The great news, considering wainscoting's seemingly endless popularity, is that the feature offers a cost-effective way to add style to a room. "You do have to have some knowledge of cutting and installing," says Musso. The finished product looks like a panel attached to a wall, but there are actually several steps involved.
Similar to choosing cabinet door styles, selecting a more traditional type of wainscoting requires the choice between different types of panels like raised, flat and overlay. Each wainscoting design includes multiple elements, such as various moldings, panels, rails and possibly stiles. These are applied to the wall in the determined pattern.
Wood wainscoting should be sealed back and front before it's installed, whether you are planning to paint it or not, because sealing the wood helps guard against issues with contraction and expansion. Wainscoting can be applied even if your walls are out of plumb, but you will need to compensate for the lack of levelness during installation. If you have an uneven wall surface, you can fix the issue with horizontal filler strips. Finally, for an undulating floor, you just need to determine the height of the chair rail by the floor's highest point and shim the baseboards.
If this all sounds like it's beyond your carpentry capabilities, wainscoting is available as ready-made panels. For example, a beginning DIYer can purchase wall cladding in sheets, MDF or even a light fiberboard that can be cut to fit, Musso says.
"It's a lot easier than it used to be," he says. And when considering more contemporary designs, wainscot can be fashioned from all sorts of materials that may be less complicated to work with. He recommends checking out how-to videos on YouTube and renting a nail gun to make installation less demanding.
Throwing in the DIY towel in favor of hiring an installer will increase the cost of the project. But with an average cost of installing wainscoting in the thousands, it could still be a sensible and stylish investment for years to come.
Originally Published: Oct 22, 2019