How to Install Prefinished Reversible Vinyl Wainscoting

Stacy Morgan

Wainscoting originated in England in the 16th century as a decorative cover for moisture ridden lower wall areas. Wainscoting is used today as an architectural feature to add historic charm to contemporary homes, and is commonly found in bathrooms and dining areas.

Small finish nails secure vinyl wainscoting to the wall.

Pre-finished reversible vinyl wainscoting installs with ease, allowing even the most novice do it yourself-er to instill a bit of history in their interior design.

  1. Measure the length of the wall along the base. Mark the measurement on the base trim and cut to size on a table saw. Lay the trim piece face down on the floor with the grooved edge pointing away from the wall. Run a zig-zagging line of panel adhesive along the back of the trim piece. Tip the trim piece upwards and press into place against the wall. Place a carpenters level along the top edge of the trim piece and adjust one end up or down as needed to level.

  2. Run a line of panel adhesive along the back of a plank in a zig-zag motion. Insert the plank at the corner of the wall with the grooved side facing the corner, behind the groove in the trim piece with the adhesive side against the wall. Hold a finish nail at a 45 degree angle to the wall one inch down from the top of the plank. Hammer the nail through the plank and into the wall until the nail head is 1/4 inch from the plank. Hold the tip of a nail set against the head of the nail and tap the end of the nail set with a hammer until the head is slightly below the surface of the plank. Repeat the nailing process, inserting a nail every 16 inches down the face of the plank, ending with a nail at the bottom of the plank just above where it meets the trim piece.

  3. Continue installing planks one at a time, slipping the groove edge of each plank under the tongue edge of the preceding plank. Leave 1/8 of an inch of space between the tongue edge and the surface of the next plank to allow for expansion.

  4. Cut the chair rail piece to the length of the wall using a table saw. Run a line of panel adhesive along the back of the chair rail in a zig-zag motion. Press the chair rail into place above the top of the planks so the grooved edge overlaps the planks. Hammer a finish nail into place through the thinnest part of the rail every 2 inches down the length of the chair rail.

  5. Warning

    Always wear safety goggles when operating a table saw.