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Wainscoting Tips

Installation of wainscoting is a tried and true method of protecting your walls and adding an attractive design to the home. Wainscoting is also very useful for walls that are too damaged for painting. The tongue and groove boarding will cover up scrapes, dents, and holes. This is an easy DIY yourself project, but maneuvering the paneling around doors, windows, and electrical outlets may cause quite a headache for first-timers. These tips should help produce an eye-catching addition to any room or hallway of the house.

How to get started

Measure the height you want the wainscoting to be; 36 inches is usually standard length. Cut all the pieces to fit this height. Next, take a freshly cut piece and stand it up against the wall, and with the underside of your level, draw a pencil or chalk outline of the projected pathway. You want to start the layout on the corner. Nail in a corner angle piece, always checking if it’s level. If it’s not, add shims until it’s level.

Getting around doors

Unless you have the wherewithal to deal with door casings, this is where the project can run into a snag. Within about 2 feet of the door casing, take a measurement from the attached wainscoting to the door casing. Dry fit your boards until you’re certain the panels will be snug to the casing. Cut the wainscoting with a table saw and then apply your adhesive to the wall. Take the dry fit paneling and attach it as one piece. Make sure to put pressure on the outside edges and press inward to get a tighter fit.

Working with windows

When windows come into play, there are two obstacles you’ll face: the casing and the stool. To deal with both you’ll have to do some measuring and cutting. The cap rail will run into the window casing; it should overlap the window casing by an inch or two. Sandpaper and finish will hide the transition. When the beadboard comes up against the horn of the stool, notch out the back of the horn; this allows you to slip the wainscoting behind the casing. It will look like it was part of the original design.

Electrical outlets

Running into the wall outlet isn’t a big deal, but make sure you get accurate measurements for precise cuts. Mark where the board touches both the top and bottom corners of the outlet. With a combination square, draw horizontal lines from these marks and connect them with a vertical line. This represents the outline of the outlet. Use a jigsaw to cut one half of the opening. If necessary, flip the cut around and use it as the measurements for the second half of the opening.

Glue and cap rail

Try not to use too much glue as you make your layout. All that’s required is an “S” curve of adhesive for every five boards. The tongue and groove system, along with the glue, should be more than enough to hold the wainscoting to the wall. Once you’ve cut you cap rail to fit, toe nail it to the boards. If you have boards that don’t stick and bow out, avoid the temptation of driving nails into these boards; over a period of time they should conform.

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