Dining room wainscoting = Done!

I have to say, this is definitely in the top 3 favorite projects I’ve done to a house. Relatively small cost and effort for a huge impact.
I had been wanting to do wainscoting forever, and our dining room was the perfect area to try it on. I was worried about how the boards would meet up with our baseboards, since it was only 1/4 ” thick, and I didn’t want to replace those and have them not match the rest of the house.

Then I came across this tutorial and knew it was the perfect and easiest way to achieve the look. Since the boards were only 1/4″ thick they would line up perfectly with my existing baseboard. Problem solved!

So I made my measurements and took a trip down to HD. I had around 254″ of wall length to cover, so here’s how the materials broke down for me:

(10) 1/4″ x 4″ x 3′ poplar boards
(8) 1/4 x 3″ x 3′ poplar boards
254″ of chair rail trim

It worked out best for me to space the vertical boards 16.5″ across (it was originally 16 but then I found out the boards labeled 4″ are actually 3.5″ wide! Why do they do this?)

Then I would use the narrower poplar boards and run them horizontally across the wall on top of the vertical boards, then top that off with the trim.

I ended up finding my poplar boards in cubby’s below the larger wood pieces. For those of you who always get lost in the HD aisles looking for the right wood, I snapped a pic:

They came in quarter inch and half inch thick pieces, all 3 feet long, in various widths. In the tutorial I followed, she used the same 4″ thick (err 3.5″) pieces to run across the top, but I was worried it would look too thick with the chair rail so I opted for the 3″ (which is also actually 2.5″).

FYI, they only had 7 of the narrower poplar boards left so we had to buy one oak in the same size. Ugh. Stay away from oak, it has horrible rough grain that you can see when you paint over it and it’s really hard to cover without turning yellow. Stick with poplar!

Anyway, here are all my pieces at home, ready to cut:

I wanted the height to be 3′ (plus the existing baseboard), so I carefully measured the cutting point for each vertical board by mocking it up against a yardstick:

After making all the straight cuts and miters (with only one small miter disaster that we later fixed with caulk) the boards were ready to go up!

Here I’m leveling the board for the nail gun:

And board #1 is up!

Here’s two more…

I’ll fast forward through all the rest—here is the end of phase one:

In phase two, we attached the narrower poplar boards across the top:

Then in phase three, we added the trim:

All that was left to do was caulk and spackle and paint! Which ended up taking 80% of our time.

Our plan and our measurements were just about perfect… but we forgot that this house was not built perfect. The walls are not completely straight and level, so we ended up with some gaps here and there where the boards didn’t quite meet:

Luckily we were able to fill it and sand over it and you can’t really tell unless you’re looking for it.

On to the results!

Here is the before before, as in when we bought the house….

Here is the before we started, as in yesterday morning:

And…… after!

Ahhh… worth every second of sanding and painting!

Here is the project cost breakdown:

10 vertical boards: $24.70
8 horizontal boards: $18.45
Chair railing: $29.91
1 gal Behr paint + primer (we were out): $33.98 (minus $5 mail in rebate)

Total = $115 ($110 after rebate)

Timewise, it took a couple hours to get the wood all cut and mounted, another few hours to caulk and sand at least, which carried over to the next day where it took a good half day to paint and put the final touches on. In hours I’d say we spent a good ten hours on the project (again, most of it spackling and sanding out the problem areas).

All in all, I’m so happy it’s finally done, and I want to do our bedroom next! It will take some time to convince Brad to do this all over again though 🙂

Be back in a few days with another kitchen update!

Just linked up with the DIY Showoff!

47 thoughts on “Dining room wainscoting = Done!

  1. Scrumptious! Don't you just love trim. I rummaged my stock and nailed some up this weekend in my kitchen. I just need to get my camera to work so I can share. What room are you going to do next? It's addicting this trim 🙂

  2. It looks fabulous!

    I wanted to let you know that I just gave you the versatile blogger award! Feel free to check out my blog for more info about it.

    Keep up the good work:)

  3. I am sooooo in love with the final product. I really want to give this a try in my little condo. Plus, your floors are TO.DIE.FOR. LOVE

  4. You are amazing, and an inspiration! I love the work you have done around your house..you're not only a great graphic designer, but definitely a great interior decorator! xx

  5. i love the job and the colour combo! but i'd love to see a pic with furniture in that room… or did i miss it… anyway, i find your blog very inspiring!

  6. Hi there! Thank you for the tutorial. I am following it for my kitchen, actually! Quick question: Did you nail your vertical boards into studs in the walls? We have an older home with plaster walls, so I'm not sure if we need to do that or not. Any advice you could give would be much appreciated! Cheers!

  7. For those looking to do this, I'd suggest putting the top rail up first, then the bottom rail ensuring both are level. You can cut one stile to length to use as a guide for the placement of the bottom. You can then use corner round or other trim on the baseboard to fill in the difference. It'll make the job of working with a non-level house much easier!

  8. where do you buy your paint? I am looking at Lowe's and they don't have this color 🙁 I am not in Florida, but wonder where I can find your Valspar colors.

  9. Great job! Quick question – were the walls textured? I'm considering doing this in a powder room, but am afraid that the wall texture will reveal itself as drywall, instead of board (as in board and batten). I could put up a thin board, but then my baseboards wouldn't line up right. Could I sand the texture off? Thoughts?

  10. I have been wanting to do this forever! Came across this post yesterday, was inspired and dragged my husband to HD and bought the supplies. Our dining room is much larger so it was about 130 bucks, still need a few more posts( have to go to another HD today) . Hubster is starting after work today. Soooo very excited. Your pics and step by steps were awesome. Thanks!!!!!!!

  11. We bought our new house about 2 months ago… finally got around to removing the hideous wallpaper in the half bath (SO glad that's the only room with wallpaper!), and wanted to find something to make it a little more exciting than just paint… love the look of this! (and seems easy enough) now just have to convince my husband… or I could just go get the materials myself 😉 (I spent all of preschool at home depot yesterday) I also want to do something in the dining room too! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Lovely home! Great choices on color. I am not a blue fan, so I will try greens, oranges, and browns with these paint colors. Hopefully it will look as good. What finish of paint (satin ?) did you use in the foyer? I'm thinking of doing mine in this color.

  13. I have read several tutorials tonight on DIY wainscoting- and this is by far the best! I do have one question… what advice or direction can you provide for the corners? Just 45 degree angles? Thanks and it looks great!

  14. Been searching all over the internet for something like this. I had the plans in my head but couldn't find where anyone else attempted it so I wasn't confident about the minor details. This is PERFECT. Heading to Home Depot in a few hours to knock out this project 🙂


  15. This looks beautiful! I can't wait to try it out in my dining room! Question, do the vertical poplar boards stick out further from the wall than the existing trim around the floor?

  16. Hey Jenna Sue! Just wanted to thank you for all of your inspiring and very helpful tips! We too live in Jax, (good ole' military) and i have been to your website many times, trying to talk myself into trying some of your projects! For the past few weeks, I have been looking very intently at your board and batten/faux wainscoting tutorials, and one day i think i can do it, and then the next day i scare myself out of it. So, this time i think i am gonna take that leap and just do it……so my question for you is, which way was more budget friendly? the poplar boards, paint, and trim (or chair rail??), or the beadboard way in your new office? and which way would you suggest for each getting them to stick up there on the wall? Liquid nail for beadboard?? nail gun for the poplar, correct? I know i want something in both our front foyer and dining room, i just need to get moving on it and make a decision already! So, thank you again for all of your helpful step by steps, and any tips or advice is greatly appreciated!!!

  17. Hi Jen! I can't remember the exact costs for each, but I would have to say the board and batten cost less because there's less material. The horizontal pieces could be the same depending on what you decide to use, but you only need a handful of strips/wood pieces for the verticals which can be quite cheap depending on what you use.

    You would want to use both liquid nails and a nail gun for the beadboard, and you can get away with just a nail gun for the board & batten (if you are just using the vertical 'battens' like I did and not boards to cover your walls).

    It's a pretty similar process, so In the end I would just go with whatever you think looks and fits your space best! Hope this helps!

  18. Great! Thank you so much! One last question….have you ever done beadboard wallpaper to kitchen cabinets? This is yet another task within this house that i want to tackle, but again…its finding time, and courage to do such a big job! Any advice on this?

  19. Hi Jenna Sue – thanks so much! we followed your instructions and we can't believe the difference it has made to our house. We are now doing more rooms. i am from Australia and wainscoting is not common here, all my friends can't believe how good it looks! tks again! cheers Kim

  20. LOVE THIS!!! Super excited to try in our home. Any idea what color the trim/wainscoting was? It looks bright white, but Im often fooled. 🙂

  21. Beadboard also varies in size and thickness. The common widths recommended in the past for good workmanship were 3 and 4 (showing 2 1/4 and 3 1/4 on the face). Nominal thickness ranged from 3/4 to 5/8 to 1/2 and as thin as 3/8 depending upon the manufacturer.

  22. Hello Jenna Sue, I am a home improvement expert, I appreciate your idea because your all instructions are perfect. I love this.. Thanks for sharing your Think/ideas

  23. Did you nail the boards to studs or just into the drywall? Would Liquid Nails work instead of nailing when applying to drywall?

    1. Hi Gail, I think in this room it was just the drywall but it was so long ago I cant remember! You definitely want to attach to the studs if possible. The drywall should pull the board to it but it won’t be super secure, which doesn’t always matter but if there’s a stubborn area where the board needs to bend a bit then nailing into a stud is the way to go. Liquid nails won’t do anything until it dries but it’s not needed at that point. Good luck!

  24. May be a dumb question, but did you sand the poplar boards, or did you just have to sand where you speckled and filled in holes? Also just curious what grit paper you used either way. Thanks so much for this tutorial. We will be starting very soon!

Comments are closed.