Wainscoting has become increasingly popular over the last few years – it’s true when they say trends come back around! Wall paneling and wainscoting have been heavily associated with much older buildings until recently. But what is the difference between wall paneling and wainscoting? And how can you achieve wainscoting on your own? Or perhaps going down the professional route is better?

As a popular topic with homeowners and my interior design clients, we will answer these questions so you can make an informed decision on which route is best for you and your space specifically.

Wall paneling kits like this one are the easiest way to achieve an accurate and sleek look!


Wall Paneling Vs. Wainscoting


Wall paneling is exactly what it sounds like – using wood panels to create wall panels. Many homeowners get creative with this process, even creating geometric wall paneling! Above all, wall paneling involves the entire wall surface, from baseboard to ceiling.

Wainscoting, though, is purely decorative paneling on the wall but only to a certain height. Usually, this is limited to the bottom half or three-quarters of the wall.

The limiting height of wainscoting dates back many years as it was installed to protect walls from chair or table damage. Nowadays wainscoting is heavily used as a decorative touch to walls.


Let’s explore the different approaches to creating wainscoting, and how you can do this in your home!


Professional Route 1 (for spray-painted results)

Many different wainscoting kits are available online which can give you inspiration and a cost-effective route!


The first route you can take to create wainscoting in your home is to enlist a professional. This route is specific for spray-painted results which yields a super smooth surface. 

First, the existing baseboard would be removed to allow for the full wall space to be visible. A melamine or MDF backer would then be applied to the wall to create a perfectly smooth surface.

Once this prep work has been carried out, the architectural trim work (including the new baseboard) gets applied to the wall with finishing nails. Don’t worry! These nails get filled in with wood filler to create a smooth surface so you won’t see them.

To finish off the look, the painter comes in and sprays the new architectural millwork portion of the wall. As this route is sprayed, there is extensive prep work involved for the painter before this final step can even begin. Everything gets taped up which takes time, but the end result is a super smooth and sleek finish.


Professional Route 2 (for roller or brush painted results)

These easy-to-install (and paintable) wall panels are ideal for anyone who fancies trying some DIY with wainscoting!


The other professional route you could take is either finished with roller or brush painted. In this situation, the need for a backer only applies if the walls are heavily textured.

First of all, the baseboard would be removed if the wainscoting design impacts the baseboard portion of the wall. The architectural trim work (and new baseboard if required) gets applied to the wall with finishing nails, which then get filled in with wood filler to smooth the surface out.

The professional painter would then paint the trim work with a brush and roller.




You may also enjoy reading – Shop the Look Neutral Living Rooms and How to Make a Room Feel Bigger!


DIY Route 1 (traditional board and batten)

Ready-made wainscoting panels could be a great way to introduce this into your home!


To prepare for a traditional board and batten do-it-yourself approach, you’ll need to remove the baseboard to reveal a clean wall space if the wainscoting design impacts the baseboard portion of the wall. The architectural trim work (and new baseboard if required) gets applied to the wall with finishing nails, and the holes then get filled in with wood filler to smooth the surface out.

Top Tip – Beadboard is available that’s super easy to install!

The final step is to paint the new trim work in your chosen paint color!



DIY Route 2 (applied wall molding)

This traditional square wainscoting kit allows you to easily create a sleek look in your home!


The second DIY route is simpler in the fact that you’re using wall molding instead of building the wainscoting with board and battens.

Instead of using board and battens, in this scenario, the baseboard remains in place, with wall molding applied above this. The trim is applied to the walls and finished with nails, and the holes are filled in with wood filler.

Top Tip – Purchase pre-made architectural millwork online!

The final step is to paint everything in your chosen paint color!



Have you installed wainscoting in your home? Or perhaps gone down the wall paneling route? I’d love to hear all about your experience and which route you chose for this in the comments below!