How to Install Wainscoting in the Bathroom

Installing wainscoting in your bathroom is one way to add value to your house while updating the decor with a luxurious appearance. The average do-it-yourselfer can tackle this inexpensive project in an few hours with just a few carpentry tools.

Measure your bathroom walls to determine how many panels of wainscoting you will need to cover your area. As a reference, panels of wainscoting typically come in 4 by 8-foot sheets.

Pick a style of wainscoting from a hardware or home improvement store. Panels come as either prefinished or ready-to-finish sheets.

Let the wainscoting sit in your house for a couple of days, preferably on the same level as the bathroom they will be installed, to acclimate itself with the new conditions. Wainscoting, a wood product, expands and contracts with moisture and temperature changes.

Remove all electrical outlet covers and switch plate covers, and move any furniture out of your way before you begin working. Then pry off existing baseboards or moldings at the base of the walls.

Measure on your walls how high you'd like the wainscoting to extend, then use a level to draw a perfectly straight line across the wall. The maximum height will be 48 inches. Anything less requires the sheets of paneling to be trimmed with a circular saw.

Install the first panel 1/16 inch from the corner of a wall, making sure the top is level with the line you've drawn. You can use either panel adhesive on the back or paneling nails to secure the wainscoting to the wall. A compressor nail gun is an alternative that will save time.

Make your way around the bathroom, installing each panel 1/16 inch apart from the next while making sure the tops are level with your line. Openings for outlets and light switches will need to be measured and cut out with a sawzall.

Place caulking between the gaps of every panel. This allows the paneling to shift with the changes in temperature in the room.

Paint the wainscoting your desired color, then install new baseboards and chair rail (see eHow "How to install chair rail") to the top of your panels.

Things You Will Need

  • Wainscoting
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Circular saw
  • Sawzall
  • Hammer and paneling nails or compressor nail gun
  • Pry bar


  • Make sure the panels are aligned perfectly at the top of the wall, not at the bottom. Many floors are not level, and baseboards will cover up any discrepencies at the bottom of the wall anyway.

About the Author

Joshua Smothers works at the Gannett Des Moines Design Studio, designing sports pages and special sections for four Midwest newspapers. He previously served as a designer, copy editor and reporter for "The Des Moines Register." Smothers graduated from Wartburg College in 2003 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in journalism and public relations.