Friday, August 19, 2016

DIY Wainscoting

After all those posts on party DIYs, a home deco DIY is probably long overdue.

Remember this post? I was in awe over how something as simple as wainscoting could add such visual interest to a room. I wanted to call my ID contractor as soon as I left the show house. Hubby on the other hand, was confident that he could do it himself.

Historically, wainscoting is a classic old decorative wall treatment that uses wood rails and panelling for the bottom half of interior walls. In general, there are two types of wainscoting. There is the method of applying thin strips of trim directly to the wall to create the illusion of wainscoting. The other is the application of (bead)boards capped by another kind of horizontal trim called chair rails (to protect walls from damage in case chairs were tipped/pushed back to the wall).

I am drawn towards the modern application of wainscoting, hence I prefer the former. Just sleek pleasing lines to boost the aesthetic composition of my bare walls.

DIY wainscoting is pretty simple, especially if you know your way around an electric saw. Surprisingly, it will not dent a hole in your pocket. What you need (other than the said saw) are:
  • strips of wooden trim
  • paint
  • filler (you can use wood filler, but I used a wall filler and it worked out just fine)
  • sandpaper
  • masking tape
  • nails (and nail gun)
  • liquid nails
  • measuring tape 
  • and a flair for precise measurements!
Remember, there are no hard and fast rules to DIY wainscoting. The key is to get a seamless finish (attainable using filler) and to ensure that everything is symmetrical in size.

First, measure the wall and sketch your desired wainscoting. Remember that bit about being symmetrical? A bit of math is required to ensure identical width in between the trims. Don't forget to take into account a suitable gap between the wainscoting and the floor/edge of the wall.

Something simplistic as this works too.

Using a sandpaper, sand the wooden trims in a back and forth pattern with the grain. If your wall requires a fresh coat of paint, this is the time to do it. The trims you bought will need to be painted too (if not yet done by the shop). We chose matte (instead of glossy) white. Leave to dry.

Matte white.

This cheeky boy was very hand-on.

The painted trims.

Next, cut the wooden trims using an electric saw. In the pictures below, we used a manual saw. It was agonizing; not the sawing bit but rather matching the alignment of the trims. If you can, get a jigsaw electric saw to get a perfect 45deg cut. I recommend aligning the trims on the floor to make a perfect box before attempting to nail them in.

Precise measurements.

After we used the manual saw a few times, we gave up, went out and bought an electric saw!

Aligning the trims on the floor.

After you're happy with the alignment, apply some liquid nails to the back of the trim and stick them to the wall. The liquid nail acts as a guide for your alignment, but is not meant as the final attachment to your wall. This is where the nails come in handy. You can use a nail gun, or just hammer in the nails like we did. This is the crucial part. I had to be (literally) hands on all the time for this. It's not just about holding it down, but you have to ensure that the hammering doesn't move the trim. The other headache is if you have uneven walls. We had a patch of uneven wall right at the edge, and we simply couldn't hammer the darn trim in - it kept bouncing out. In the end we had to cut the trim into two and hammer them in separately.

I had to hold the trims in place while Hubby hammered the nails in.

Next, is cover up time! Cover all alignment gaps using a filler and when dry, paint over the filled patches. You can use a masking tape to prevent your touch up paint from smearing your newly painted walls. We did that the first few times but I gave up after a while as it was too tedious. In the end I used a small artist paint brush (from Aiden's art class) and carefully painted the filled edges and trims. And you know how OCD I am right??? Let's just say it took me a longgggg time before I was finally happy with the touch ups.

The mess we made in the living hall.

Removing the masking tape.

End of day one. Halfway done!

End of day two... finally done!

Our biggest cost for this whole project were the wooden trims. We bought an electric saw too, but that is an investment (so it doesn't count)! It took us nearly two days to complete the whole thing. Could have been faster, but we took our own sweet time.

Have fun, DIY-ing!


  1. cantik sangat. tapi macamana nak cari kekuatan untuk buat sendiri?

    1. Hehehe InsyaAllah mesti boleh carik kekuatan, especially bila tengok how much you can save by doing it DIY. Good luck :)

  2. waaa Liz,so impressed, u DIY sendiri
    suka design wainscoting ni,nmpak moden & english style..

    1. Thank you Zie! Yes wainscoting nie memang ade English elements sikit. Tapi it gives an elegant touch to modern furnishing. ;) Just kena rajin nak buat DIY or tanak jer la.

  3. Replies
    1. Awww thank you! Must extend the compliment to dear hubby too hehe :)

  4. Hi Liz, very useful and informational article! May I know where did you manage to find the chair rails and frame?

    1. Hi, I did not use any chair rails. I only used wooden trims to achieve the frame wainscoting style. You can buy the wooden trims at most hardware shops but I bought mine at Yi Sheng hardware in Denai Alam.

  5. Hi Sis... so nice ur DIY job. Mana boleh beli kayu wainscoting tu ye?

    1. Hi! Kayu wainscoting tuh I beli at Yi Sheng hardware in Denai Alam. Good luck! ;)

  6. All you need is a mitre box. neednot electric saw

    1. Oh wow, thanks for the tip! I actually had to google "mitre box" though! ;)

  7. berapa harga sekaki kayu tu

    1. Sorry saya pun dah lupa the price but you can always call the shop to ask. :)

  8. Salam. Boleh ke nak tau color cat u? Cantik!

  9. I nak tanya kat mana nak beli ye kayu tu..yg byk choices


Thank you in advance for leaving a comment. ;) All comments are moderated. Liz

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