How to Install Custom Wainscoting
Before you get started, you’ll want to assemble your materials:
Trim for top rail
Trim for chair rail
Trim for baseboard
Trim for vertical stiles, to cover seams in panels and to give a finished look at corners
Paint or stain
Paintbrush or rags
Brad nailer and brads
Circular saw or table saw
Finish nailer and finish nails
Router and bits
Polyurethane (if using stain)
Start by measuring the height of your base molding, and mark that height on the wall. Use a level to draw a line all the way across the wall where the new base molding will go. Determine at what height you want the chair rail, and mark that on the wall. Again, use a level to draw a line all the way across the wall. Measure the length of the wall and determine how wide you want your wall panels. (For example, if your wall is 100â€ť long, four panels that are 25â€ť long will be evenly spaced.) Measure and mark the vertical lines with a level.
Once all the markings are made, look at the wall and make sure you like how it looks. Measure, using your measurements from above, and cut all of the wainscoting panels using a circular saw or table saw. The width if the panels was determined above; the height will be from the floor to the chair rail. Sand the panels if needed. Stain or paint the panels, following the instructions on the stain or paint container. Allow to dry.
To install the panels, apply construction adhesive to the back of one sheet of paneling. Affix the panel on the wall, within the markings, making certain that the top edge is even and in line with the top horizontal line. When the panel is where you want it, hold it in place with a brad nailer. Only nail near the seams, where the vertical stiles will cover the nails. Continue installing one panel at a time until all the panels are in place.
Next, install the vertical stiles at the corners. First, measure the height between your top marking and the floor at each corner. Mark these measurements on your trim and cut with a table saw or circular saw. Sand if needed. Stain or paint and allow to dry. Nail these boards in place at each corner with finish nails.
Next, youâ€™ll install the baseboards. Measure the length between the two corner pieces you just installed. Mark these measurements on your baseboard pieces and cut with a table saw or circular saw. Rout the ends of the baseboard to fit with the corner stiles, if necessary. When they are installed, they will fit perfectly. Sand if needed. Stain or paint and allow to dry. Nail the baseboards in place along the base of the wall with finish nails.
Now you will install the top rail. Measure and cut the pieces, and rout the ends to match the vertical stiles. Sand if needed. Stain or paint and allow to dry. Nail the top rails in place along the top of the wainscoting with finish nails. The top edge of the rail should be flush with the top edge of the panels.
Next, install the vertical stiles. Measure for each one separately, as there may be some slight variations. Cut the stiles and then rout the bottom end to match the baseboard (and the top end to match the top rail, if necessary). Sand if needed. Stain or paint and allow to dry. Install each stile with finish nails, making sure that they are plumb.
Last, install the chair rails. Measure along the marked line (which should be at the top of the paneling and top rail) and cut the trim to length. Sand if needed. Stain or paint and allow to dry. Install the chair rails using finish nails. To finish up, fill in the nail holes with putty and, if you used stain, apply a coat of polyurethane to the entire project.