All You Need to Know About Wainscoting (A Complete Guide)

One way that you can make a room look completely different is by changing the trim, and there are so many options for you to choose from. Wainscoting is the most popular ones.

This article will provide you with all the information you need to know about wainscoting, including what it is, how much it costs, as well as the pros and cons.

Let’s dive right in.

What is wainscoting?

Wainscoting is a type of paneling installed on lower half or third of wall’s height. It’s originated in the 18th century and purposed to improve the insulation of a room. Now, it’s usually used for decoration only. It is taller than the chair rail and usually comes in MDF, but any material can be used for it.

Some homeowners feel that wainscoting is old-fashioned. Some even state that it is obsolete, despite the fact that it comes from hundreds of years ago. It is still popular in high-end homes, however.

What is its history?

Now that you know what wainscoting is and why it might be a good choice for your next home improvement project, let’s discuss its history.

Wainscoting is something that has been around for hundreds of years. It started in the 18th century as a way to improve the interior’s insulation and protection of buildings and homes from cold stone walls.

What is its purpose?

Back then, wainscoting helped to insulate rooms, particularly by providing acoustic and thermal insulation.

It also provided some protection for walls, especially since they were only papered at the time.

Nowadays, it is used solely for decorative element rather than functional.

What is wainscoting made of?

The most popular material of wainscoting is MDF (medium-density fiberboard), but traditionally, they’re made of wood. There are also other options such as plywood and vinyl.

The highest quality is solid wood, but they can deform and are rather costly. MDF or vinyl are the most popular ones because they are more affordable and easier to maintain.

What’s the difference between paneling and wainscoting?

Wainscoting is a type of wall paneling that limits itself to the lower half or third of the wall’s height, including the moldings.

Paneling, on the other hand, refers to a more general term and may span all the way from floor to ceiling.

What’s the difference between beadboard and wainscoting?

Some homeowners use the words “beadboard” and “wainscoting” to mean the same thing… but they are different.

In short: both are a type of paneling, but wainscoting refers to height, whereas beadboard refers to style.

There are many types of wall panels, including shiplap, board and batten, raised panel, flat panel, and beadboard.

So, wainscoting is a type of paneling applied to the lower half or third of a wall’s height. While beadboard is a type (style) of panel that has vertical lines on it.

What is the cost of wainscoting?

Wainscoting Panel in Hall with Light Brown Wall Paint

Wainscoting is usually quite affordable and a cost-effective option when considering a home improvement.

Wainscoting Cost Based on Materials

The cost of wainscoting varies depending on what materials you choose to have installed.

For example, MDF wainscoting costs about $7-$17 per square foot, while solid wood panels can go as high as $15-$40 per square foot.

This is for the materials only and doesn’t include labor.

Material Average Cost per sq.ft.

Wainscoting Cost based on Room Size

The cost of wainscoting is also determined by the room size. The more paneling you put in, the more it will cost.

The table below displays wainscoting cost estimation based on typical room dimensions in the United States.

Room Size Average Cost per sq.ft.
100 sq.ft.$1000-$2500
200 sq.ft.$1500-$3000
300 sq.ft.$2000-$3500
400 sq.ft.$2500-$4000

Wainscoting Installation Cost

The cost of wainscoting installation (or any paneling) may differ depending on the location.

As a rule of thumb, it is safe to say wainscoting installation costs on average $1,000 to $5,000 in the United States. It may vary depending on the style, complexity, and types of finish.

All in all, always consult with your trusted contractor about your project to get the estimates and quotes.

The pros of installing wainscoting

There are a lot of reasons to choose wainscoting for your home improvement project. Here are some of the top reasons:

1. Improve your room’s insulation

It also has several benefits for your home. Wainscoting can improve the insulation of a room, which is why it was originally implemented so long ago.

Additionally, it helps to prevent scrapes and scratches on your walls because wainscoting covers them completely.

2. Prevents scratches on walls

Another reason to choose wainscoting is that it prevents scratches on walls. Even with the best of kids, they will likely manage to make a scratch on your wall at some point.

But with wainscoting, you don’t have to worry as much because it will provide the necessary protection to your walls from everyday wear and tear.

3. Comes in varieties of materials

Plus, you can choose any type of material that will match what already exists in your home or even match your furniture.

It comes in a variety of materials, like MDF or wood. It can be painted, stained, and even decorated to match your personal style.

4. Aesthetically appealing

Lastly, wainscoting is aesthetically appealing. If you are looking for something that will completely change the look and feel of a room without having to spend too much money, then installing wainscoting might be perfect for you!

The cons of installing wainscoting

Wainscoting has many benefits, like stopping scratches on your walls and providing acoustic and thermal insulation. But there are some negative things about wainscoting too.

1. Rotting

Wooden wainscoting can rot because it is made of wood. Wood can be wet and then it becomes a home for bugs, like spider webs or ants.

That’s why you need to make sure that your house has good insulation so the cabin doesn’t get too wet.

2. May be Expensive

Some types of wainscoting can be expensive according to what they’re made from. Materials like exotic wood can go from $40, which also need someone who knows how to install it.

3. Deformation

Wooden wainscoting can warp and bend. This is because the wood is made from trees, which are alive.

When a tree is cut down and made into wood, there’s water in it. That water evaporates over time. The wood shrinks as the water leaves it, making it bend and creating gaps.

4. Maintenance

Lastly, it is difficult to fix after installation. Oftentimes, homeowners choose to have their wainscoting painted for a new look or design.

But if you paint over it and decide later on that you want something different, then you will have to completely remove the wainscoting before repainting it. This takes time, and you might even damage the walls, which is why it’s difficult.

Wainscoting Ideas

Wainscoting in The Corner of Wall with Knockdown Texture Finish

Just because it’s not necessary to have wainscoting nowadays, doesn’t mean that it lost its charm. You may improve the appearance of your wainscoting by following these tips and ideas!

1. Play with colors

Wainscoting doesn’t have to be white. It can be painted whatever color you want to match your furniture or room.

This helps to add more personality to the walls without having it look too cluttered.

2. Use patterns

If you would like to have a pattern on your wainscoting, then why not go for something that matches your personality?

You may like flowers or animals, or even stripes and polka dots. There are a lot of options out there, so have fun being creative.

3. Be consistent

Make sure that the pattern on your wainscoting is in line with the rest of your room or else it will look unprofessional.

For example, you can’t have flowers if all your furniture has animal prints or geometric patterns. If you are going for a more vintage look, then make sure that the pattern is consistent with that too.

4. Use wallpaper

The right kind of wallpaper can make a significant improvement, especially when combined with wainscoting. It gives the illusion that your wainscoting is continuing up to the ceiling and makes it look more important.

5. Know when to stop

If you are going for the Victorian look, then don’t make the mistake of continuing the wallpaper on your ceiling, unless you know what you’re doing (wow it rhymes).

This is something that people used to do in the past but it only makes it look more cluttered and harder to customize.

6. Try to break the rule

The general guideline for wainscoting heights is half or one-third of the wall. However, when it comes to improving your home, there are no limits, right? To fit your own style, you may modify the height as desired!

7. Take your time

Lastly, take your time when installing wainscoting so that it looks perfect. If you are trying to finish a room in 3 days then this might not be the best option for you. It’s much better to do it gradually than rush into it and have an uneven looking wall.

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