When you hear the word wainscoting, you may think immediately of older, historic homes because this wall feature has been in use since the 14th century and has been popular for hundreds of years. Many older homes incorporated wainscoting as a necessary part of the design. Today, it is mostly used for decorative purposes but it is still as popular as ever.
So, what exactly is wainscoting?
The term refers to a type of wall paneling that is used on the interior of a home and covers the lower part of a wall, whether it is beadboard, raised panels, or recessed panels.
Though there are various materials used for wainscoting, traditionally it is made of wood.
Originally, wainscoting served a practical purpose. In homes with stone walls, the wooden paneling helped to insulate the room from the cold stone, providing an extra layer of warmth. It also served as a form of protection against moisture in homes prone to flooding or other water damage. The paneling provided an extra layer of protection, preventing water damage to the wall itself.
Today, with the invention of space heaters and other technology, this feature is no longer necessary.
So why is it still so popular?
Well, apart from its decorative appeal, wainscoting helps to protect your walls from scratches, dings or scuffs made by chairs or other furniture dragging against your walls. This is especially useful in homes with dry wall that is easy to puncture.
Wainscoting may also be a clever way to hide holes or other blemishes on your walls. The paneling will cover any imperfections.
Additionally, wainscoting can protect your walls from dirt and grime, for instance, when touched by children with sticky fingers.
Such blemishes may be tough to clean on plain wall, but can be easily wiped away on wainscoting. Therefore, wainscoting is perfect for rooms that see a lot of traffic and are more susceptible to wear and tear.
But the main use of wainscoting in modern homes is for decoration.
Wainscoting is used to visually break up a space making it more appealing to the eye compared to an expanse of plain wall.
It can be used to bring a bit of style and personality to a room, whether it is a simple design or an ornate one.
Put simply, it is a way to "dress up" a bare wall. Wainscoting can transform a plain, boring room into one that looks elegant and artful.
You may choose wainscoting that matches the color of your walls for a uniform look, or you may select wainscoting that contrasts and stands out from your walls.
There are many different designs and colors to choose from.
Wainscot generally runs the entire perimeter of a room and typically ranges from 32 inches to 36 inches high. Some wainscot can even go as high as 4 feet tall - it all depends on your needs or preference.
As mentioned before, wainscoting is traditionally made from wood but there are varieties made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF), plastic, tile or even PVC.
There are pros and cons to each type of material.
MDF doesn't warp, split or have knots like wood however it is prone to swelling if exposed to moisture.
Plastic or PVC wainscoting can mimic the look of painted wood but are more durable as these materials won't rot or swell. These materials may be better suited for areas prone to moisture like bathrooms, kitchens or outdoor areas.
Similarly, tile wainscoting is suitable for moisture-prone areas and comes in a variety of designs.
There are even some varieties of wainscoting made from plywood that are incredibly easy to install by simply gluing the panels to the wall and finishing by adding cap and base moldings.
If you are going with solid wood wainscoting made from oak or pine, it will require careful installation to prevent cracks and gaps.
If you are unsure of which type to use or which is more suitable for your space, TriniHelper can help you make the decision and ensure that it is expertly installed.
If you decide to install it yourself as a DIY project, here are some tips to ensure it is done properly and help you avoid costly mistakes.
First, make sure to measure your room. Measurements must be detailed to determine how many panels you will need to purchase and the height you want your wainscoting to be.
If you are going to paint or stain your wainscoting, be sure to do so before installation to avoid paint getting on to your walls. Consider using a paint sprayer to coat the material evenly without unsightly brush strokes. Keep in mind that the colors or height you choose can have an effect on how big or small your room looks. Some wainscoting can make your room look and feel smaller and restricted.
Rooms with a low ceiling should have lower wainscoting to help make the room look bigger.
Lighter colors will make your room feel airier and more spacious.
Before installing, it may be useful to lay your panels against the wall. This will help you visualize how it will look once installed and let you know if you need to make adjustments before you begin your project. Some panels may need cutting to get the required size, for instance corner panels or those that have to go around windows.
Keep electrical outlets in mind. You may have to remove switches and sockets and reinstall them once your wainscoting is laid. If you cannot do this on your own, it would be wise to contact a professional electrician.
After installing, you may need to do some touch ups to cover any scratches or chips that may have occurred during the installation process.
Overall, wainscoting is a great way to add some flair to a room without any extensive renovations.
If this is the look for you, feel free to contact us here at TriniHelper for guidance, advice or access our experts who are ready to get the job done.