How To DIY Board and Batten Wainscoting

Thinking about trying to DIY board and batten wainscoting? Check out this DIY project where I walk you through all the steps, with tips and tricks!

There was nothing wrong with my entry way, I just thought it was a little bland and I thought board and batten wainscoting would really liven it up some. However, instead of buying big panels of wainscoting I decided to make my own. Check it out!

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Here is a video showing the process of the build:

1) I first figured out where I wanted the top rail of my board and batten (B&B) to be. I would suggest going online and looking at photos of B&B before making this decision because where you place the top rail will drastically affect the overall look of your final product. I decided to place mine directly above the light switches in my space because I didn’t want to cut around them. This made my measurement 44″ up from the baseboards.

2) My baseboards are not exactly level so I could not rely on them to create a straight line. Instead, I came up 44″ in the center of the wall and then grabbed a level and used it to draw a straight line around the space.

3) Then I came back with painters tape and taped right above the line I just created.

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4) Next I painted.
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WilkerDon’t: I have textured walls, and I thought going into this that it wouldn’t be a big deal once everything on the lower half was painted white. However, once I got everything painted, the light color only brings out the texture. Then once you put the smooth boards up against it, it brings it out even more. I wanted this to look like one giant piece of wainscoting and not individual boards put up on the wall, so I decided to go down another path.

5) I went to the big box store and purchased two 4’x8′ sheets of 1/8″ hardboard for around $12 each. Then I took some measurements and cut the boards to size so that they fit each section of my wall. This is a pretty tedious step but it’s worth it.

Tip: This hardboard is very very flimsy so I laid mine down on my shop floor and used a circular saw to cut it. I grabbed a few 8′ long scraps and placed them under the hardboard so it wasn’t resting directly on the concrete, then also set my circular saw blade depth to 1/8″ (since the material is 1/8″ thick). For the areas with light switches or other things to cut around, I took measurements to get the placement just right and used my jigsaw to make the cut. diy board and batten wainscoting 5Note: Since my walls are not level the hardboard does not 100% sit flush to my door jams and in the corners. Don’t worry about this! When you get to the caulking, it will fill in everything and make it look seamless.

6) Then I painted. Again. I put on three coats total.
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7) Time to start in on the boards that will make up the rails. I first took measurements of all the wall lengths so I knew how long to cut each top rail piece. I made my top rails 4″ tall and out of 1/2″ MDF. I chose 1/2″ so they would line up flush with the trim around my doors.

8) Once I had all my lengths cut, I gave them all a few coats of paint then used my nail gun and 2″ nails to attach them to the wall. I would first locate the stud then put in three nails at each stud. Note: I placed my top rails directly above the hardboard and not on it.

diy board and batten wainscoting 7Note: I’ve seen some tutorials where people use liquid nails (an adhesive) and then nails….but in my case, I was able to put all my nails into studs so I didn’t bother with any sort of glue. If your boards don’t line up with the studs then grab a tube of liquid nails and put some on the back before nailing it to the wall.

9) Next I started cutting the battens. I decided to use 3/8″ plywood for the battens because I really didn’t want to remove my baseboards and 3/8″ lined up best with them. I made mine 3″ wide and spaced them apart 17″.

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Tip: I would recommend not cutting all your battens at the same time! Unless you are in a brand new home, I bet your walls and floor are not perfectly level and that will affect this stage of the project. On the far right end of my wall, my battens need to be 44″ exactly. However, on the far left end, they need to be 44 1/8″…..not that big of a deal, but yours could be a bigger difference. I suggest figuring out how far apart you want your battens to be spaced and placing a mark. Then come back with a tape measure and measure down, in that spot, from the top rail to the baseboards. This way you can cut the battens to the exact height needed for that spot and you won’t have any ugly gaps to fill.

10) Once all the boards were in place, I went back with some wood filler and filled in all the holes the nail gun makes. If any are slightly sticking up above the wood, then just grab a hammer and give it a few wacks.

11) Then I caulked every seam. This will cover up and hide any spots where the boards don’t line up perfectly or maybe raise off the wall slightly (if the walls aren’t straight). Essentially, this step will make it go from looking like a bunch of boards placed on top of one another, to one giant panel of wainscoting.

Just in case you have never caulked anything before, here is a short summary of what to do: I bought a tube of DAP Alex fast dry. There is a hole in the side of the gun (near the handle) that you can use to cut off the tip of the nozzle. Stick it in at an angle and cut off the tip. The smaller you make this hole, the better control you will have over the bead. Before you get started you will need a wet rag or sponge. I grabbed an old towel and got it soaking wet in the sink then squeezed out most of the water. You don’t need it dripping, but you do need it wet. Now to start caulking, just squeeze the trigger and drag the gun down your seam. Once you get to the end, get your finger damp with the towel and drag it down the bead you just made. The excess caulk will be swept away on your finger and you can use your towel/sponge to wipe it off and then just repeat.

12) The the last thing!….for the last time….paint. This is more of just a touch up coat, to cover up all those wood filler spots

Note: You could always wait until this part of the project to do all the painting, but I thought it would be easier to paint the boards and wall separately.

Here is a before and after for ya.

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Overall, this is a very simple project and I think it really brighten up my entry way! I still have a few more projects planned for this area, so stay tuned.

Total Cost: $52

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