front foyer.

front foyer with checkerboard floorsPhoto of our foyer in our old house.


Flat Panel:

Flat panel wainscoting has panels behind the top and bottom rail, making it look flatter and deeper than raised panel wainscoting.
Price: Around $7-$10 per square foot.

Beadboard Panels:

This is made up of narrow, vertical boards that are put together using a tongues and grooves system.
Price: Around $7-$20 per square foot

Overlay Wall Panels:

This style combines flat panel and raised panel by installing flat panels first and then installing additional panels in the center of those flat panels.
Price: $10-$40 per square foot

Board and Batten Wainscoting:

This wainscoting style is basically flat panels, but it’s distinctive because it uses vertical boards to cover seams, which in turn helps to add to the visual appeal. The additional boards are called battens, hence the name.
Price: Around $7-$20 per square foot.

puppy on staircase

What Tools You Need to Install Wainscoting in Your Home:

Circular Saw
A Laser Level
Tape Measure
Stud finder
Finishing nails
Caulk gun
Nail gun
Paneling Nails

How to Install Wainscoting In Your Home

If you’re looking to add wainscot paneling to a new build or simply zhush up your existing interior walls with this custom look, below is a basic outline of steps to follow.

This process will help you effectively install wainscoting in your home and works with a range of styles.

1: Take Measurements

You’ll need to determine the square footage of the wainscoting panels you’ll need before you start the project.

Start by measuring the total linear footage of the room and divide by the width of the panels you’ll be using, in feet.

If the answer is fractional, round up. The whole number is the number of panels you’ll need for your project.

2: Prepare the Room for Installing Wainscoting

To prepare the room for wainscoting, you’ll need to remove any base molding and outlet covers in the room.

Then you’ll need to carefully measure and mark a level line around the room.

Typically, this line will happen about 32 and a half inches up the wall from the floor.

Wainscoting is meant to be 32 inches high, flush with the top rail.

Although, an extra half inch will give you a little wiggle room to compensate for factors like an uneven floor.

Finally, you’ll want to locate the wall studs and mark them lightly for your reference.

Use a stud finder. These are helpful for when you nail wainscoting in place.

stairs with wainscoting


3: Start Installing The Individual Boards

You’ll want to work around the room from left to right using these instructions.

Start in one corner of the room with a full panel of wainscoting. Apply construction adhesive or some type of construction glue to the back and set it on the wall.

The top edge of the panel should be flush with the level line you drew around the room.

Make sure the panel sits 1/16th of an inch away from the other wall.

This process may seem tedious, but it will eventually save you time and money.

Once you’re sure you’re happy with the placement, you can secure the wainscoting with paneling nails.

Note: Make sure you cut a hole for an outlet before installing the panel. Instructions in Step 4.

blue and white powder room with wallpaper and wood wainscotingOur blue and white bathroom: original post here


4: How to Cut Holes in the Wainscoting for Electrical Outlets

To accommodate outlets, you’ll need to cut a hole in your wainscoting panels.

To do that, measure from the level line down to the top and bottom edges of the outlet opening.

Mark those measurements on the back of the panel, and then measure from the corner to the left and right edges of the outlet hole.

Make sure to subtract 1/16th of an inch from each measurement to account for the expansion gap between the corner of the wall and the panel.

The lines should make a vertical rectangle that will fit the outlet.

Using the jigsaw, cut out the outlet hole.


5: Continue Installing the Panels

Continue to install the panels in the rest of the room following the process outlined in step 3 around the room.

Be sure to accommodate any more outlets or fixtures by measuring from the right edge of the previous panel.

Important: There should be 1/16th of an inch between each panel.


6: Install the Final Panel on the First Wall

To install the final panel, you will probably need to cut it.

To make sure it fits properly, measure from the top of the last full panel to the wall and subtract 1/8-in from the measurement to accommodate 1/16th of an inch of expansion from the panel and 1/16th of an inch of expansion to the wall.


7: Repeat The Process

Repeat this process for each wall in the room.

Once you’ve finished installing the wainscoting, you can replace the baseboards, shoe molding, and outlet covers.

front foyer stairway with wainscoting on the wallsour front foyer


Wainscoting Ideas

Personally, I love the look of wainscoting in front foyers, bathrooms and dining rooms.

That’s exactly where we have it in my own home.

It creates such a great focal point, especially in traditional style homes which really lend themselves to this design style.

I’ve included images from the rooms in our house which feature our own wainscoting to give you a better sense of this wood paneling aesthetic.

It’s great with bold wallpaper, as it really helps to visually break up the room.

If you’re looking for a DIY project that will completely transform a room, wainscoting is a fantastic option!

While the project itself might be difficult, the after-effects will be stunning.

Wainscoting is a beautiful way to add just a little more interior interest and personality to your home.

Lastly, here are a few sources where you can buy wainscoting panels:

Etsy has a great looking DIY option, Wayfair offers a few pricier options which also look beautiful.

Even Amazon has some practical DIY beadboard wainscoting products which all look like they’d be a good choice.

An example of wainscoting in our formal dining room, below.

All about wainscoting

If you’re looking for even more inspiration, be sure to check out these other posts below:

The best white paint colors to paint your trim and mouldings.

If you’re thinking about ceiling paints, this post is for you.

Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist Paint Review.

Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace Wall Color Paint Review.

Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray.

Benjamin Moore White Dove Paint Review.

Why we love Benjamin Moore Calm wall paint so much.

A few more things…

Design lovers! Have you joined our fun and VERY helpful design Facebook group?

In this group – members share photos with their design questions and dilemmas from their own home.

We all chime in with our best advice!

We also share our best sources and tips – so it’s great for those hard to find items and pieces.

design cheat sheet on smart phone

Lastly ~


It’s such a good thing to have handy as it’s loaded with all sorts of quick tips and handy measurements.

Sign up below to grab this, I know you’re going to find it super helpful!


*This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click a link and purchase something, I may get a small commission from it at no additional cost to you. For more info, please read my disclaimer. I only refer things that I truly love and hope you will too!

Leave a Comment


  1. Jessica Czajkowski wrote:

    Your post is spot on! I am continuing to bang my head on the wall though about blending different styles of wainscoting between rooms. How do you ensure they flow when the dining room and office are clearly seen from the foyer? Must they be the same? Would you give examples please.

    Published on 1.25.21 · Reply
    • Sue De Chiara wrote:

      I don’t think they need to be the same. But using same elements, like height or paint color will insure they all flow together nicely.

      Published on 1.25.21 · Reply
  2. JoInCT wrote:

    Or, you can opt for the fake-it method as we’ve done in out stairway, living and dining rooms and master bedroom. All it requires is chair rails and picture frame moldings..oh, and caulk and paint. Gives a very similar effect for a helluva lot less money, and is much easier to remove if you want a change .

    Published on 2.7.20 · Reply
    • Sue De Chiara wrote:

      YES! That sounds SO great!

      Published on 2.8.20 · Reply