How To Install Wainscoting
Remove the baseboards by prying them off with a putty knife. (In some cases, you can keep your existing baseboards, but it won't look as nice.) Remove your old baseboards gently, as not to damage the drywall. If the putty knife is not working, use a pry board instead.
Also, remember to remove any outlet covers, if necessary. Install a box extension ring around the bare outlet. Since wainscoting adds about ¾" of depth to your walls, this will make the outlet flush with your new paneling.
Using a pencil and a level, mark with a line where the trim of the wainscoting will go. You may also want to take the time to find the studs and mark their places, too. This will save you from having to do it later.
To install the new baseboards, start at the corner of the room. Using a hammer and a finishing nail or a nail gun, attach baseboards directly into the wall, finding the studs first. Figure you will need about two nails per stud when driving in your baseboard. Before you go at it, make sure it is level. After the baseboard is attached, check again to see if it's level and completely parallel to the floor.
Jane Tip: Find all of the studs before you start to install baseboards and mark them with a pencil; they should be 16" apart.
Again, start in the corner when you are ready to begin installing the paneling. Apply glue to the back of the panel and spread it with a notched trowel. (FYI: Spreading the glue with a notched trowel isn't an absolute must, but it will help the paneling adhere better.)
Press the panel into place and nail in a few brads around it to hold. Try to place brads on the edges of the paneling, so that it will be hidden by the next panel. Make sure the piece is flush with the wall and check your work with a level.
Repeat until all paneling is in place.
You may have to cut holes in the paneling to accommodate electrical outlets. To make an accurate cut, trace the outlet with chalk and then press the paneling to it. Darken the outline with a pencil and then cut out the rectangle using a saber saw.
Complete steps 4-7 until all of the paneling is mounted.
Once all the paneling is in place, you can install the top piece over the paneling. You can use brads to secure them into place, or using your stud markings, drive nails into the paneling using a nail gun. Countersink all nails and hide the evidence with caulk.
Cover any gaps with painter's caulk. If you plan on painting your wainscoting someday, it will take to the color.
Jane Tip: Be careful with caulking, if you use too much, it will get up into the beading and is very hard, if not impossible to fully remove!
You will not need to maintain your wainscoting once it is mounted, though check it ever so often for loose boards. If you encounter any, simple secure with a few nails, driving them into the studs. Again, countersink the nails and cover with caulk.
What are you Waiting For?
Even though this project seems complicated, installing wainscoting is only a little more difficult than putting a puzzle together. Moreover, what you get in return is well worth it. We think you will agree that your newly-installed wainscoting adds character and charm to your home. Its simplicity and elegance will spruce up a dull room without being overly decorative.