How to make DIY paneling

Written by jock bergeron
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How to make DIY paneling
Raised panelling accents this hallway. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Wood panelling has become a luxury item in modern homes. The origins of panelled walls coincide with the use of plaster as a wall covering. Wood panelling and trim was used to protect the fragile plaster from moving furniture and other floor-level risks. As drywall became a common substitute, the use of trim and panelling decreased, resulting in the trim layout of most modern homes: baseboards and window and door casings. Wood panelling can produce an impressive warming effect in most homes. One common type of wood panelling is frame-and-panel wainscoting and its imitations.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk line
  • Pencil
  • 1-inch by 4-inch hardwood lumber
  • Bolection moulding
  • Cap moulding
  • Base moulding
  • 2-inch by 6-inch hardwood lumber
  • Raised hardwood panels
  • Finish nails
  • Hammer
  • Finish nail gun
  • Wood putty
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood stain or paint
  • Sealant
  • Assistant
  • Safety goggles
  • Ear plugs
  • Dust mask

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    Layout and Framing

  1. 1

    Measure the height of the wall to be panelled. Divide this number by 3. Mark the wall at each end at a height equal to the result of your calculation. Ask an assistant to help you snap a chalk line between the two marks to provide you with a guideline for the height of your wainscoting. Repeat the process to mark the height of the baseboard at 6 inches.

  2. 2

    Drag a stud finder along the top of the chalk line to locate two adjacent studs behind the wall board. Mark these studs on centre. Measure the distance between the two. Measure from these stud centres and mark the wall at intervals equal to the distance between them.

  3. 3

    Cut two pieces of 1-inch by 4-inch hardwood lumber to the length of the wall. Hold the first piece along the bottom of the upper chalk line. Hammer finish nails through the face of the board at the marked stud locations. Pound the nails near the top of the board so the indentations can be covered by trim later.

  4. 4

    Hold the second piece of 1-inch by 4-inch lumber along the top of the lower chalk line. Nail it in place, using finish nails. Hammer in the nails near the bottom for this piece.

  5. 5

    Snap a vertical line at each stud location between the two boards. Check to see that the studs create a symmetrical pattern on the wall. If they do not, you may adjust the guidelines up to 1-3/4 inches in either direction to realign them.

  6. 6

    Measure the inside distance between the boards. Cut one piece of 1-inch by 4-inch lumber to this length for every stud along the wall. Center the first board over a guideline. Use a finish nail gun to attach it to the stud. Place vertical framing in this way until the entire wall is framed.

    Panelling and Molding

  1. 1

    Subtract 2-1/4 inches from the internal height and width of one frame. Choose a raised panel matching these dimensions.

  2. 2

    Insert a 1-1/8-inch spacer on the bottoms and sides of the bottom corners of the first frame. Set the first panel into the frame so that it is 1-1/8 inches away from all edges. Tack it in place in each corner. Repeat the process for the rest of the panels.

  3. 3

    Cut two pieces of bolection moulding to the frames' height for each frame. Cut the same number to the width of the frames. Be sure to cut 45-degree angles at the ends to create tidy corners.

  4. 4

    Use finish nails to install the first piece of bolection moulding along the bottom of the first frame. Work your way around the frame with the moulding. This moulding should attach to both the frame and the panel, and will help to hold the panel in place. Continue to add moulding to each of the remaining panels.

  5. 5

    Cut a length of 1-1/2-inch by 6-inch baseboard to the length of the wall. Nail it to the wall below the bottom rail of the panel framing. Cut a length of base moulding and attach it to both the panel framing and the baseboard. Cut a length of cap moulding to the length of the wall, and set the indentation over the top of the upper framing rail. Nail it in place. Fill the nail divots and gaps with wood putty. Sand all the surfaces. Stain and seal your new panelling.

Tips and warnings

  • For an easier panelling fix, modular panels are available that cut out the work of framing and routing the panels yourself.
  • Chair rail can also be pieced together from hand-selected moulding sections to give you greater control over the profile of the rail.
  • Using this wainscoting method, you could panel an entire wall to give your home a Victorian look.
  • While flat angles are fine for baseboard and framing members, if moulding pieces need to turn a corner in a room, it's important to cut them at a 45-degree angle so they match up with the moulding on the adjacent wall.
  • Always wear eye, ear and lung protection when doing this project.

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