Board & Batten Wainscoting Project: Part One

I'm so excited to share this project with the internet even if no one ever reads this post!

This past weekend, I FINALLY started what I consider a "major" project in the house. I decided a while ago that board and batten wainscoting in our master bedroom would be a charming addition to an otherwise, personality-lacking room.

Our master is a decent size. We can easily fit a king-sized bed in there, plus 2 night stands, a wing back chair in the corner (whose sole purpose is to hold my pile of clothes) and a gigantic 11-drawer dresser. There's not too much space, but it's just right. No excess - the way we like it.

However, we have A LOT of uninterrupted wall space. Nothing something I usually complain about, but in this room it's made it difficult for me to pick and commit to a paint color. It seems that ANY paint color I pick feels like way too much for long periods of time. The only wall with interruption is mostly windows, the other two main walls are floor to ceiling (9.5') plain walls.

When I finally realized why the room wasn't rubbing me right, I decided board and batten would break up the room and lessen the impact of a paint color by adding an architectural detail that would be painted some shade of white. I'm definitely not afraid of color, but this room really showcases color and that's just not the feeling I'm going for in my master bedroom.

Sooooo, on to the details of the project.

First, the SUPPLIES:
1. For the "slats" as we call them - or the vertical pieces - we used simple lattice pine. It comes in 16' pieces and we had them cut into 4, 4' pieces. We have B&B in other rooms of our home and on close inspection we determined this was the same material used by the builder.
2. For the top rail (3.5 x 8') and top ledge piece (2 x 8"), we cheated a little and bought pre-primed, pre-sanded pine boards. *They cost a bit extra, but in comparing the raw pine, I saw how much work they would take to get sanded and puttied and decided the extra dough was TOTALLY worth it.

3. Construction adhesive (we went with Loc-Tite)

4. 1.25" brad nails

5. 2" finishing nails

6. Nail set

7. Wood filler (We used Elmer's Carpenter's Interior/Exterior Wood Filler since it is paintable, sandable, easy to clean up, and solvent-free)

8. Paintable caulk & caulk gun

9. Kilz Clean Start, Zero VOC primer (we went with this primer since John & Sherry at Young House Love found it to be the only primer that successfully blocked out wood stains)
The wood alone was about $135 and we only bought enough for one side of the room. We figured we'd buy just what was needed to complete one wall before shelling out the full cost for all the wood for the full project. Just in case anything went awry and we needed to ditch the project. Luckily, that didn't happen!

10. Painters tape (for temporary placement of vertical pieces)

A few extras we bought to fill out our arsenal of tools (which you may or may not already have):

1. Brad nailer (we chose the Rigid brand nailer that was on sale for $70) 2. Air compressor (to run said brad nailer) We went with a model one step up from the cheapeast and got one that can also accept a paint sprayer attachment thinking that could come in handy for spraying furniture pieces later. This one was $100. 3. Mitre saw (sorry, no pic yet, but it's a Ryobi brand saw)
(We got the cheap $90 one that's really only meant to handle trim and small cuts. We have never owned a saw of this type so we thougth $90 was a good amount to spend and get our sawing feet wet without going overboard on the $200 saw the Home Depot dood tried to recommend.)

Prior to starting this project, I did lots of research online and found several bloggers who had done this project. We ended up combining their ideas and recommendations to land on a process that worked for us and our space. I found great tips at the NewlyWoodwards, Centsational Girl, and Vintage Revivals. All very helpful with lots of different tips. The main thing I learned is that everyone comes up with different materials and techniques to get this job done, but it all works in the end. Mostly because you can paint away any differences! YAY!

Things I Did Not Do Even Though Recommended By Many:

1. Pre-prime everything - I'm too impatient to prime first, I was ready to see it come to life!

2. Install top rail first - we maybe should've done this since the cutter at Home Depot clearly wasn't precise (although he couldn't swear to the accuracy of his cuts)

3. Paint the wall first

Oh well. To each his own!

Because I'm a visual girl, I used painters tape to get the slats up on the wall for a quick preview. By no means did I try to place them perfectly. I used this step to make sure the slats were a good height (I didn't want to create the illusion that I divided the wall in perfect halves). Doing this also allowed us to rule out the use of some slats that were obviously warped from left to right and would be unfixable. All this before we applied adhesive and nails and had to rip it from the wall! In preparation, we decided our slats would be approximately 8" apart. We landed on 8" because this is the same as the other rooms in our house. This part is chose your own adventure. We didn't feel it was super important to space them to the exact millimeter since I assumed at some point I'd come across an outlet or something that would muck up our measurements. So we started with the slat that would have to go between the light switch and outlet on our first wall. See? The first slat that went up is the second one from the left pictured above. Then we applied the one on the left of the light switch and after that we went around the room to the right.

We dove right in. Then, hit the brakes and had to regroup. It happens to us all, right? Read on, my friend.

First, we applied a good amount of construction adhesive to the back of the slat. Upon putting it up on the wall, it all oozed out and we realized we were using WAY too much. So we removed it and wiped it off as best we could - this explains the haze on the wall in the picture above. Not fun, but it was pretty easy to clean up since the adhesive has a 10 minute working time.

We tried again using less construction adhesive and it worked much better: We followed the steps of applying construction adhesive, measuring an approximate 8", and placing the next slat on the wall. Then the hubs would come in with the brad nailer as I held the level and would tack it to the wall permanent-style. Along the way, we realized that the best way to ensure the slats stayed level was to apply construction adhesive, shoot the first brad in the middle of the board and then check level at the bottom of the board, shoot another brad, and then recheck level at the top of the board and shoot a brad into the top. After that, we'd go back and double up the brads at the top and bottom. It was amazing how much play there was in level and explained why we had to pull the first few slats we installed and re-do them. Oops.

LEVEL, LEVEL, LEVEL! is the best advice I can give for the vertical pieces if you're using a soft, flexible wood like we used.

"DUH, you guys!" Even Three knew that!
Our original plan for putting up the top rail was just to sit it on top of the slats. However, when we tested it, it was clear that there was an annoying difference in height between the slats (in some cases up to a quarter of an inch) that couldn't be filled in with caulk without looking obviously stupid and rigged.

A bit of panic set in as we began to brainstorm ideas. Everything seemed like it was going to halt our progress and I hate that! Could we cut through the lattice with a utility knife and remove excess on the taller ones? Should we have the back side of the top rail routed out to create a channel in which to hide the different height slats? Nothing sounded easy. Until my genius kicked in.

I realized that we could place the top rail OVER the top front of the slats and just cover up their tops and their differences. Yes, it would sit out from the wall the depth of the slats, but no biggie - that would be covered by our top ledge piece. VOILA! Here's what it looks like:Not too shabby, right? I was pretty pleased with myself.

For this step, we used finishing nails and tried to nail through to a stud as much as we could. We also nailed through the slats in some place because it made things seem more solid and stable. Then I sunk the nails with a nail set and filled in with wood filler.Again, during this process we checked level over and over and over. And over.
We made no attempt to get all fancy with mitred corners and instead opted for the good old-fashioned butt joint. From my original inspection of our pre-existing B&B wainscoting, this is what was done. We'll break out the skillz when we put on the top piece (but only on the corner that sticks out in the pic above). I really see no point in possibly ruining a pricey piece of wood when I'm just going to caulk and paint the joints anyway. If we were staining, sure, I'd make it purtier, but for now, this works for us.

I filled the remaining holes with wood filler and let 'er dry.The top ledge piece still needs to be installed. Everything needs to be sanded, caulked and primed before the painting can start. This is going to be a long, tedious project, but I knew that going in. Just like I know the results are going to be awesome and so worth it!

Stay tuned for Part Two!


  1. Cannot wait to see more!

  2. Love your play by play, Kelley:)

  3. I enjoyed reading this. I just cannot imagine doing something like this
    and think you are very creative. Anxious to see the entire package.