Are the bottom section of your walls damaged with smudges, scratches or even holes? Would you love a way to hide those smudges and scratches and give your walls a decorative advantage? You can do that easily with a procedure called wainscoting.

Wainscoting is the process of applying some type of covering or architectural detail to the bottom portion of a wall. It could be something as simple as wallpapering the bottom half of the wall. Or it could involve intricate panels and framing along the bottom portion. Either way it adds character while providing some means of protection for the often abused lower section of walls.

These simple suggestions and tips will help you with installing a solid wainscoting on your walls.

The first decision to be made is the type of wainscoting you want. Since you will be covering the entire bottom half of the wall, sheets of paneling or beadboard are an excellent solution. The four by eight foot sheets of paneling are prefinished, cutting down on the finishing time. The plywood beadboards will have to be stained or painted, but they allow for a more personal color choice. Also, a four by eight piece of paneling or beadboard, cut in half will cover an eight foot section of wall. However, don’t limit yourself to just paneling or beadboard. Many home improvement centers sell other types of wall coverings. For example, the faux leather panels might be an excellent choice for an office of den.

Once you have made up your mind on the type of wainscoting, you will need to determine what height you want for it. The general rule of thumb is thirty-two to thirty-eight inches high, but this is a personal choice. And remember to allow for the chair rail at the top of the wainscoting.

Measure the width of the walls to determine how much beadboard or paneling you will need. Figure full sections even if a door or window is located on the wall. For example, if the wall width is fourteen feet, you will need (4) sheets of paneling. Once cut in half, you will have eight sections of four foot widths or sixteen feet. Figure for all the walls you will be covering.

The amount of chair rail molding you will need can be measured simply by measuring from wall to wall and subtracting for doors and windows. Use longer lengths if you can. That will mean less joints and less cutting and mitering. The width of the chair rail is your preference.

You will also need to purchase paneling nails if using a prefinished paneling or small finishing nails if using the plywood beadboard.

Tools you will need are a pencil, level, chalk line (optional), screwdriver to remove receptacle covers, hammer or finishing nail gun, drill and 1/4″ drill bit, jigsaw, miter saw, and circular saw or table saw for cutting the paneling or beadboard.

Once you have all your materials, use a level or chalk line to get a straight and level line around the walls. Remove the baseboards and all electrical receptacle covers. If you want, you can go ahead and cut several sheets to the desired height. Begin in one corner and work toward a doorway.

When you have to cut out for a receptacle, measure up from the floor to the center of the receptacle. Then use the edge of the previous board or even the corner, measure over to the center of the receptacle. The openings for the receptacles are two and a half inches wide by four and a half inches tall. To make cutting out the openings faster, make a template from cardboard. Find the center and punch a small hole in it.

Now, using your measurements, measure up and over on the beadboard and mark the spot. This should be the center for your receptacle. Using a small drill bit, drill a hole where you marked. Place the piece of beadboard against the wall in its correct position. Do not nail. You should be able to see the center screw hole of the receptacle. Remove the piece of beadboard and place it on sawhorses. Using your template, postition the hole in the template with the hole in the beadboard. Draw out the receptacle opening, paying close attention to keeping it straight. Then, using a jigsaw, cut out the opening, using the drill hole as the starting point.

Continue in this fashion around the room until all walls are covered. Depending on the thickness of the paneling or beadboard, you may have to make a very minor adjustment when you replace the baseboard.

The last step is to install the chair rail along the top of the beadboard. This rail acts as a decorative buffer between the two surfaces. It is easier to paint or stain the rail before you install it. The bottom of the rail should cover the top of beadboard. Be sure to use your level and check often that it is level.

You will be amazed at the difference the wainscoting will make in the room. And not only does it look great, it is protecting your walls from simple everyday abuse .