DIY Classic Wainscoting Tutorial

11 Materials
4 Days
Wainscoting is my favorite architectural element in a home. Whether you are building a new home or in the market to buy an existing one, don’t discount wainscoting as an impossible, difficult or too-expensive option. Learning this skill will add thousands to the resale value of your home. DIY wainscoting is one of the most inexpensive and easiest DIY upgrades you can tackle.
I've provided a link to most everything you need in this post. Once you click the link, you can hover this image to see links to the exact trim we used. Our style is more of the classic version of wainscoting you'd see in an older home.

You'll Need: 
  • A chop saw and to learn how to cut 45 degree angles
  • A Level
  • Finishing nails
  • Nail gun
  • A pencil to draw lines on the wall
  • Caulk with wet cloth to fill gaps and nail holes.
  • Primer
  • Foam roller
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint of your choice

But much of our wainscoting project was just “eyeing it up” to see what looks best in our space. So we did a lot of experimenting with our trim pieces to see what we liked best.
BEFORE: For this initial project we added wainscoting to the right and left walls in our foyer.
I drew a line on the wall, placed the chair rail on the wall. Found studs. Then used glue and a nailgun for placement. Then I'd measure the next section. It was just a matter of layering each piece. Then eyeing up our next step.
In-progress. Wainscoting is next...
Total Cost: Depends on your space, but our initial 2 foyer walls cost under $500.

Time Involved: One weekend (with the right tools and a good tutorial)
I primed the wall below the chair rail
AFTER: Wainscoting
We measured down from the top chair rail, and then placed the small trim piece. After that, we added the "picture frame" trim pieces. Followed by the pieces closest to the floor.
There are many varieties of wainscoting to choose from, (an entire library  can be found here) but I decided to go for a more classic version with colonial trim pieces layered throughout. 
Suggested materials:
  • Trim pieces   (
  • All other materials are in the post
See all materials
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 4 questions
  • Leslie Brennan Ofs Leslie Brennan Ofs on Oct 15, 2018

    What type of wood did you use under the trim?

  • Anne Anne on Oct 15, 2018

    Beautiful! The project looks so professional and polished. By the way, your flooring is spectacular too. Can you tell me what it is and where you purchased it? The total look with the wainscoting and flooring is wonderful.

  • Shawnua Shawnua on Oct 15, 2018

    Beautiful! I also would love to know the details on your flooring, please?

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