Adding a custom wainscot is an easy way to transform the style and feel of a room. Burlap, if used in the right way, can add an earthy texture to a room. As a bonus, it is also very economical when compared to a custom wall treatment or paper.
Do you want to wainscot all four walls or just accent one bare wall? Rolled burlap is easiest to manipulate when broken down into manageable panels. The panel seams will be covered with trim, so decide the optimum number of panels and split the wall length evenly. For example, if you have a 12' wall and plan a 3' wainscot, split the wall into four equal 3'x3' panels. Now add the lengths of all walls and add 15 percent for waste. Rolled burlap (easily sourced online) is often sold by the yard so don't forget to divide by 3 feet per yard when ordering by length.
For a partial-height wall treatment, there will need to be a transition trim piece between the lower covering and the upper painted wall. If your room has no chair rail (an easy midheight stopping point), then horizontal trim will need to be installed over the burlap top edge. It will also be easiest if any existing base trim is removed and reinstalled over the burlap. In this case, a simple 1x trim was used and painted. Measuring from the floor, mark the finished height of the burlap (less trim) and transfer the line across the wall with a 4' level. Finally, switch off power to any outlets and remove trim plates. Cut burlap roll into pieces that correspond to panel sizes.
Wall color may show through the crosshatch in the burlap. To create a seamless finish, take the time to paint the wall with flat paint and allow to dry. To determine the right amount of adhesive to apply (enough to hold burlap but not seep through material), do a test. Then apply adhesive, working on one section at a time.
Apply the first piece of burlap at an inside corner and tack it in place with four staples along the vertical edge. These will be covered with trim later. Working with an assistant and being careful not to distort the crosshatch, gently pull the burlap out and across the wall. Slowly work the burlap down onto the adhesive with a flat-edged object. Keep a gentle tension on the burlap at all times.
If base trim is being installed over existing carpet, usually no additional molding is required. If base trim is being installed over a hard surface like a wood floor, shoe mold may be necessary to account for variances in the subfloor. Check the floor with a 4' level to be sure, then install trim with 15 ga. finish nails, driven into existing studs.
Be sure to measure each piece as the top trim may vary in distance from the base if installed over an uneven floor. Use narrow crown staples and construction adhesive to apply battens if they do not align with existing studs. If trim is being painted, caulk all joints between trim pieces, being careful not to touch the burlap fabric. The trim can be bench-primed and first-coated prior to installation. Reinstall any removed electrical trim plates and final-paint or stain trim.