Installing Elite Recessed Paneled Wainscoting

The Homeowner's Guide to Installing
Elite Wall Paneled Wainscoting

 By Steve Maxwell - Elite Trimworks' DIY installation coach
 photos and videos by Robert Maxwell 

If you've always wanted to install your own wainscoting but were afraid to try, we can help. In fact, that's our business. All of Elite's wainscoting products are exceptionally DIY-friendly because everything's pre-milled to fit together flawlessly. And in the case of this wall panelled wainscoting (one of dozens of different designs), we've even created our own patented tooling so all parts in this kit come together like nothing else on the market.

We've also invested just as much time and effort crafting our image-rich, video-assisted instructional packages. This is what you've got here. You won't find any other wainscoting system that does so much to help ordinary people achieve extraordinary results.

The Process in a Nutshell: 

Before we look at details, consider the five main installation steps you'll need to complete:

  1. Remove existing quarter round and baseboard (if your wall has any).

  2. Fasten the wainscoting base rail to your wall.

  3. Calculate spacing between wainscoting stiles (calculator)

  4. Install stiles with bottom ends sitting on top of the base rail.

  5. Anchor top rail and cap to the wall, sitting it on top of the stiles.

  6. Fill, prime and paint.

Before you continue, watch the quick video tour of the wall-panelled kit components right below. It gives an overview of all the parts so you can understand the detailed instructions coming next. The Stuff You'll Need: 

One Wainscoting Kit (8 feet)

Carpenter's Level  (24-inch-long)


Spackling Compound
Fill's tiny imperfections

"Cat's Paw" Prybar 
A prybar with a thin blade for removing
existing quarter round and baseboard

Regular Claw Hammer

Putty Knife

Electronic Stud Finder

Tape Measure

Wood Glue
White /Yellow /Brown

Paintable Latex Caulking
for filling gaps and inside corners

Step 1: Remove Existing Quarter Round and Baseboard 

If your room has quarter-round trim around the perimeter of the floor, use your hammer to gently tap your prybar so the thin tip slips behind the quarter round where it meets the baseboard (ideally at nail locations if you can see them). Carefully lever the baseboard away from the wall a little bit at a time, moving along the length of the quarter round until it's free. Take a look at the video below for a close-up view of the kind of prybar that does a great job.

Will you be re-using the quarter round somewhere else? If you are, and the nails stayed behind in the baseboard as it came off, pull them out with pliers. If the nails came off with the baseboard, pull them right through the trim from the back face, also using pliers. This way the nail heads won't splinter the visible face of the quarter round as they would if you tapped them out backwards.

Tap the pry bar behind the baseboard, but before levering it off, place the blade of a putty knife behind the pry bar to protect the wall surface from getting damaged.

Step 2: Add the 8 1/2" (21.5 cm) Base Rail

This is the first part of the kit you'll be working with, and it goes on just like baseboard. Place as many pieces of base rail in position as needed to cover your wall. Cut the last one to length as needed to fill any remaining space that's less than the 8-feet (240 cm)

The base rails get fastened to the wall with 2 1/2" (63 mm) finishing nails, but before you start hammering you'll need to find the location of wall studs behind the drywall using a stud finder. Take a look at this video for tips on using one.

When you think you've found a stud, drive a finishing nail partway into the wall, about 6" (15 cm) off the floor (that's slightly lower than the height of the base rail). If you're in the right spot, the nail will hit solid wood underneath the drywall. If you miss, there's no problem. When the base rail's installed it will cover the test hole. When you've found one stud, measure to the left and the right in 16" (40.5 cm) increments to find neighbouring wall studs.

With all the wall studs positively located, mark their locations on the wall in pencil, slightly above the level where the top edge of the base rail will be. In this case, that's 8 1/2" (21.5 cm) above the floor. By raising the marks like this you'll be able to see them when the base rail's in final position. Anchor the base rail using two 2 1/2" finishing nails per stud