Installing beadboard on existing walls can add an element of class to plain drywall. You can even apply it to ceilings to add interest as well as a beautiful surface to paint in a variety of colors.
And wherever you apply it, there are a couple of benefits. It is relatively inexpensive costing anywhere from $1 to $2 a foot. It also is very forgiving allowing you to cover up many mistakes.
Recently I redid a bathroom in an older home that was built in 1939. It had all of the traditional style décor including a claw foot bathtub which was the main obstacle to putting up anything around the walls.
However, the project turned out really well with less effort that I initially envisions, so I would like to relate my experience.
Preparing the Area
There are several ways to install beadboard and your project will depend on what type of wall you are working on.
The bathroom already had 6 inch large baseboards, so after consulting with the home owner, we decided to leave them in place and set the beadboard on top of the baseboard. This saved a lot of time, and I recommend it if you have an older home with some of the original décor. Once everything is set and painted, you cannot tell the difference.
Remove any trim or corner molding before you begin. At this point, you may need to use something to pry the molding off the wall without breaking it, and I recommend something like a SuperBar which will also pull nails.
If you have any stubborn nails, use a pair of vice grips to lock on the head and pull it out.
The great thing about installing beadboard instead of painting a wall is that you do not have to do any serious wall prep such as sanding. The wainscoting will cover up any imperfections.
Installing Beadboard Panels
I decided to install beadboard slats that snap together with a tongue and groove. If you have ever installed engineered wood flooring with snaps, it works the same way.
As I said, we decided to leave the baseboards on the wall which made the job go much faster for a couple of reasons.
First, I didn’t have to take the time to physically remove the base, but more importantly, I was able to use the top of the baseboard as a starting point for the panels so there was no need to mark off a level line above. The panels simply rested on the baseboard and that kept it level all the way around the room. This saved a lot of time.
In any project like this, where you start is important. I started along the back wall behind the Credit: mjpyrobathtub in case I made any errors. I knew it would be a learning process so I wanted any mistakes to occur where they would not be seen.
As it turned out, it was so easily to put up, that it didn’t matter where I started. I simply resting each piece on the baseboard and tacked a 2 inch brad nail into the top and bottom. I didn’t have a nail gun, but the hammer worked out fine. I used a nail finisher to tap the last few millimeter of the nail in to the boards.
There were places behind the bathtub and in the corners where I wasn’t able to hammer a nail in, so I applied Liquid Nails to the back of those panels and tacked a nail in at the top.
If you think you will reach a point in a wall where you will have to cut one of the slats to fit it in a small area, make sure that corner is in an out of the way part of the room. In my case, I planned it so that any cutting would be done in the far corner behind the shower head. However, as it worked out, I didn’t need to make any cuts after all.
Also, it does not need to be perfectly matched in the corners because a corner piece of molding will be installed in the corner once both sides of the beadboard are in place. So if you end up with an inch gap in the corner, don’t panic.
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Dealing With Obstacles
The main obstacle in this installation was getting around the large bathtub and working around the toilet. However, I did have to make several miter cuts as well as cut one opening for an electrical outlet.
To cut out a section for an outlet, I placed the slat to the side of the outlet and marked the top and bottom boundaries, then I placed the slat on top of the outlet and noted the side to side boundaries. This is not as hard as it sounds and the cut does not need to be perfect.
I started it by drilling a hole, then inserted a jigsaw and cut out the rectangle for the electric outlet. The main thing you need to do is not cut the hole larger than the electrical face plate that will go on once the slat is installed.
Once a wall is in place, I placed a small piece of quarter round on top of the baseboard for a flushed look. It worked out perfectly.
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Installing the Chair Rail
Once the beadboard wall was in place, I had to add the chair rail on top for a finished look.
I had purchased a set of chair rails that had a ridge on the back designed to sit on top of the beadboard. So the most difficult part of this process was simply getting the cut lengths right and mitering the corner joists. It is very important to take accurate measurements and it helps to have a miter saw which makes the 45 degree cuts a breeze.
Once I had each piece of chair rail measures, I made sure it was sitting flush, then tacked some 2 inch brad nails through it into the wall.
Finally, tack or glue the corner molding in place to cover any gaps in the beadboard.
At various points where the chair rail meets, you made need to apply wood putty or caulk to cover any gaps before painting everything.
Installing One Piece Beadboard
If you have a larger area to work with, you might want to purchase wainscot beadboard in 4x8Credit: mjpyro sheets which can make the job go faster. The process is the same, however, you will have to plan any cutouts for electrical outlets and switch and this can be more time consuming than doing it with individual panels as you approach the area.
Start by removing any existing baseboard around the room. Again, you can leave the baseboard in place and simply apply the board above it. After painting, you really cannot tell the difference.
However, if you removed the baseboard, mark the desired height of the beadboard, then measure from that horizontal line down to the floor where the top of the baseboard will go when you install it over the beadboard.
As for the baseboard, you can reuse the ones you have, buy new ones that are pre-made in various designs, or make your own. The first two options are self-explanatory, but if you want to make your own, cut the MDF into 5 ½ inch strips and to the length of each side of the room.
When the strips meet along straight walls or in corners, miter the joints to hide the seam, the secure them to the wall at the base with 2 inch brad nails.
Cut the 4-by-8 sheets of wainscoting in half so that they are easier to work with. Next, determine where any outlet boxes are located on the wall, then mark the exact location on the beadboard. You can use a drill to begin a hole in the opening large enough to get the blade of a jigsaw through, then cut away enough to allow the electrical outlet or light switch through. Be sure not to cut the opening too wide.
Now that you have everything planned, you can begin to install the large 4 x 4 foot panels. Start by applying a heavy duty adhesive like Liquid Nails to the back of the wainscoting panel.
Place the panel on the wall vertically so the beads run up and down. Nail two inch brad nails around the area to secure it in place.
More than likely, you will have to cut a smaller piece of beadboard to fit in the corner sections.
Once everything it secured to the wall, nail the base molding over the wainscot, mitering the corner joists for a flush fit.
Finally, place a chair rail on top of the wainscoting and nail it in place with brad nails. Apply caulk or wood putty to any joints or gaps, then paint for a finished look.
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Install Bead Board in Your Home
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