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Beadboard for Classic and Cottage Looks

Beadboard traces its roots to 18th- and 19th-century Europe, where it was used in less formal homes and spaces, particularly vacation cottages. Another bit of beadboard history tells us that it “began as the Victorian equivalent of Formica, a millwork sheathing used only for rustic retreats, and for kitchens, back halls, and other rooms hidden from public view. Because it was made from scraps, it was inexpensive, and it could be installed by practically anyone. Beadboard is milled with a thin ridge or tongue on one edge and a groove on the opposite edge so that the panels fit together easily.”

BeadBoard was initially made with strips of tongue and groove wood in widths of 1 ½” or 3”. It’s now available by the sheet, giving homeowners an alternative to the more expensive and labor-intensive method of one-strip-at-a-time beadboard installations.

Beadboard’s Uses

Much loved for the charm and warmth it gives, beadboard is used for paneling and wainscoting. Sometimes the wood is left natural or finished, and in many cases it is painted after installation. Along the way, beadboard moved from cottages and “humble spaces” to pride of place in hallways, dining rooms, and home offices.

“Beadboard adds a casual, rustic, and historic look to a room. It also helps to hide an old house’s irregularities - the bane of an old house owner’s existence. Beadboard is great for high-traffic areas and homes with children. A couple of nicks just add to beadboard’s charm,” Love to Know has a how-to feature on beadboard, which also includes steps for restoring old beadboard. In brief, these steps include stripping, sanding, and staining (or painting) – similar to the restoring steps for most old wood.

Tips and Suppliers

Old House Web lists eleven suppliers of beadboard, each accompanied by brief comments and a link. You’ll want to browse these resources if you are looking for:

  • Genuine antique woods
  • Recycled historic building materials
  • Modern reproductions for the do-it-yourselfer to install

One of the most informative sources for beadboard is Elite Trimworks. They offer beadboard in various types of wood, including oak, maple, and cherry, and they supply individual beadboards as well as panels. Their installation tips are useful, and include nuggets like this: “The whole idea of packaging beadboard in kit format is that it allows you to customize it fully without compromising on quality. Elite Moldings has taken all the hours of thought and planning normally associated with undertaking a job like this and put it into one box. There is very little work required to make this look just like it does on TV.”

Doesn’t that sound like a do-it-yourselfer’s delight?

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