How to Install Beadboard to Add Instant Character to Your Walls

Change the look of a room in a weekend—or your whole house in a few weekends—with this easy guide to installing beadboard.

Found in a variety of home styles—traditional, beach, and cottage styles, to name a few—beadboard, also called wainscoting, can add character and welcome detail to a range of rooms. And adding beadboard isn't that complicated of a project, either. With a few key tools and some essential steps, you can transform your home. Here's how to install beadboard.

Bonus: More Pretty Trimwork Ideas


What You Need

  • Measuring tool (yardstick, ruler, measuring tape, etc.)
  • Level
  • Chalk
  • Beadboard panels
  • Circular saw
  • Hole saw
  • Construction adhesive
  • Brad nailer
  • Nails
  • Trim
  • Paint, for trim (optional)
  • Finishing nails
  • Caulk

Step 1: Establish the Beadboard's Top Line


No matter the age of your home, floors tend to settle and shift, even by fractions of an inch. Those small increments can impact both the visual appearance and the installation of beadboard. To counteract any house shifting, you'll establish a level line at the top of the beadboard.

Start by picking a side wall and measuring up from the floor to the intended height of the beadboard. That's your starting spot. Use a level and a chalk line (not a measurement from the floor) to mark a continuous level line around the room.

Step 2: Cut and Adhere Beadboard

DIY bead board

Next, you'll need to cut individual pieces of the beadboard—which is sold as large sheets of paneling—to fit around the room. Cut the paneling piece-by-piece with a circular saw. You will also need to use a hole saw to make any openings, such as for electrical outlets.

Then begin to install beadboard pieces from your starting spot. Once one piece is cut, apply construction adhesive to the back of the beadboard paneling piece. Then, place on the wall, using the continuous top-level line as your guide. Attach the next piece, matching the groove and tongue of adjacent pieces as you go. Use a brad nailer and nail from the center edge of each piece out to the corners.

Step 3: Add Trim, Chair Rail, or a Baseboard


After you've attached all pieces of beadboard, you can add trim to the top and bottom to give it a finished look. Many homeowners finish with simple quarter-round trim, but more intricate assemblies work as well. You can also purchase pre-painted trim, or paint it yourself.

Measure the top and bottom of the beadboard and cut trim pieces to match. Miter any corners and install the top and then the bottom of the trim pieces, using finishing nails. Fill the nail holes and any gaps with caulk.

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