Wainscot Installation Tips Video
Last week we shared with you a new video on how to install indirect lighting behind crown molding. This week, we will share with you some wainscot, or chair rail with panel molding, installation tips. Most doityourselfers aren’t sure how to layout a wainscot project on the wall. Some of the more common questions include: How high do you place the chair rail?What size should the panel boxes be? What is the typical space used around the boxes?
Chair Rail Height
The question about chair rail height depends somewhat on how you plan to use it. If you are installing this in the kitchen, the chair rail might actually function as intended…to keep the chair backs from hitting your wall and messing up your paint. So in this instance, you will want to consider your actual chair heights and configurations. But if the chair rail is being installed elsewhere, the height comes down to personal preference. Typical installation heights range from 32″38″ off the floor.
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Wall Panel Sizes
For this project, we are installing panel mold trim to create the panel boxes or wainscot on the wall. This is a very inexpensive method for creating this look. So in laying out the panel boxes, it’s very important to use the right sizes. If you make the panel boxes too big or too small, it can really take away from the final look of the room. Here are some pro tips for getting the sizes right…
 Minimum Size – Don’t install a box that is less than twelve inches wide. If you have a wall that is less than fifteen inches wide…don’t install a panel.
 Adjust Panels in Room – Every panel in the room doesn’t need to be the same size. Why? If you make them the same size and the wall lengths vary, the distance around the panels will vary. This will not look right. So unless the room is exactly square (which most aren’t), adjust the panel box sizes on each wall. But, make sure the panel boxes are all the same size on a given wall. When I say size, I’m talking about the length of the boxes. The height will always be the same.
 Panel Molding – Depending on what style of panel molding material you choose, the actual sizes will need to be adjusted accordingly. Don’t use a really wide panel molding if you have a narrow chair rail…you need to keep them to scale.
Spacing of Panel Boxes
So we know that each individual wall should have panel boxes of a consistent length. But how much space should you maintain around the boxes? On most of the homes I’ve built we’ve kept a three inch separation around the panel boxes. So you will have a three inch separation between the panel boxes and the…
 Chair rail
 Wall corner
 Base molding
 Other panel boxes
Do the Math
So how do you determine the exact size of each box for each wall? The idea is to keep the boxes in a given room similar in size. So determine what size you would like to use and then you will figure the closest size possible to this for each wall length. The fixed numbers to use in your math are the wall length and the three inch spacing. Here’s an example. Let’s say a given wall is ten feet long and you want to keep the panels in the room to be in the 36 long range. We also know there will be three inches at the end of each panel. So, for a ten foot long wall, you will have three panels at 36 inches around either end of each box. Here is how it adds up: 3″+36″+3″+36″+3″=36″+3″ = 10′. So what if the wall length was 11 feet? You would add the additional foot to the lengths of the three boxes so they would become 40 inches long.
Wainscot Installation Tips Video
So we’ve put together a short video covering wainscot installation tips.
Video provided by Blue Maui Photographers.
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Step 1:
Every wall of wainscoting has an unequal number of panels and stiles. That’s because you have to start with a stile and you have to end with a stile. So make the math easier by subtracting the last stile from the overall length of the wall.
If the wall measures 96 in., and the stiles are 3 in. wide, use 93 in. as the working length.
Step 2:
Next, choose a panel size that seems appropriate for the room—say 10 in., then add the stile width to arrive at a unit measurement for both the stile and the panel. In this case, 10 in. + 3 in. = 13 in., which is the unit measurement.
Step 3:
Divide the working length of the wall by the unit measurement. On a construction calculator, enter 93 and press the Inch key. Now press Memory +. That way you can use the number again without having to enter it again! And you’ll need to use it again.
Step 4:
Press the ÷ (divide) key and enter 13 in. (remember, enter “13” and press the Inch key). Then press the = key. The result will be 7 1/8 in. You’ll almost always end up with an uneven fractional number the first time you divide the working length by the unit size. That’s because the panel width must be adjusted slightly to fit the length of the wall.
Step 5:
To adjust the panel width, round that fractional quotient to the nearest whole number—in this case, divide 93 in. by 7. To make it easier and quicker, this time, instead of entering 93 in., press the Rcl button (Recall) and then the M+ button.
Step 6:
Next, press the ÷ (divide) key, enter 7; finally, press the = key. The result will be 13 5/16 in. That’s the location of the second stile—the first stile from the corner.
Step 7:
To lay out the third stile, simply press the + button once, then press the = button.
Step 8:
For the fourth stile, and all the others, do not press the + button! Just press the = button—over and over again.
Step 9:
The calculator will continue to add the decimal fraction to itself (13.28571), each time rounding off to the nearest 1/16 in. The panel sizes will be within 1/32 in. of each other.
Wainscoting Calculator
This wainscoting calculator will help you determine the dimensions of your DIY wainscoting project. In this calculator, you will also learn the basics of how to install a wainscoting wall. Wainscoting is a wall siding that is quite similar to what we see in a board and batten wall, and, at the end of this article, we will briefly discuss their differences. Read on to learn what wainscoting is and how we can calculate the wainscoting dimensions.
What is wainscoting?
Wainscoting is a decorative wall covering that usually takes up the lower third of a wall. Wainscoting comes in a variety of designs, including the shadow box design as shown in the above image. Shadow box design, also known as "pictureframe design," is comprised of moldings shaped to rectangular frames that are evenly spaced along the wall. Some other designs are made out of boards like baseboards, stiles, and top rails, like the one shown in the illustration below:
In this calculator, you will be able to determine the wainscoting dimensions and spacing of the panels and stiles, as well as the margin measurements needed to make your wainscoting layout even and pleasing to the eye. You can also solve for the width of the stiles that you should use if you have the desired panel width. Once you've determined your measurements, you can then proceed to install your wainscoting.
How to install wainscoting?
Installing a wainscoting wall is quite an easy project that you can do yourself. You can quickly prop up a DIY wainscoting wall as long as you have the materials, necessary carpentry skills, some painting skills, and our wainscoting calculator. Here are the basic steps to install wainscoting:
Measure the length and height of the wall that you want to install wainscoting on. As a rule of thumb, wainscoting is installed to fill the bottom third of the wall's total height. This wainscoting height, also known as chair rail height, is around or approximately for an 8foot high wall. You can still, however, decide to go for a different wainscoting height depending on your preference.
Next, choose a wainscoting design that you want to install. If you selected a shadow box design, you'd have to decide on whether you want a or (the distance between two panels). On the other hand, if you decided to go for the recessed panel design, it's best to choose a and then compute the panel width.
Once you have decided on your wainscoting design, the next step is to calculate the measurements of the spacings, widths, and margins, as they depend on the design you chose. For this part of the project, our wainscoting calculator comes in very handy, as it computes both the horizontal and vertical measurements of your wainscoting. For the detailed calculation for these measurements, you can go to the Determining the dimensions of the wainscoting panels section of this text.
The next step is to cut the materials to their appropriate lengths. After cutting, you can dry fit them to the wall to ensure that you cut them to their correct lengths. If you have a textured wall, you would need to smooth your wall first by filling in the roughed surface with drywall mud. Once the drywall mud has dried, you can then paint it with a primer followed by paint that is the same as the color of your planned wainscoting.
After cutting the wainscoting elements, the next step is to mark their locations on your wall. Use a pencil to mark the total height of the wainscoting and draw a line across the wall as a guide. Also, mark the location of the stiles based on the measurements our calculator provided.
Once you're satisfied with the layout, you can now install the wainscoting. It is best to start with the baseboard up to the top rail and the cap molding. For this procedure, it is best to use a pressurized nailer to attach the boards to the wall. Just make sure to hit the studs beneath the wall; you can use a stud finder to locate them. To learn more about studs and framing of walls, you can check out our wall framing calculator.
After attaching everything to the wall, it is best to caulk the corners where the moldings and boards meet the wall. This step will ensure a seamless paintwork afterward. You can use our paint calculator to determine the amount of paint to apply. You can also paint the entire wall to make it look new or cover the rest of the wall above the wainscoting with wallpaper for a different look.
Let the paint dry and admire your work.
Determining the dimensions of the wainscoting panels
Now that we know how to install wainscoting, it is also nice to learn how to manually calculate the measurements in a wainscoting wall project. This knowledge will enable you to analyze other wainscoting designs our wainscoting calculator does not cover.
It is quite easy to do and only requires basic mathematical operations. To solve for the panel width of your DIY wainscoting wall, you can use the equations below:
where,
 L is the total length of the wainscoting wall;
 width_{panel} is the width of the panels;
 width_{s} is the width of the stile or spacing between panels;
 n is the number of panels in the wainscoting wall; and
 margin_{e} is the width of the end margins in the wainscoting style you prefer.
By rearranging this equation, we can directly solve for the panel width using this equation:
On the other hand, to determine the vertical wainscoting dimensions, you can use the equation below:
where,
 height_{total} is the total height of the wainscoting;
 baseboard is the depth of the baseboard;
 margin_{bottom} is the spacing between the baseboard and the panel;
 height_{panel} is the height of the panels;
 margin_{top} is the spacing between the cap and the panel; and
 cap is the depth of the cap molding.
We can now also calculate for the panel height by rearranging the equation:
If you need to solve the measurements of other wainscoting elements, rearrange the equation by moving the variables from one side of the equation to the other.
Sample wainscoting wall computation
As a sample computation, let us consider a 3meter (300cm) feature wall, onto which we want to install a 4panel wainscoting wall with a chair rail height of 90 centimeters. For this wainscoting, let's say we chose the recessed panel design and we want to use 10cm boards for the baseboard, stiles, and top rail. To finish the look, let's consider topping it all with a cap molding with a thickness of 2 centimeters. Here is an illustration of this wainscoting layout to help you visualize this example:
By substituting the values of each variables, we can now solve for the panels' width and height, respectively:
Based on our computation, we would need to cut the 10cm boards to 68.0 centimeters for the stiles. We then have to install these stiles with 62.5 centimeters of spacing between each adjacent stiles. For the baseboard, top rail, and cap molding, we need to cut them to a length as long as our 3.0meter wall.
Wainscoting VS board and battens wall
When choosing from among the different available wainscoting designs, you may encounter what is called "board and battens". Like wainscoting, board and battens is also a wall siding that people use to decorate walls. Board and batten closely resembles the recessed panel style because they both have stiles (or battens) in their designs. However, in board and battens, the stile spacing is very small compared to stile spacing in wainscoting. Here is an example of a board and batten wall:
We can purchase wainscoting and board and battens wall parts in sets made out of a variety of materials like wood, MDF (mediumdensity fiberboard), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and vinyl. If you're interested to learn more about wall sidings, you can check our vinyl siding calculator. While you're at it, you may also want to visit our vinyl fence calculator or our fence calculator. The calculation of the measurements of their parts all follow similar procedures. We can also calculate for baluster spacing in a similar manner and you can check more about it in our baluster calculator.
If you plan to fabricate your wainscoting elements from scratch, you can use our plywood and drywall calculator to help you estimate the cost of your materials.
Wainscoting Layout Calculator
Provide the number of panels you want and we'll calculate how wide the panels should be so they can be evenly spaced on the wall and we'll layout the stiles for the calculated panel dimensions.
Provide an approximate width of a panel and we'll calculate the closest exact panel size that can be evenly spaced on the wall and we'll layout the stiles for the calculated wainscoting panel dimensions.
Layout Using Number of Panels:
Dimensions
Panel Width: 

Stile Width: 

Dimensions
Panel Width: 

Stile Width: 

Dimensions
Panel Width: 

Stile Width: 

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How to Layout Wainscoting or Board and Batten Panels
Wainscoting consists of rails and stiles that surround a panel and adds a beautiful look to a home. There are several styles of wainscoting, including raised panel, flat panel, overlay panel, board and batten, and beadboard.
Let’s talk a bit about terminology for the parts that make up wainscoting. The horizontal boards at the top and bottom of the paneling are called rails, and the vertical boards that separate the panels are called stiles.
The larger boards in the middle of the rails and stiles are called panels. Panels may be installed with trim between the rails and stiles, but a flat panel or board and batten look can be achieved without installing a wood panel.
Before starting a wainscoting installation it is critical to lay out the rails, stiles, and panels. Most often, the panels are an even width, which requires some measuring to find the correct width that allows all of the panels to be consistent.
Step One: Measure Each Wall
To start laying out the panels and stiles, measure the width of each wall in inches. If measurements are in another form such as feet, convert the measurement to inches.
Step Two: Decide The Number of Panels on Each Wall
Once you have the width of each wall, consider how many panels you would like to install on each of them. It’s easiest to start with a rough idea of how big each panel should be, then layout roughly how many you will need.
You can find out how many panels you need by dividing the width of each wall by the rough panel size. You’ll probably end up with an odd number, like 3.4 panels, and that’s ok, just round to the closest whole number.
Step Three: Determine the Rail and Stile Width
The next decision to be made is what the dimensions of the rails and stiles twill be. The lower rail is often much wider than the top rail, usually around 7″8″. The top rail and stiles are usually 2″3″.
Step Four: Calculate the Panel Width
The next step is to find the exact width of the panels for each wall. It’s likely that the panel size will vary from wall to wall slightly, but the goal is to get them close to the same size or to a size that looks good visually.
One formula to find the panel width is to divide the wall width plus the stile width by the number of installed panels to find the width of the stile and panel together, then subtract the width of the stile to find the final width of the panel.
panel width = (wall width + stile width / number of panels) – stile width
Consider that this will be the visible width of the panel, or more specifically, the distance between each stile. For panel designs that incorporate trim between the panel and the stile the actual panel size may be smaller and for assembled panels where the panel is installed in a groove behind the stiles the panel may be larger.
The exact style of wainscoting will inform the actual panel width, but at this point it’s possible to start laying out the stiles evenly on the wall.
Step Five: Lay Out Stile Locations
To start laying out the stiles, locate the first stile, which would be from 0″ to the stile width. Then add the width of the panel to find the next stile location. Continue this process along the wall to locate the placement of each stile.
To find the height of the stiles, start by finding the desired height of the wainscoting, then subtracting the top rail width by the bottom rail width.
stile height = wainscoting height – top rail width – bottom rail width
At this point the layout is complete, the design of each wainscoting style may change the actual size of the components that need to be cut to assemble the paneling, so refer to the designs for the wainscoting you’re using to determine the final dimensions for each part.
How to Estimate Wainscoting Materials
There are a few components that need to be estimated to find the amount of material needed. Start by measuring the wall width and wainscoting height. The width of the wall will be the needed length of the top rail, bottom rail, and chair rail or cap moulding.
Estimate the Amount of Wainscoting Stile Material Needed
To find the length of stile material needed, find the height of each stile and multiply by the number of panels, then add 1. For example, if a stile is 24″ and there are three panels, there will be 96″ of stile material needed.
stile length = stile height × (number of panels + 1)
Estimate the Amount of Wainscoting Panel Material Needed
To find the amount of panel material needed, multiply the height of the panel by the width of the panel to find the size of the panel, then multiply by the number of panels needed. For example, a 24″ high by 36″ wide panel is 6 square feet, if there are three panels, then 18 square feet will be needed.
panel material square footage = panel height × panel width × number of panels
Handling Inner Corners
It is almost inevitable that a wainscoting project will involve an inner corner. The inner corner adds a slight challenge because there is an overlap the thickness of the wainscoting where the walls meet.
This can cause the stile on the edge to appear thinner than the rest since a portion of the stile is buried behind the wainscoting on the adjacent wall. To account for this use a stile on each edge that is wider by the thickness of the stiles.
To get an even panel layout, subtract the thickness of the added stile widths from the wall width before calculating. The provided stile locations may be off if the first stile is wider, consider this when laying out the stiles.
It may be necessary to add the extra stile thickness to each still start and end location to make the layout even.
Additional Carpentry Resources
Use our trim and moulding calculator to estimate the linear footage of trim and mouldings for a room. Our board footage calculator is great for estimating the board footage of a board, which is necessary to calculate the cost of materials. Get free wainscoting installation estimates from professional trim carpenters in your area.
Woodworking & Making Carpentry & Trim Construction Calculators
Sours: https://www.inchcalculator.com/wainscotinglayoutcalculator/Panel width wainscoting
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