How To Install Board And Batten Wainscotting Two Ways

If you are looking for budget-friendly wow factor for any room in the house, this is a great DIY accent wall idea. It is surprisingly not a difficult build and can be done fairly quickly. We added it to our dining room wall and had it finished in a day!

I'm sharing how to install board and batten wainscotting two ways. One is for a standard wall with battens on either end. The other is for a non-standard wall where only one end has a batten. Why? Because it is flanked by built-in cabinets with doors or something else that would be obstructed by a batten.

How To Install Board and Batten Wainscotting Two Ways

How To Install Board And Batten Wainscotting Two Ways


If you are new here, we have been spending our time in isolation painting the interior of our home. Of course, I couldn't just stop there and have been giving each room a budget-friendly makeover with a maximum budget of $400 per room. We started with the grandkid's guest room, then moved onto the multi-purpose home office.

Now we've moved into our L-shaped living room and dining room. After painting the walls in both rooms Behr Toasty Gray (N320-2), it was time to address the long wall running the length of the dining room and living room.

DIY Budget Feature Wall

What We Did Wrong The First Time

I have a confession to make, this isn't our first attempt installing board and batten wainscotting on this wall. I have lived with our botched attempt for several years and was determined that one day we would do it right. Well, that time is now.

So here's what we did wrong. We based our formula for the batten installation to coincide WITH the wall studs. Our studs run every 16-inches and deciding that was too close, we skipped every second stud with a 32-inch space between the battens. Way too large a span!

The second thing we did was place the bottom board above the existing baseboard. As long as they are the same thickness, you can do it this way but I personally disliked the look of double baseboards.

Board And Batten Wall WITH Baseboards

This is what our board and batten wall looked like before...

DIY-Dining-Room-Wainscotting-Before

...and this is what it looks like now after the modifications.

DIY Dining Room Wainscotting After

Much better, right? I am much happier with this version of our dining room wainscotting.

You probably noticed the furniture in the room changed too. The nice thing about children moving out of the house is that it's a great excuse to get new furniture. Well, new to us because ALL of the new pieces are upcycled thrift store finds and you can see those makeovers in my Duncan Phyfe Dining Table and Dining Room Headboard Bench posts.

Even the furniture in the foreground (on the living room side) is upcycled. What can I say, our home has been renovated with sweat equity! You can find those makeovers here in my Wooden Stacked Book Table and Upholstered Living Room Armchairs posts.

Okay, time to get to the head-scratching formulas for installing board and batten, the right way!


Dining Room Accent Wall

The Head Scratching Formulas For Installing Board and Batten Wainscotting, the right way!

If you're like me and numbers are not your forte, figuring out the math for a board and batten wall can have your head spinning. At least it did mine and Mr. Frugalista, and he's good at math! I've included two formulas, one for each scenario mentioned above. I hope they make sense because even typing them out has my head spinning again.

There is one beneficial tool that I didn't mention in the supply list that is very helpful for this home improvement project...wine. Not for the actual building process because that's fairly easy but when doing the calculations for how many battens, the spacing between battens, what height, blah blah blah, wine helps.

Okay, are you ready for some head spinning? Here we go...

Standard Wall Formula

On a normal wall, you would have a batten on each end and this is the formula you would use to determine the number of battens and spaces between each batten.
  1. Measure the length of your wall.
  2. Decide the width of your battens (example 3.5 inches).
  3. Divide the length of the wall by general spacing between battens that you want (example 24 inches).
  4. Add 1 batten to determine the number of battens you will need.
  5. Subtract the width of battens (combined width of all the battens) from the length of the wall.
  6. Divide the remaining length by the number of spaces which equals the space between each batten.
  7. Start at one end with one batten.
  8. Measure the determined distance between each batten. This is the start of the second batten and so on.

Standard Wall Formula Example

Wall: 121"
Battens: 3.5" wide
Spaces: 24" (approx)
121 ÷ 24 = 5 spaces (5 battens) + 1 batten = 6 battens total
6 battens x 3.5 = 21
121 - 21 = 100 ÷ 5 spaces = 20" between battens

When The Standard Formula Won't Work 

In our case of course things couldn't go that smoothly because ours is not a standard wall. As I mentioned earlier, on one end of the room we have a built-in china cabinet. A batten on this end would interfere with the doors so we needed to use one less batten than the standard wall formula. If you are in a similar situation, then this is the formula you'll want to use to determine the number of battens and the space between each.

Farmhouse Wall Treatment

Non-Standard Wall Formula

  1. Measure the length of your wall. 
  2. Decide the width of your battens (example 3.5 inches).
  3. Divide the length of the wall by general spacing between battens that you want (example 24 inches).
  4. DO NOT add 1 batten like the standard wall formula.
  5. Subtract the width of battens (combined width of all battens) from the length of the wall. 
  6. Divide the remaining length by the number of spaces which equals the space between each batten. 
  7. Start at one end with one batten (3.5 inches).
  8. Measure the determined distance between each batten. This is the start of the second batten and so on.

Non-Standard Wall Formula Example

This example is based on the wall in our home.
Wall: 192.5"
Battens: 3.5" wide
Spaces: 24" (approx)
192.5 ÷ 24 = 8 spaces (8 battens) - 1 batten (no batten on one side) = 7 battens
7 battens x 3.5 = 24.5
192.5 - 24.5 = 168 ÷ 7 (spaces) = 24" between battens

What Height Should The Board and Batten Wall Be?

Now that you've figured out the spacing and how many battens you'll need, it's time to determine what height you want the board and batten wainscotting. Standard height is one-third of the height of the wall including the cap.

If you want a more dramatic look with more neutral white then you could go two-thirds of the wall height. I've seen some wainscotting installed the full height of a wall. The choice is yours. We chose to go with the two-third option, 63-inches to be exact, including the trim cap.

Dining Room Wall Paneling

What Materials Should We Use For A Board and Batten Wall? 

There are a couple of choices for building a board and batten wall. We used white MDF for the boards and battens but I've seen others use thin hardboard cut to size. Again, the choice is yours.

This post contains affiliate links so you can see what products I used or recommend for this project. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

Supplies For Building A Board And Batten Wall

  • MDF 3 1/2" x 3/4"
  • 1 1/4" Panel Cap Moulding
  • Construction Adhesive
  • White Latex Paintable Caulking
  • White Latex Paint
  • Small Foam Roller (trim)
  • Regular Pile Paint Roller (wall)
  • Brad Nailer (or good old fashion Hammer)
  • 1 1/2" brad nails (or 1 1/2" finishing nails)
  • Compound miter saw
  • Level

How To Install The Board And Batten Wall


You'll Want To Clean It First

You'll want to give the wall a good clean before starting. Cleaning walls are on my least favorite thing to-do list so I use a streak free-no rinse solution. Add 1/2 cup of Borax powder to 1-gallon of hot water. Use a microfiber cloth and a pivoting floor mop for the high spots and those walls will be clean in no time.

Paint The Wall

Nows a good time to paint the bottom half of the wall with two coats of white (or whatever color you prefer) latex paint. If you have dark walls and plan to paint your wainscotting white, you may want to prime them first. Nows a good time to paint the board and batten lumber and decorative trim as well.

Painted Board and Batten Wall Paneling

Baseboard Installation

Install the bottom board which becomes your baseboard with a brad nailer or 1 1/2-inch finishing nails. Use a level to ensure it's installed straight because, in an older home like ours, that floor may not be perfectly level. Miter any joints at a 45° angle.

Board And Batten Baseboard Trim

Top Board Installation

On one end of the wall mark the preferred height with a pencil. With a level, extend that mark across the wall. Don't measure 63-inches from the floor across the wall because chances are your line will not be level.

Install the top board along the pencil line and double-check that its level before nailing in place. Just like the bottom board, miter any joints at a 45° angle.

Decorative Trim Cap Installation

We used a 1 1/4-inch panel style molding (pictured below) to cap the top of our board and batten wall. Instead of nailing it (which you could do with brad nails), we used construction adhesive.

Board And Batten Decorative Trim

Batten Installation

Based on the formula outlined earlier, install the first batten on one end of the wall and use a level to ensure it is straight.

Measure the determined space between the battens (ours is 24 inches) and install the second batten, again using a level to make sure it's straight. Measure the next space and install the third batten and so on. If you prefer, pre-measure and draw the lines beforehand for added reassurance that you got those measurements right.

Budget Dining Room Wall

Because ours is the non-standard wall configuration, we don't have a batten on the opposite end of the wall. In order for the built-in china cabinet doors to open, even without a batten, the top board had to be mitered at an angle (pictured below).

DIY Wainscotting Styles

Make All The Joints Disappear

Fill all the joints and nail holes with wood filler and sand smooth once dry. With a caulking gun and white paintable caulking, add a bead of caulking around all the boards and battens.

Painted DIY Wainscotting

Once the caulking is dry, touch up the boards and battens with paint. You may want to use a small roller and add another coat of paint on all the boards and battens.

That's it, we're done!

Board And Batten Dining Room Wall

The space above the board and batten wall is looking rather sparse at the moment. I have a couple of DIYs on the go that is going to finish this wall beautifully and I can't wait to share those soon.

If you have any questions about this board and batten tutorial, please leave them in the comment section below or the Contact Me tab at the top. I love hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this accent wall idea, I'd be so thankful if you shared it with a friend and pinned it to your Home Improvement Projects or Wall Treatment Ideas board on Pinterest.


How to Install Board And Battens On A Non-Standard Wall

I share my projects at these inspiring link parties.

13 comments

  1. Marie - what a terrific re-do. That paint color really looks good against the white. And your furniture is perfect.
    Fantastic job!
    Sheila

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Sheila! It took some time to find the right shade and I was quite nervous at first but I'm so happy with the new paint color. It looks great in every light situation. The furniture is hopefully changing soon because we need a larger table for our growing family. I'm thinking about a trestle table style.

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  2. Okay, no wonder all those formulas called for wine. I would be lost if you didn't add the examples. Board and batten isn't something you see often here in South Africa, probably because most of our home are solid brick inside and out. Only the really old homes in the super rich suburbs have it installed. It's soooooo classy

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    Replies
    1. I'll trade you for those brick walls anyday!!! I do love how the board & batten classed up the joint. Going to install it in the bathroom this Fall. Complete bathroom gut happening in September.

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  3. Simply beautiful. Several years of waiting we still don't have any wainscotting yet, and yes I am whining lol. I like the trim on the bottom much better now, it looks so clean and crisp. Pinning in the hope that someday this happens in our house.

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    Replies
    1. Leanna, when it does happen in your house, it'll go up so fast. The hardest part of this project is the calculations for the battens and spaces. We're going to install it in our main bathroom in the Fall.

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  4. Always grateful to be learning from the mistakes of others!

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  5. such a gorgeous room, Marie. you all did a wonderful job!!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Debra, I'm glad you like it! We couldn't be happier with how the room is coming together.

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  6. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
    ********************************************************

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  7. Marie,
    I love board and batten and have thought of putting it in my dining room but it flows into my kitchen and entry. Not sure where to stop it. Your dining room looks gorgeous.Congratulations, you are being feature at over The Moon party. I hope you stop by.
    https://www.eclecticredbarn.com/2020/07/over-moom-linky-party.html
    Hugs,
    Bev

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    Replies
    1. I'm so pleased with our board and batten wall that flows into the living room as well. I love it so much that we're going to install it in our main bathroom too. Thank you so much for featuring it, Bev, you made my Monday morning! 🤗

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I always enjoy hearing from you so please don't be shy! I read and reply to every single comment.