How To Fix Gaps In Wainscoting – A Step-By-Step Guide

Wood paneling can add a touch of elegance and charm to any room. However, gaps between the panels can detract from the overall aesthetic and give a sloppy appearance.

Whether you’re dealing with inherited wainscoting or installed it yourself, fixing gaps is a simple task that can make a big difference.

In this article, we’ll explore some easy solutions to fill those gaps and restore your wainscoting to its former glory.

So, let’s dive in and learn how to fix gaps in wainscoting!

How To Fix Gaps In Wainscoting

1. Use Caulk: One of the easiest and most effective ways to fill gaps in wainscoting is by using caulk. Painter’s caulk is a great option for interior walls, while paintable siliconized acrylic latex caulk is ideal for exterior walls.

Simply apply the caulk to the gaps and smooth it out with your finger or a damp sponge. Allow it to dry for about 30 minutes before painting over it.

2. Install Trim Pieces: If the gaps are too large to be filled with caulk, consider installing trim pieces to cover them up. This can be done by adding a corner piece or end piece of wainscoting to make up for the lost space.

3. Remove and Reinstall: If the gaps are too noticeable and cannot be covered up with trim pieces or caulk, consider removing and reinstalling the wainscoting. This may seem like a daunting task, but it can be worth it in the long run for a seamless and polished look.

4. Use Colored Caulk: For a more creative solution, consider using colored caulk in the gaps to create a pleasing pattern. This can be a more extreme solution, but it can add a unique touch to your wainscoting.

Identifying The Causes Of Gaps In Wainscoting

Gaps in wainscoting can occur due to a variety of reasons. One common cause is the natural expansion and contraction of wood due to changes in temperature and humidity. This can cause the panels to shift and create gaps over time.

Another cause of gaps in wainscoting can be improper installation. If the panels were not properly aligned or secured, they may shift or loosen over time, creating gaps.

In some cases, gaps may also be caused by settling or shifting of the foundation, which can cause the walls to shift and create gaps in the wainscoting.

It is important to identify the cause of the gaps before attempting to fix them, as the solution may vary depending on the underlying issue. If the gaps are caused by natural expansion and contraction of the wood, using a flexible caulk may be sufficient. However, if the gaps are caused by improper installation or foundation issues, more extensive repairs may be necessary.

Preparing The Surface For Repair

Before repairing gaps in your wainscoting, it’s important to prepare the surface. This will ensure that the repair is effective and long-lasting. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Clean the Surface: Before applying any filler or caulk, make sure that the surface is clean and free of dust, dirt, and debris. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the surface and let it dry completely.

2. Sand the Surface: If the surface is rough or uneven, use sandpaper to smooth it out. This will help the filler or caulk adhere better to the surface. Use a fine-grit sandpaper (such as 150 grit) and sand in a circular motion until the surface is smooth.

3. Apply Filler or Caulk: Depending on the size of the gap, you can either use wood filler or caulk to fill it in. If using wood filler, apply it with a putty knife and smooth it out with the knife or your finger. For larger gaps, apply the filler in layers and let each layer dry before applying the next one.

If using caulk, cut the tip of the tube at a 45-degree angle and create a small hole (1/8 inch). Apply the caulk to the gap and smooth it out with your finger or a damp sponge.

4. Let it Dry: Once you’ve applied the filler or caulk, let it dry completely before sanding or painting over it. This can take anywhere from 2-6 hours for shallow repairs and up to 36 hours for deeper fills.

5. Sand Smooth: Once the filler or caulk is dry, use sandpaper to smooth it out. Use a fine-grit sandpaper (such as 150 grit) and sand in a circular motion until the surface is smooth.

6. Paint or Stain: Once you’ve sanded the surface, you can paint or stain over it as needed. Be sure to check the label for specific instructions on how to achieve the best finish possible.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to prepare your wainscoting surface for repair and achieve a seamless and polished look.

Using Wood Filler To Fill Gaps

While wood filler is not recommended for filling gaps, it can be used as a last resort if the gap is small enough. To use wood filler, first clean the surface of any dirt and sanding dust. Then, apply the wood filler to the gap using a putty knife or your finger, making sure to overfill the gap slightly. Allow the wood filler to dry completely, which can take anywhere from 2-36 hours depending on the depth of the gap.

Once the wood filler is dry, sand it smooth using 150 grit sandpaper. You can then stain or paint over the wood filler as needed. Keep in mind that stainable wood fillers are not a perfect match for the wood they are filling, so additional coats of stain may be necessary to achieve a closer match.

It’s important to note that wood filler should only be used as a last resort for filling gaps in wainscoting. Caulk and trim pieces are much better options for covering larger gaps and creating a seamless look.

Sanding And Finishing The Repaired Wainscoting

After filling the gaps in your wainscoting, it’s time to sand and finish the repaired areas to achieve a smooth and polished look. Here’s how to do it:

1. Sand the Filled Areas: Once the wood filler or caulk has dried, use 150 grit sandpaper to sand the filled areas until they are smooth and level with the surrounding wainscoting. Be careful not to sand too much or too hard, as this can cause damage to the surrounding areas.

2. Clean the Surface: After sanding, use a clean cloth or vacuum to remove any dust or debris from the surface. This will ensure a clean and even finish.

3. Stain or Paint: Once the surface is clean and smooth, you can stain or paint over the repaired areas as needed. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label for best results.

4. Apply a Topcoat: To protect your newly repaired wainscoting, consider applying a topcoat of polyurethane or another protective finish. This will help prevent future damage and keep your wainscoting looking great for years to come.

By following these simple steps, you can easily repair gaps in your wainscoting and achieve a beautiful and polished finish.

Preventing Future Gaps In Wainscoting

Preventing future gaps in wainscoting can save you time and money in the long run. Here are some tips to help you prevent gaps from forming:

1. Paint or Stain Behind Joints: Before installing the wainscoting, paint or stain the area behind the joints with a shade that is a few shades darker than the wainscoting. This will make any gaps that do form less noticeable.

2. Use Solid Wood: Consider using solid wood for your wainscoting instead of MDF options. Solid wood is more durable and can hold up better to traffic, reducing the likelihood of gaps forming.

3. Use Adhesive: When attaching the wainscoting to the wall or other surface, use adhesive in addition to nails. Apply adhesive to the area where the seams are being created to prevent future movement and cracking in the wood putty.

4. Sand Rough Edges: Sand any rough edges on the wall and trim before applying caulk. This will ensure a neater finish and reduce the likelihood of gaps forming.

By following these tips, you can prevent future gaps from forming in your wainscoting and enjoy a seamless and polished look for years to come.