Materials and methods
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Figure A: Upper rail construction
Nail the MDF upper rail in place first, then cap it with standard fillet and cove molding. Frame the openings with ripped-down fillet molding, then soften the edges and cover any gaps with cove molding.
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Figure B: Wainscoting construction
Make all the panels equal on each section of wall by adjusting the width of the openings and the stiles.
For this room, we wanted
a frame-and-panel wainscoting
that matched the doors
and traditional trim. Well, we
wanted it until we saw the price
tag. That’s when we came up
with a design that we could
make quickly and cheaply, using
Here’s the basic idea. The
frame is made from 1/2-in. MDF;
this thickness makes a better
transition where the wainscoting
meets the door or window
trim. Instead of a traditional
panel, the frame has rectangular
openings, through which you
see the wall. This gives some
interesting options: another
paint color (our choice), a decorative
paint texture like rag-rolling,
or even wallpaper. Moldings
frame the openings and also
form the cap along the top edge.
Wainscoting has to be fit to
the length of your walls, so we
can’t give you complete dimensions.
You’ll have to adjust the
width of the openings so they’re
the same all along the wall. The
simplest way is to figure out how
many openings fit along the wall.
Then take the leftover and spread
it out between them. Draw your proposed
wainscoting on the wall
to check your layout.
Once you have a layout
that works, cut your
MDF and moldings.
Prime all the parts, then
nail the MDF to the
wall. Attach to studs
when possible, but if
it’s not, use a little construction
nail at an angle to give
some grip. Attach all
the moldings, fill the
nail holes and then
paint. Bob’s your uncle!