How to Choose Wainscoting Materials and Save Money

By on Sep 18, 2012 in Articles & Tips

Wainscoting is a traditional decorative application to walls which has been making a comeback recently. Originally used on the lower portion of the walls in a house to cover the effects of rising dampness from beneath the floor, it is now predominantly decorative in nature. This treatment is applied to the lower few feet of a room’s walls between the chair rail and the baseboard.

While traditionally constructed with tongue and groove wood boards, newer methods and materials have made modern day installation easier, less expensive and more efficient. An example of this would be using separate panels, like the panels that might be found on front entryway doors. Another technique, such as using large panels that can be milled from one single piece of wood, are also implemented to help reduce common past problems like contraction and expansion cracks occurring in the seams.

In the past, it has always been fairly labor intensive, expensive and time consuming to install wainscoting from scratch. Kits now exist that can deliver the same elegant results as before but without the need for a professional finish carpenter to do the job. These kits employ the use of prefabricated panels of different widths and lengths. They include, in addition to the panels themselves, horizontal and vertical rails which make up the frames into which the panels are placed. Panels are commonly made from fiberboard covered by various choices of veneer finishing.

Some typical choices for the finished veneer material include oak, maple and cherry, as well as poplar which is paint grade wood and ready to be either painted or stained in the color of your choice. Prices for these finished panels range anywhere from about seven dollars per square foot for the poplar to more than twenty dollars per square foot for the cherry. Obviously, even with the savings provided by going the kit route, doing a full room in cherry at twenty dollars per square foot is going to run into hundreds of dollars or more by the time it’s completed.

Here’s an estimate for a small room, 8 feet by 10 feet in size. Using the least expensive material listed above, the poplar at seven dollars per square foot, and 32″ high panels, the total amount required for this size room would be 96 square feet for a total cost of about $675 for just the panels themselves. Multiply this by three to get an idea of the cost to do the room in the more expensive cherry finish.

Beadboard wood has recently become a popular choice for this type of installation. An 8′ beadboard kit, including 12 panels, top cap and base molding in poplar can be found for slightly more than $100. Another option, as an alternative to buying a kit, it to have the panels custom made to your specifications.
Recently, choices of materials for home remodeling projects have expanded considerably. While hardwoods and veneers have long been most popular, there are now more economical choices. Some of these include recycled PVC planks, the beadboard material mentioned above and even something that closely resembles actual exotic wood on sight but is made from polyurethane.

Wainscoting can add a touch of class to nearly any room. With today’s technologies and materials, installation can be an easy and quick home remodeling project. It makes for a very nice interior upgrade to your home.