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How to Install Recessed-Panel Wainscoting (page 2 of 2)

Paneled wainscoting gives a sophisticated look to any room. Get easy step-by-step instructions to create it in your home.

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  • Time


  • Price Range

    $500 - $1,000

  • Difficulty


Here's How You Do It:

Step 4: Cut and Install the Stiles

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Cut all of the 1x4 stiles to size (ours measure 27-1/2"). Use a miter saw to ensure square (90 degree) cuts on the end of each board.

Measure and mark the stile layout; if it corresponds to the stud spacing in your walls, each stile will be directly over a stud. It is best to start in a corner and work out. For aesthetics, we choose to butt two pieces together in the corner (Image 1). Check each stile with a plumb level as you nail them in place with 2-1/2" finishing nails. Use a spacer board to ensure a uniform size in between each stile (Image 2). If any of the stiles do not fall on a stud, secure them by toe-nailing to the top rail using 1-1/4" finishing nails.

Step 5: Install the Baseboard and Cove Molding

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Measure and cut the baseboard. Where two boards meet, cut mating 45-degree miters on the end of each board to create an “invisible” lap joint. Add glue to the baseboard where it meets the bottom of each stile (Image 1). Use a pry bar or wood shims to raise the baseboard to meet the stiles. Secure the baseboards in place, nailing through the plywood and wall surface into the studs with 2-1/2" finishing nails. Adjust your pneumatic nailer to drive all nail heads slightly below the wood surface, or sink the nails with a hammer and nail set.

Measure and cut the cove molding to sit on top of the top rail (Image 2). As with the other horizontal rails, use miter cuts for intersections. Secure the cove molding using 1-1/4" finishing nails. To give your panels a more detailed look, you can also install cove molding completely around the inside of the stiles.

Measure and cut the shoe molding to run along the bottom of the baseboards to hide the gap where the paneling meets the floor.

Step 6: Stain and Finish the Wainscot

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Fill all nail holes with wood putty and allow it to dry. Lightly sand all of the wood surfaces with fine (#200) sandpaper and wipe away dust with a tack cloth the paint.

If you are staining the paneling, use a brush or rag to apply wood stain. Apply a full coat and allow it to penetrate for about 15 minutes, then wipe away excess stain. When dry, repeat with a second stain coat.

Allow the stain to dry overnight. Brush or spray on a light coat of polyurethane finish. Allow it to dry, then sand lightly. Use a tack cloth to wipe away dust, then apply a second coat of finish.

Get more ideas for dressing up your walls from HGTV's

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