By Gene and Katie Hamilton
A beadboard wainscot will add an architectural element that can take the form of a chair rail to protect the wall or a plate rail to display a collection of plates or artwork. While original beadboard was a thick wall cladding of tongue-and groove boards, today you can use a lighter beadboard that comes in 4-by-8-sheets of 1/4-inch thick panels. To add the charm of a plate rail wainscot, install the panels about 4 or 5 feet from the floor and finish with a deep cap rail to hold decorative items. To create a chair rail, the wainscot should be about 3 feet high, and capped with a chair rail molding. This is a nice way to protect wall surfaces in a dining area, where chairs can damage walls as they’re pushed away from the table.
It's not a trivial investment but you'll enjoy it for years to come. A carpenter will charge $2250 to install 180 square feet of unfinished beadboard wainscoting capped with a chair rail molding in a 12-by-15-foot room. That includes labor and material. If you have carpentry skills and tools you can buy the material for $750 and do it yourself and save 68 percent. The beadboard can be fastened to the wall with construction adhesive, or on furring strips nailed to the wall. To finish the wainscot, plan to sand it lightly before priming and applying a finish.
A carpenter told us it's a good idea to lay out the job according to how you work. If you are right-handed, begin in a left-hand corner and work towards your right; you lefties should begin in a right corner and work toward the left.
Sound too complicated and time consuming? Here's a link to Home Advisor, a free referral service that matches homeowners with local contractors.
For more information and instructions go to www.newenglandclassic.com.
The bottom line: compare the price of a contractor’s bid to install wainscotingt with what it costs to do it yourself and make your decision. You adjust the cost to where you live by adding your ZIP Code.
Improvement and Repair Cost Updated 2020