Brianna’s Beautiful Board and Batten!

August 8, 2012 | by Jocie (email) |

Ethan and I are still in Jamaica probably drinking some Rum Punch sitting by the pool as the sun sets over the water. Island music is playing in the distance as we chat and maybe even play some cards. Hopefully, I haven’t burned to a crisp and am pleasantly tan instead. Either way, I am not home and blogging. In my absence, Brianna from The Modern Parsonage was kind enough to share her wainscoting/board and batten, experience with us! I’m a little jealous because this has been on my “I really want it” list for a looong time now. Thanks for sharing, Brianna!

Our dining room was in dire need of an update after our initial “remodel” a year ago. At the time, neither my husband nor I had ever removed wallpaper, let alone patched and painted, so the room was not as polished as it could be. We’d perused the DIY blog world for a while and finally landed on the solution to our amateur dining room style – wainscoting. Now, wainscoting comes in a lot of different forms and traditionally is just wooden boards attached to walls. We chose board and batten because it seemed like it would fit our style best, but this is a totally customizable project, so feel free to improvise.

We decided to use pine boards to be economical, although I will warn you that pine has a ton of knots and imperfections, which requires lots of wood puttying and caulking. In total, this project cost about $200 for all the wood and this room is roughly 12 feet by 11 feet. If you have more wood options in your city (our small-town Lowe’s and Home Depot have fewer types), you could probably do this project for even less. The baseboards are pine 1x6s and the chair rail and short boards are 1x4s. But enough chatting, here we go!

After removing the existing baseboard and chair rail, we started by measuring our walls and dividing them by the number of squares we thought would look nice. We decided seven would look best on the this longest wall and extrapolated from there.

For this project, except for trimming out the doorway, all we needed was a miter saw for the short and 45 degree cuts and a nail gun. You could also use a miter box and hammer, but we just happened to have these available.

You can either saw each piece as needed or try to make as many cuts as possible at one time, but I would recommend going slowly. The first cuts that I made were far too long, but if I had gone too short, we would have had to buy all new wood.

The first step in assembling the wall is to get your baseboard on and level. This is going to be the lynch pin of the whole project.

Next – and we did not do this, but it is recommended – find the studs in your wall and make sure your vertical boards line up as much as possible with them. We forewent this part only because we used a pneumatic nail gun and slammed six to eight nails in each board. You can also use liquid nails if you’re really sure you want to keep the boards in place forever (i.e. removing boards held in place with liquid nails will tear up your drywall).

Once the baseboard is in place and you’ve found your studs and done all the math, start nailing up boards, checking for level as you go.

Finally, measure and install your chair rail to rest on top of the short pieces. If you’ve made your vertical board cuts correctly, the rail should already be level, but check anyway.

Our best advice is, as you move from wall to wall, to keep one of the vertical boards lined up on the undone wall. You can see in the picture above that we mitered the corners together and attached the short boards before we even installed the baseboard or chair rail. This helped keep all the board and batten at the same height and size.

Once you’ve done one wall, the rest goes very quickly. Simply install around each wall until you’ve covered everything in pine boards.

Finally, add your decorative shoe molding or quarter round to finish off the baseboards. We chose not to add caps to the chair rail because we liked the clean look of the boards, but like I said, the style of this project is 100% up to you.

It’ll look very rough and undone until you prime and paint, but we’re not quite ready for that yet. Find all the relatively large gaps in the wood (you’ll have them, unfortunately) and squeeze in some wood putty. As you go, try to cover as many as the nail holes as possible, too. Wood putty is a lot smoother after sanding than paintable caulk so the more of that you can use, the better.

After the putty dries, sand it smooth with a sanding block. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you want to be, you can do a second coat. We were working under a deadline and we aren’t that picky so after one coat of wood putty, I caulked the rest of the gaps, including the top of the chair rail.

Because we used raw pine, priming is highly recommended before you break out the paint. I used paint-and-primer-in-one that we had on hand. See how the yellow pine color still shows through the white?

At last, I brushed on two coats of heavy-duty white trim paint and called it a day.

This project is not considerably hard, but it does involve trial-and-error and detail work. The painting, for example, took nearly three hours because of all the nooks and crannies in the board and batten. It’s still totally worth it for the chic and updated look of the room. Good luck!

What tips have you used when putting up wainscoting? Where would you put your board and batten?

As Always, thanks for reading!

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10 Responses
  1. I forgot to put a link in my guest post but you can see our full dining room at 🙂

  2. trebor says:

    I like the dark finished upper color. Do you have problems with it being too dark? some of the pictures from your site look like it but it’s hard to tell from the lighting

    • We actually have the opposite problem – the room is so full of light that I can’t find a good angle to take a picture. We have three huge windows so the grey is totally offset by the sun and the bright white wainscoting. If you notice, we did dark purple in the living room, too, but again the big windows and sheer curtains let it work.

  3. Reuben says:

    This is great. Much cheaper and easier than a lot of board and batten projects I’ve seen out there, and the end result looks just as good (at least in photos on the internet…)

    • I don’t know how good other people’s board and batten looks in person…but ours obviously does have imperfections that only I notice. I could have been more vigilant with the wood putty or bought smoother wood, but our house isn’t perfect and I like that. 🙂

  4. paintergal says:

    You did a great job. Are the corners mitered or butted together?

  5. WOW this looks amazing! You are so patient to do all the work from scratch!

  6. JustME says:

    It looks lovely Brianna. I’ve been wanting to do this so bad and though we do have plans to do a taller stained version in our Gentleman’s Parlor using quarter inch finish plywood and solid wood for the boards, I still like the white version.
    I’m about to redecorate our daughters suite (she only lived here two months before she left for basic training in the AF almost nine years ago and is now married) so I’m finally going to officially make it my room and board and batten in white would work perfectly in her/MY bathroom.

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