Board and Batten Wainscoting in the Entryway

This was such a simple way to completely transform the room.  It looks expensive but it wasn’t.  It looks time-consuming but it wasn’t.  It’s a total win-win!  Now let me go board and batten my entire house…j/k…sorta.

The first step was a lot of planning.  We needed to figure out exactly what we wanted it to look like – what height should we stop at? and should we add cross pieces to make boxed panels? We decided on a mid-room height of battens.  Close runner-up was 2/3rds up and floor to ceiling (too farmhousey).  We also needed to decide on a width of batten.  We held up both 1.5″ battens and 2.5″ battens and were both drawn to the 2.5″ ones.

Next up was deciding where everything would go.  So I could’ve made this a lot easier on myself but I wanted my boards to line up perfectly so that if they were to go over the doorways on each side they would line up with the correct spacing still.  I’m sure I could’ve not taken this step and it would’ve looked just fine but I do have to say that the placement I chose looks great.

The room is a long rectangle with lots of doorways to break it up.  I measured the entire length of the long walls (the other 2 walls are all-doorway or nearly so they didn’t get much treatment).  I measured each section of wall/doorway and plotted it all out.  I decided to start by “centering” the battens at the exact middle of the french doors doorway.  Note: I tried centering them in the exact middle of the room but this never resulted in a good configuration so I picked the doorway instead.  Ultimately this looks very nice because on either side of the french doors you have an equal distance to the next batten.

I had a few simple criteria:

  1. I wanted to keep my distance between battens around 10-13 inches
  2. No batten could line up near doorway trim because it’s slightly thicker than the trim we have and it’s not a great look if it’s hanging out more
  3. No batten could end up in the corner (only because that would complicate my cuts far more than my rookie-miter saw status was ready for).

So with my measurements all plotted out, I just started picking random distances between the battens and checking my layout and I literally made about 20 different configurations until I stumbled upon the one that met all the criteria.  At first I had wanted to keep my distance between battens perfect so that IF you were to take the battens over the walls that weren’t getting battens (because they would be above the doorways and we had picked a mid-wall height) it would all line up perfectly.  But alas, this was impossible.  I tried and tried to make it work but a batten always ended up too close to or splitting the trim or in a corner.  I finally stumbled upon the winning combination – 2.5 inch battens and 11 inch spacing.  I’m not going to get too into this process because of course this will be different for every space.  On to the good stuff!

Step 1 was removing our 3″ sad little baseboards.  We removed the quarter round carefully so as to not damage it.  We then chipped out the baseboard using a couple flathead screw drivers and our pry bar.  Eric then ripped out any remaining nails with vise grips.

We then marked all of our studs and installed the new baseboards (1×5.5 inch mdf) ensuring they were level and then nailing them into place.  This was super simple and only slightly tricky in the corners because we ran into a little snafu.  We intended to miter the baseboards so they’d meet all pretty but our 7.25″ miter saw couldn’t quite cut the full length of the 5.5″ inch boards.  After some brainstorming because it seemed like “Surely we could flip it some way to make it work!”, we decided to just cut the boards on the 90 and they look pretty great.  Because these are interior corners, it’s really not obvious.

We then installed our top rail (1×3.5 inch mdf).  We picked a height of 45″ because somewhat arbitrarily, this seemed like the perfect height to sit just below our entryway mirror.  Guess we’re keeping it forever 😉  Note that our actual height of top rail is 44.25″ because of the .75″ thick boards we have capped on top.  This time our little saw did just fine mitering the 3.5″ boards.  Also, miter saws are 1,000x easier than an old rusty wet saw you borrow from your parents.  Just sayin’.

Next up I pulled out my cheat sheet and marked exactly where my battens were going.  I marked them all out with pencil on the walls and out of 8 battens only 1 was anywhere close to a stud.  Womp womp.

I measured the height at each batten because it did vary a bit for each one, made my cuts and set each board next to where it needed to go.  We nailed the one batten up and then broke out the liquid nails for the rest.  We held a small level on the side of the battens.  The only annoying thing about this step was that because the boards had some slight warp to them a few of them I had to hold to the wall manually for several minutes so they wouldn’t gap away.  I tried tape but it didn’t seem to be strong enough.

Our last step was to put up the 1×1.5 cap on top of the 1×3.5 board.  This proved to be pretty hard in the corners of the doorway because we only have 2 inches on that wall and not only did it have to miter to the corner but it also needed to miter away from the doorway.  Now I have to say I really enjoyed using the miter saw up until this point but making these little 2 inch pieces of wood gave me quite a bit of anxiety.  It took me a while to get down the right order of operations and I sent more than 1 piece of wood sailing over Eric’s car before I got this down pat.  I also had to make each piece 3-4 times before I made it to the correct size.  The end result though makes me quite proud.  However, if I never have to make 3 cuts on a 2 inch piece of wood again in my life that would be just fine with me.

After installing everything I applied spackle to all of my seams where boards met and caulk to anywhere a board met the wall. Then I sanded it down and hit it with a second coat of spackle and added caulk anywhere that needed it. More sanding and then a lot of cleaning later and it was ready for paint. We used the same color our trim is painted which is a custom SW paint in satin. I still haven’t painted the top half of the room because I’m trying to figure out what color I want still but I’m loving how it turned out!


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