Can you install wainscoting yourself? If you start with a simple room that has straightforward walls, the answer is "Yes!" Difficult jobs should only be tackled by a finish carpenter or after you have gained some experience.
The tricks with working with wainscoting are the following:
- Be sure the layout and all design dimensions are accurate. Double and triple check before ordering the material.
- Be sure the base rail of the system is level. If it isn't, as you add panels and such, they will be out of level and out of plumb when you get to corners!
- Measure twice - cut once. Mistakes with this material are costly and can slow down completion times.
- Start on a small wall to see how the components fit together.
- Pre-paint all components if that is the finish. Be sure no paint buildup is present where pieces interlock.
- Watch out for electrical boxes. You may have to move an electrical box to make sure it ends up on the flat portion of a panel. This is not the end of the world. Who cares if you destroy a little drywall? The panel will cover it!
- Consider renting a pneumatic or impulse nailer. Hand nailing this material is tricky. You don't want to make a mistake. Air nailers countersink the nails automatically.
- Back cut stiles that end up in corners. Only the face of the material has to touch the stile on the other side of the corner. Set your table saw at less than a 90 degree angle to accomplish this.
- Follow all directions to the letter. If you don't understand something, call the manufacturer!
- For stained systems apply stain and clear finish before filling nail holes. Use a matching color putty and a small brush or Q-Tip to apply clear finish to the color putty after it has dried. NEVER apply nail filler to wood before staining.
Click here to watch a video on installing wainscoting.