Step 1: Measure the walls you want to cover.
Measure the length and height of the walls you wish to cover. For this room, we are using a height of 36 inches from the floor to the chair rail (or cap rail). Choose a height that is proportionally scaled to the size of the room or hallway.
Measure the length and height of the walls.
Step 2: Remove any existing molding.
To cleanly remove the existing molding, first cut the paint along the edge of the molding with a utility knife, which will allow the molding to separate cleanly when pried away without damaging the paint. Drive a putty knife between the molding and the wall and gently pry the molding from the wall.
Gently pry the molding away from the wall.
Step 3: Shut off power to affected circuits.
Shut off the electricity to the wall switches and outlets on the walls where you will be installing the beadboard.
Shut off power at the circuit breaker.
Step 4: Remove cover plates and tape over connections.
Use a screwdriver to remove the cover plates of all the outlets and switches on the walls where you will be installing the beadboard. Even though the circuit breaker for the room has been switched off, it’s wise to remove the outlets and tape over the connections. Leave the outlets loose so that they can be pulled through the beadboard during the installation.
Tape the connections and leave the outlets loose.
Step 5: Locate the wooden studs behind the wall.
The last step of preparation is to locate the wooden studs behind the wallboard. Once you locate one of the studs with a punch, mark it with a pencil. The next stud will be 16 inches on center away from the first. As you measure, look for drywall screws or use a punch to confirm each of the stud’s locations. You will want the edge of each section of beadboard, as well as the molding, to be nailed to one of these studs.
Use a punch to confirm each stud location.
Step 6: Measure and cut the molding.
Measure each length of molding and cut the molding to length.
Cut the molding.
Step 7: Cut the molding top.
To make the installation easy, we have cut down the top of ordinary clamshell molding to create a flat, one-quarter-inch bed upon which to rest one-third-inch medium density fiberboard, or MDF, beadboard paneling. When we install the beadboard, it will be measured to sit right on top of this floor molding with the edges lining up with the middle of a stud, which makes the installation much easier.
This molding (left) was cut down to create a bed.
Step 8: Cut a 45-degree angle into the end of the molding.
Set the power miter at a 45-degree angle. Flip the molding over and make the cut on the end of the molding that will join the corner.
Make the cut on the end of the molding.
Step 9: Dry-fit the molding in place.
Dry-fit the molding in place and check the fit on both ends.
Check the fit on both ends of the molding.
Step 10: Make sure the molding is level.
Check to see that the molding it level. Adjust the height on either end by inserting a wedge until the molding is dead level.
Use a putty knife as a wedge to level the molding.
Step 11: Set the height of a compass.
Using a common compass and a sharp pencil, set the height of the compass to a height in excess of the molding. Note that the molding has already been cut down to provide a one-quarter-inch bed upon which the MDF beadboard will rest.
Set the compass to an excess height of the molding.
Step 12: Draw a line across the bottom of the molding.
Using this distance as the offset, carefully scribe the bottom of the molding, leaving the wedges that were used to level the molding in place. This not only gives you a level base, but it allows you to cut the bottom of the molding to tightly follow the contour of the floor.
Use the height set on the compass to draw a line across the bottom of the molding.
Step 13: Use a table saw to cut down the molding along the line.
Cut just outside the scribed line with a table saw or jig saw. Note that you follow the line freehand, without using the fence as a guide.
Follow the line freehand as you cut.
Step 14: Plane the molding edge down to the line.
Using a hand plane, plane the edge down to the line. Leave a slight bevel so that the inside edge facing the wall is just slightly higher than the outside line. The idea is to have a smooth, beveled edge that follows the scribed line exactly.
Use a hand plane to plane the edge down to the line.
Step 15: Check that the molding is level.
Starting with the corner of the molding, fit the molding in place and check to see that the molding is level. This is important because the beadboard and the cap rail rest on top of the molding.
Make sure the molding is level.
Step 16: Mark and cut the end of the molding.
The end of the molding has yet to be cut. Mark the end of the molding and cut the molding just outside of the line. Later, we’ll trim the cut with a plane to tightly fit.
Mark the distance to be cut.
Step 17: Make new marks for the stud locations.
Next, make a new mark for the location of each stud so you will be able to see them with the molding in place. The object is to nail the molding to the studs behind the wallboard and not just into wallboard.
Mark the stud locations so you can find them when the molding is in place.
Step 18: Use a plane to trim the edges.
Check the fit of the edges. Trim the edges to fit, as needed, with a block plane.
Trim the edges.
Step 19: Glue the edge of the molding.
Apply a small line of glue to the edge joining the corner. Starting in the corner, fit the molding into place. We will trim the molding to match later.
Glue the edge and fit the molding into place.
Step 20: Fasten the molding to the wall.
Holding the molding tightly against the floor, fasten the molding to the wall by inserting two finish nails into the molding at each stud location.
Insert two finish nails into the molding at each stud location.
Step 21: Carve the corner edges of the molding to match.
Using a utility knife, carve the corner edges so they match. You can sand the edge for a perfect fit later.
Use a utility knife to carve the edges.
Step 22: Measure the sections of beadboard to cut.
Laying the one-quarter-inch MDF beadboard backside-up, measure the beadboard to 32 one-quarter-inches high for each section of beadboard needed. Divide each section so that the edge of the beadboard will rest over a stud behind the wall.
Divide each section so the edge rests over a stud.
Step 23: Clamp a jig to the beadboard and cut along the jig.
The trick to easily and accurately cutting large sheets of material is to make or buy a jig that, when clamped down right on the marks, guides the blade of the circular saw straight across the material. Clamp the jig firmly in place along the measured line. Resting the saw against the guide, cut the beadboard to size. Always cut with the finish side face-down, which protects the painted finish from being damaged by the saw.
Use the jig as a guide to cut along the lines.
Step 24: Measure and cut the height for each section.
Measure the height for each section you need and cut each panel, laying it aside for later, which makes the sections easier to work with.
Cut each panel to height.
Step 25: Mark the edge of each section.
Dry-fit the section in place, and mark the edge of each section.
Mark the edge of each section.
Step 26: Paint a line along the section edge location.
Paint a two-inch line of paint on the wall, using the same color you plan to paint the wainscoting. Paint the line where the section edges will meet, which will help to hide any tiny cracks or spaces on the edges of the beadboard after it is installed.
Use paint the same color as the wainscoting.
Step 27: Lay down caulk on the molding top.
Lay down a small bead of caulk along the top of the molding.
Lay down a bead of caulk on the molding.
Step 28: Put wall panel adhesive on the back of the first panel.
Put a one-inch dot of wall panel adhesive every six to eight inches along the back of the panel.
Put a dot of adhesive every six to eight inches.
Step 29: Press the panel into place.
Gently rest the wainscoting panel onto the bed of caulk on the molding. Press the panel tightly against the wall, tacking the panel into the studs along the edges to hold it firmly in place.
Nail the panel into place.
Step 30: Measure the top and bottom widths for the next panel.
Measure for the next section. The top and the bottom should be the same width if the molding is level.
The top and bottom widths should be the same.
Step 31: Measure the location for the four sides of the outlet.
Next, measure for the location of the four sides of the electrical outlet from the edge of the panel and from the top of the molding.
Measure to the electrical outlet.
Step 32: Transfer the measurements and cut the next panel.
Transfer the measurements to the back of the next panel. Set up the guide along these lines and cut the next panel to just outside the line. Remember, place the finish side face-down to prevent the finish from being chipped by the saw.
Cut the next panel.
Step 33: Transfer the measurements for the four corner locations of the outlet.
Flipping the panel over, transfer the measurement for the location of the four corners of the electrical outlet to the panel. Draw the outline of the box on the beadboard.
Draw the outline of the box.
Step 34: Drill two holes in the box outline.
Using a one-half-inch spade bit, drill one hole in each of the two diagonal corners of the outlet location for a jig saw blade.
Drill two holes in each diagonal corner.
Step 35: Cut out the outlet outline.
Using a jig saw, follow the outline, neatly cutting the rectangular hole for the electrical outlet.
Use a jig saw to cut out the hole.
Step 36: Check the fit of the panel.
Check the fit of the panel and the opening for the outlet. Note that as we did with the molding the outside edge of the panel was cut to be slightly too wide to allow for the final fitting with a hand plane.
The outside edge should be slightly too wide.
Step 37: Shave and bevel the outside edge of the panel.
As we did with the molding, carefully shave and bevel the outer edge of the panel until it fits perfectly. Finishing the fit with a hand plane allows you to adjust for any slight variations along the edge of the joint, which gives you a much tighter fit.
Use the plane to shave and bevel.
Step 38: Apply caulk to the molding and adhesive to the back of the panel.
As you did with Step #27 and Step #28, apply a thin bead of caulk along the top of the molding, and apply the panel adhesive to back of the panel.
Apply dots of adhesive to the back of the panel.
Step 39: Press and nail the panel into position.
Starting with the edge, position the panel in place, pressing down evenly on the panel to distribute the panel adhesive. Following the line of the studs, nail the panel in place. Smooth away any caulk that squeezes out from the bottom of the panel.
Nail the panel into the studs.
Step 40: Screw the outlet back on.
Screw the outlet back into place, and replace the outlet panel.
Replace the outlet panel.
Step 41: Measure for the cap rail.
Measure for the length of the cap rail, which will be nailed to the top of the length of wainscoting.
Use a tape measure to find the length of the cap rail.
Step 42: CAP RAIL. Rip the stock down to size.
The cap rail is made up of one-inch by two-inch fir, cut down to three-quarter-inch by one-and-one-half-inches. To make the cap rail, first rip the stock down to third-quarter-inch. Always use a pusher and never your fingers to guide the stock.
Rip the stock down to three-quarters of an inch.
Step 43: CAP RAIL. Set the blade and make the top cut.
Drop the blade to one-quarter-inch to make the top cut. Set the fence for a distance of eleven-sixteenths of an inch from the blade, which takes into account the width of the blade. Make the first cut for the top.
Make the first cut.
Step 44: CAP RAIL. Set the blade and make the second cut.
Reset the blade to seven-eighths of an inch to make the other side of the cut. Set the fence for three-eighths of an inch, allowing again for one-eighth of an inch for the blade. Make the second cut along the length of the stock.
Make the second cut.
Step 45: CAP RAIL. Round the edge.
Using a router with a three-eighths round-over bit, round the edge of the cap rail stock to form a rounded edge. The result is a custom cap rail cut to fit our one-quarter-inch MDF beadboard paneling. It’s a good idea to sand and prime as many linear feet as you will need for the project before measuring and installing the cap rail.
Round the edge of the cap rail.
Step 46: CAP RAIL. Cut one end square.
Cut one end of the cap rail square with the power miter saw. Never presume that the end is square.
Cut one end of the cap rail square.
Step 47: CAP RAIL. Transfer the measurement to the cap rail.
Transfer the measurement for the section of wall to the cap rail stock.
Transfer the measurement.
Step 48: CAP RAIL. Understanding the return.
One end of our cap rail is going to have what is called a return, which is a clean way of ending a length of molding before it reaches a corner or edge of a wall.
The return is a clean way of ending a length of molding.
Step 49: CAP RAIL RETURN. Set the miter saw and make a 45-degree cut.
To make the return, set the miter for a 45-degree cut and trim the end of the cap rail with a 45-degree angle cut.
Trim the end of the cap rail with a 45-degree cut.
Step 50: CAP RAIL RETURN. Make an opposite cut.
Flip the cap rail over and set another, opposite 45-degree cut on the miter saw. Cut the end of the stock.
Cut an opposite 45-degree cut to the end of the stock.
Step 51: CAP RAIL RETURN. Cut a one-quarter-inch return.
Set the miter blade for 90 degrees. Insert the cap rail and cut a one-quarter-inch long return for the end of the cap rail. Put this return aside until later.
Cut a one-quarter-inch long return.
Step 52: Dry-fit the cap rail.
Dry-fit the cap rail, checking the return end as well as the end that will meet the casing to ensure a tight fit.
Dry-fit and check both ends of the cap rail.
Step 53: Press and tack the cap rail into place.
Apply a thin bead of caulk to the inside of the chair rail then press the chair rail tightly in place. Tack the rail to the beadboard at the ends and over the studs.
Tack the rail into place at the ends and over the studs.
Step 54: Glue the return into place.
Apply a dab of wood glue to the return and press it into place at the end of the chair rail.
Press the return into place.
Step 55: Apply caulk to the inside edge of the rail.
Apply a fine bead of caulk to the inside edge of the cap rail along the wall and scrape away the excess with a putty knife. You can wipe any remaining excess caulk away with a damp rag.
Apply caulk to the inside edge of the rail.
Step 56: Continue the beadboard wainscoting installation until complete.
In the same manner, continue with the other walls, leveling and scribing the bottom molding for a level base, cutting and fitting the MDF beadboard onto a bed of caulk, cutting and fitting the cap rail on a bed of caulk, and caulking and finishing the edges and nail holes to make them ready for painting. The result is a detailed, classic finish that adds character and richness to your home.
Enjoy the new look of your room.