By Gene and Katie Hamilton

A beadboard wainscot will create a room with instant warmth and charm. While original beadboard was a thick wall cladding of tongue-and groove boards, today you can use a lighter beadboard that comes in 4-by-8-sheets of 1/4-inch thick panels. To add the charm of a plate rail wainscot, cut the panels about 4 or 5 feet high and finish with a deep cap rail to hold decorative items. To create a chair rail, the wainscot should be about 3 feet high, and capped with a chair rail molding. This is a nice way to protect wall surfaces in a dining area, where chairs can damage walls as they’re pushed away from the table.

A carpenter will charge $3,255 to install 130 square feet of unfinished beadboard wainscoting capped with a chair rail molding in a 10-by-12-foot room. That includes labor and material. If you have carpentry skills and tools you can buy the material for $1,200 and do it yourself and save 63 percent. The beadboard can be fastened to the wall with construction adhesive, or on furring strips nailed to the wall. To finish the wainscot, plan to sand it lightly before priming and applying a finish.

A carpenter told us it's a good idea to lay out the job according to how you work. If you are right-handed, begin in a left-hand corner and work towards your right; you lefties should begin in a right corner and work toward the left.

For more information and instructions go to

The bottom line: compare the price of a contractor’s bid to install wainscotingt with what it costs to do it yourself and make your decision. You adjust the cost to where you live by adding your ZIP Code.

Cost updated 2013

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  • DIY48%
  • PRO52%