Need some help with a craftsman-style wainscoting project

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Forum topic by PSUlion01 posted 02-01-2014 03:16 PM 1675 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 2190 days

02-01-2014 03:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wainscot craftsman

Sorry if this is in the wrong forum…wasn’t sure where to put it.

Hello all,

I’m planning on undertaking a wainscoting project in our dining room sometime soon (i’m not a pro, just a DIYer), and I had a few questions as I’d like to try to do this as correctly as possible.

I’ve read through the thread below and it was informative, but I still have some questions/concerns, and didn’t want to post in a thread that was years old.

I think we’re looking to do a craftsman-like wainscot…nothing too ornate. I’m thinking of a higher style, 54” or thereabouts—about 2/3 the ceiling height. I haven’t decided yet, but may just draw it on the wall and see what looks and feels right.

1) It will be painted, so I’ve got a little more flexibility regarding materials and fudge-factor, should a cut not be perfect.

2) I was thinking of using 1/2” MDF for the rails/stiles. From what I’ve read, the 1/2” reveal for wainscoting is pretty standard. This should allow me to terminate right into my casing without issue, though 3/4” would also work.

3) My casing is 1”D x 3.5”W

4) My baseboard is 11/16”D x 6”H. I am/will be using plinth blocks for the casing to base transitions.

5) There will be some type of top cap, though I don’t know if it will be a plate rail. Need to determine how to terminate at the casing, as the cap will be wider than 1”

As for the methods of doing the wainscoting, I’ve seen/read about the following:

Approach #1
Rails and stiles framing the existing drywall – no panels in the middle or behind. This technique would result in painting the wall to match the rails/stiles.

While this seems to be the easiest approach, I recognize that it’s a shortcut and frankly, I’d rather spend more time and money if the finished product is going to be noticeably different. Our walls are relatively straight (as straight as can be for a 50+yo house) and smooth (just sheetrock – no crazy textures).

Is there anything I should think about or consider with this approach? Stuff that will present later, perhaps when it’s too late, that I might not be thinking about now?

For this approach, and potentially others, should the rails and stiles just be butt-jointed, glued (liquid nails) and nailed to the wall? Would biscuits at the butt joints be necessary or desirable? I don’t have a biscuit tool, but am willing to buy if necessary.

Approach #2
Same rails and stiles approach as above, but with a panel behind them, rather than the drywall. From what I’ve read, a 1/4” panel seems appropriate. This is where the bulk of questions arise:

(Option A) Skin the wall with the 1/4” panel, then attach stiles/rails on top? Total profile height = 3/4”

(Option B) Build the frames, route a groove, and set the panel inside the frame. Total profile height = 1/2”

I might need to purchase a new router (I have an old one from Dad), and bit(s), but again, willing to make the purchase. I think the effort/difficulty of each option is a toss-up, as I can see problems with Option (A) cropping up (i.e. needing to plan for panel seams to fall under the stiles in order to avoid a ton of caulk & spackle), while Option (B) might take more time an effort to build the frames (again, biscuits, pocket screws, etc?) and making sure they’re square prior to getting them up on the wall.

With either of these options, are there any considerations I should be making with the paneling? The first thing that came to mind is warping or buckling of the 1/4” panel. It seems like it might be less of a concern in Option (A), but should it be a concern at all? Would I be ok using 1/4” MDF, or would a 1/4” ply be better? I don’t know if I can get the MDF in 4’x8’ sheets at the local big-box store, plus transporting the big sheets might be an issue, even if I can get them at the lumber yard. I know I can get big sheets of 1/4” ply, but would that be better/worse/same as using the MDF. Since I’m painting it, the MDF seems preferred, but looking for opinions.

Approach #3
Building on much of the first two approaches, the third approach I came across involves using a wainscoting router bit on the rails and stiles, as seen in the project below:

Assuming I don’t want the rails and stiles squared off, void of any trim molding inside of the frames, this appears to be an attractive option. The router bit will be cheaper than buying moldings, while obtaining a similar look. It also may make the creation of the frames easier. I’m still left with the questions above about the panels and techniques though.

Sorry for the long, first post, but I tried to provide as much info as possible. Happy to answer any more questions, and post pics of the room as it exists now if that helps.


3 replies so far

View woody316's profile


2 posts in 1349 days

#1 posted 09-10-2014 04:52 AM

When looking to remodel a room by adding a new style, consider the many DIY beadboard wainscoting ideas that are available. Remodeling your home can be exciting, cost effective and easy to do yourself. Wainscoting is a type of paneling added to existing walls to provide a non-flat surface that comes in many styles.

View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 3358 days

#2 posted 09-10-2014 06:11 AM

You might want to find a copy of Robert Lang’s “Shop Drawings for Craftsman Interiors: Cabinets, Moldings and Built-Ins for Every Room in the Home (Shop Drawings series)”. You can find it on Amazon. He has several examples of wainscot,door frames, crowns, picture rails, plate rails, etc. A good book for reference.

Oh and btw….

WE ARE!!!!!

View bold1's profile


293 posts in 1841 days

#3 posted 09-10-2014 11:05 AM

My bro in law used tambur(roll top) material he got from a cabinet maker. Seems they had 48” end of roll pieces that he got for next to nothing. Some of them only 8” wide. He glued them right to the drywall and put chair rail at the top. Narrow strips, but really looks good. Something you might want to check if there is anyone in your area using it in any quanity.

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