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  • Writer's pictureJen Bedard

DIY Wainscoting for Every Skill Level

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

Wainscoting is a beautiful way to upgrade a home, but having it done professionally can run you tens of thousands of dollars. For so many people, a professional wainscoting job just isn’t in the cards, or if it is, that money could be much better spent on other, more vital upgrades. That’s why I’ve put together three methods of DIY wainscoting for you to look at, available for all skill levels so that you can find the right one for you!

(I’ve even got one so easy, kids could probably do it!)

The Traditional DIY

Below is a traditional method for adding DIY wainscoting to your home. It will require a little bit of know-how and a few tools - namely a saw and a level - but it’s easy enough for you to do without breaking the budget! Remember, if you get confused, the experts at your local hardware store (I recommend Home Hardware) can often give you a product recommendation or help you figure out how much of a product you need, so don’t be afraid to ask them!

  1. Measure the wall you want to cover. Using a measuring tape, decide how much wainscoting you want, what size your frames will be, and how far apart you want them to be spaced. Keep this information with you when you go to the hardware store.

  2. Visit the hardware store. Buy appropriate amounts of moulding for the wainscoting, and chair rail, if you so desire. If you aren’t sure how much to buy, ask a hardware store associate

  3. Cut the moulding and make the frames, using a saw to cut the moulding on a 45-degree angle. Square it up as evenly as possible.

  4. Attach the pieces together with wood glue or another construction adhesive. Allow the frames to dry, and sand off any extra glue if necessary.

  5. After taping off the area you’re going to work in, use a level, measuring tape, and pencil to mark your frame placement.

  6. Apply your adhesive to the back of the frame, and place your frame in the first pencil-marked placement area. Repeat until you’re satisfied with the wainscoting.

  7. Paint to match the walls, if desired!

There are, of course, little adjustments that you can make here. You may decide you don’t need a chair rail, or painting may not be necessary for you. But on the whole, with these guidelines, you should be able to create a professional-looking wainscoting job at a fraction of the cost!

The Easy Method

This method is a little simpler than completely DIY-ing your wainscoting, but it can be just as effective if you’ve got a small, uniformly-sized space to cover. You may still need a saw if there are any irregular places you need to fit your wainscoting to, and if you want a chair rail, you need to measure out the length for that.

Hardware stores often sell pre-pieced together wainscoting, and you can even find foam wainscoting on the internet. After you’ve measured your space and decided what size frames you’ll need, simply buy them pre-assembled, choose an appropriate adhesive (or a stud-finder and a nail) and apply them to the markings you’ve made on your wall. Add a chair rail if you want or need one, paint if necessary, and voila! Instant wainscoting!

The REALLY Easy Method

This method just about takes the cake for anyone who is on a budget, wants to try out wainscoting without commitment, or lives in a rental and can’t put holes in the walls. The secret? Picture frames!

Medium-sized picture frames can often be found on sale at craft stores. All you need to do after marking out where you want the frames to go is remove the glass, paint them to match your walls, and then apply to the walls themselves. If you’re looking for a permanent solution you can use adhesive, or renters can fall back on removable picture-hanging strips to get a wainscoting effect without breaking the budget.

Which one of these methods are you most excited about using? Let me know in the comments below!

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