Installing Beadboard

Installing BeadBoard PDF            Custom Beadboard Heights

Beadboard will give the room a warm comfortable feeling, its beauty lies in its simplicity. It is probably the easiest of all wainscoting to install, regardless of your skill level. Although beadboard is fairly self-explanatory, it still requires some instruction. This guide will give you some helpful hints and explain some often asked questions so that your installation will look professional without paying professional prices.

  • Required Tools
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw
  • Tape Measure
  • Nail gun with compressor
  • Spirit Level
  • MDF Glue
  • Latex caulking
  • Spackling compound (plaster filler)


Prep work

In order to install beadboard, you should start by removing the existing baseboard. The baseboard in newer homes will likely only be nailed; older homes may have a very hard adhesive behind both the baseboards and casings around the doors. This adhesive can be removed using a sander or by hand using a medium grit sandpaper. Do not concern yourself with the finish of the sanding as it will be covered entirely with the beadboard.

Measuring and Leveling

You should first determine the height of the finished installation. If you have a standard 8-foot ceiling, you should consider a finished height of 36" from floor to the top of the chair rail. If your ceiling is higher you should consider a height of 42". The beadboard is shipped in 40" lengths, but it can be cut to the desired length or installed higher up the wall using a spacer at the bottom with the same thickness as the beadboard, providing the bottom is no higher from the floor than the baseboard height.

You should always start on an inside corner. Measure the length of the wall and calculate where you will start in order that the final strip at the end of the wall will not be too narrow to nail up. Before cutting or ripping down any of the lengths, you should check the wall to see how straight the wall actually is; never assume the wall is a perfect 90 degrees. To check this you should take your spirit level and place it on the wall you will be starting from. If the wall is slightly off, draw a straight line down the wall on which the beadboard will be placed using your level, this will become your new starting point, you will later cut an angled piece to fill in the gap left over.

Cutting and Nailing

Please note that there is a face and a back to each strip of beadboard. Always make sure you are cutting the beadboard the right way. The reason for this is simple, each strip will have a lip on both the right and left sides, one is on the face and the other lip is set further back. These lips are not interchangeable and will be used to nail one piece of board to the next.

After having determined the final height and cutting a few pieces down to size, your first strip can either be ripped on the corner side at a 45-degree angle (or the necessary angle required to create the corner) using the table saw or you can use a butt joint (no cutting, just put one edge of a strip against the face of another). The 45-degree table saw method will give you a better finish.

Always nail at an angle of approximately 45 degrees both towards the top and the bottom, creating an "x", this will fasten the board to the wall whether you hit a stud or not. Try to nail into the crease, in order to hide the nail head better. Remember to set the pressure on the compressor to between 90 - 110 PSI, this will countersink the nail deep enough to become invisible and easy to cover later. We recommend using a 2" 18 gauge finishing nail. At this point, you can either use MDF glue and nails or just nails to hold up the boards. Using your compressed nail gun, nail up your first strip.

After nailing your first piece, use your spirit level to check the top and the side for trueness. Continue repeating the steps described in the above paragraph until you reach the end of the wall. Follow these steps for the entire room using the table saw to rip the side of the boards to 45 degrees when you hit a corner.

Baseboard Shoe mold and Chair Rail

When a wall is longer than the strip of the baseboard or chair rail provided, you should make a 30-degree cut into the end of the one piece and a 150 degree cut to the end of the adjoining piece. Use MDF glue and nails on this joint so as to fasten it tightly. This will give you a seamless joint that can easily be finished later.

The baseboard will be installed flush with the floor or carpet. The baseboard should be cut using a miter saw and it will be nailed in the exact same manner as the bead boards using the "x" pattern.

The shoe mold will be applied to the bottom of the baseboard to give it more width at the bottom. Normally when a hardwood or ceramic tile floor is applied, there are some gaps left for expansion and contraction, the shoe mold will help cover that gap. If you are applying beadboard around windows, you should order some more lengths so that you can finish around the window casing. Shoe mold will be cut and nailed the same way as the baseboard.

The chair rail comes notched out in the back in order for it to fit flush when applied to the top of the beadboard. It to should be cut with a miter saw in order to create corners. It should be checked with a level before being fastened to the wall and beadboard.

MDF glue should be applied to all chair rail corners along with nails.

Sanding and Finishing

Although everything fits flush, there will be small gaps left everywhere (top of baseboard, top and bottom of chair rail and the top of the shoe mold). These gaps should be filled in using a paint-able latex caulking (DAP is the industry name for this). Lay down a bead and clean the excess with a wet rag or your finger.

All corners and seams will be covered with Spackling Compound (plaster filler). Apply a reasonable amount and allow it to dry for an hour. After it dries, go back and sand it down using fine-grit sandpaper. The sanding should be done carefully so as not to damage the wood underneath. At this point, you can re-prime this area. The nail heads will have been countersunk and easily visible to the naked eye, using the spackling go over each nail head and fill the remaining space left by the head. The nail heads do not need to be sanded, just finish them with your finger as you go along.

Your beadboard is now ready to be painted. It comes primed white and is ready to accept any type of paint.


Tips On Pinning Beadboard


For installing the beadboard 5 1/2" stiles, it would be best to use a combination of brad nails and glue. Pining with a nail gun (instead of nailing) is much faster and provides and better finish. The best place to pin is on the edge that will be covered and in the middle where the bead will hide the pin marks as per photo. If you have "soft" walls, consult your local hardware store for what adhesive is best for your wall type. Generally, an all-purpose "construction" adhesive will do the job.