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What is Wainscoting?

What is Wainscoting?

You have heard of wainscoting, but you don’t know exactly what it is?  Read on…

Wainscoting is a term used to describe paneling applied to the lower portions of interior walls.  It can be stained or painted, made from beadboard or with raised panels.  It can vary in style from ultra-traditional to farmhouse chic.  Typically, wainscoting is installed to a height of 36″-60″ (3′-5′) high – just high enough to protect the walls from damage caused by chairs or passersby.

The wainscoting in this small powder bath adds style and warmth to the room:

Wainscoting in a powder room

Besides adding style to a space, wainscoting also provides protection to a wall.  In high-traffic areas, such as hallways, mudrooms or stairways, wainscoting will protect the wall against dents and dings.  Not only does the wainscoting hide these flaws better than a painted wall would, it also provides an easy-to-wash surface for removing these spots from your walls.   The wainscoting shown this picture from Wainscoting America would be much easier to clean than a painted wall, and it adds tons of style to a simple stairway:

Raised Panel Staircase Wainscoting

You may also hear folks refer to “tile wainscoting.”  As you’d expect, tile wainscoting is simply wainscoting created from tile.  Again, it adds both style and protection for the walls, such as the custom tile wainscoting in this bathroom:

tile wainscoting

If you are interested in adding wainscoting to your home, there are a few things you should be aware of before moving ahead with your project.  Wainscoting can make the ceilings in a room appear lower than they are, especially if the color of the wainscot is very different from the color of the walls.  This is because it breaks up the height of the wall, splitting it into 2 sections visually.  If your goal is to make an especially tall room seem more cozy, this can be an advantage for you.  If your room already has low ceilings, you may want to choose a wainscot color similar to your wall color for a more cohesive look.

Also, pay close attention to proportion in your room with respect to the height of the wainscoting.  It is never (one of the few times I can use the word “never” in reference to a design principle!) a good idea to split a wall perfectly in half with the height of your wainscoting.  For example, if your wall height is 9′-0″, use a wainscot height of 3′ or 5′-6″ — not 4′-6″.  Dividing the wall perfect in half with a 4′-6″ wainscoting height is not attractive, as it appears out of balance in the room.

Use wainscoting to its full advantage at your home by adding style and protection to some of your walls.  Whether your home is traditional or contemporary in style, you can create a wainscot to work in any room.

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