How To Hide Wainscoting Seams – A Step-By-Step Guide

Wainscoting can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any room, but the seams between the panels can be a real eyesore.

Whether you’re dealing with plywood paneling or paint-grade wood, hiding those seams can be a challenge. But fear not! With a few simple tricks and techniques, you can achieve seamless wainscoting that looks like it was installed by a professional.

In this article, we’ll explore different methods for hiding wainscoting seams, from using wood putty to drywall mesh tape. So let’s get started and transform your wainscoting from amateur to amazing!

How To Hide Wainscoting Seams

One of the most common methods for hiding wainscoting seams is to use wood putty. Start by spreading an ample amount of wood putty over the seam, then use a wide putty knife to feather it out. Spread the putty both above and below the seam to help hide it. Feathering it out and spreading the wood putty over a larger area will help to make the seam less noticeable.

Another effective method is to use drywall mesh tape. Tape the drywall mesh tape from the top to the bottom of the seam, making sure to check for any bumps or puckers and adjust if needed. Afterward, place a small but sufficient amount of drywall mud in a paint tray and use a paint roller to fill in the seams. Wait for the drywall mud fillings to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you’re dealing with gaps between sheets of paneling, you can use an old carpenter’s trick to hide them. Hold a sheet of paneling in place and mark a vertical pencil line on the wall along the edge of the sheet. Then, paint a 2-inch-wide stripe down the wall centered on the pencil line. Choose a paint that matches the color at the edge of the paneling, which is often darker than the paneling face. This will effectively hide any gaps between sheets of paneling.

Preparation: Cleaning And Sanding

Before you start hiding wainscoting seams, it’s important to properly prepare the surface. This means cleaning and sanding the area to ensure a smooth and even finish.

To begin, use a damp rag to wipe down the wall and remove any dirt or debris. Once the wall is clean, it’s time to start sanding. One effective method is to wrap a putty knife with sandpaper to create a thin, stiff, and flat sanding block. Start with 120 grit sandpaper followed by 220 grit. Using a gentle up and down motion, sand all the beads and grooves. You’ll probably have to reposition the sandpaper frequently because there is such a small area of sandpaper surface being used.

For the seams themselves, use 150-grit sandpaper to smooth the dried joint compound. Wipe down the wall with a rag again to remove any clinging dust. Properly cleaning and sanding the area will help ensure that your wood putty or drywall mesh tape adheres properly and that your finished product looks smooth and professional.

Remember, taking the time to properly prepare the area before hiding wainscoting seams can make all the difference in achieving a flawless finish.

Using Wood Putty To Fill Seams

When using wood putty to fill seams in wainscoting, it is important to choose the right type of wood putty. Traditional one-part wood filler is great for patching interior woodwork before staining and finishing. You can use it to fill nicks, scratches, and gouges in unfinished furniture. However, for wainscoting seams, it is recommended to use a two-part filler such as Minwax High Performance Wood Filler, which includes a hardener that turns the filler into a rock-hard substance suitable for drilling and holding screws. Two-part fillers work both indoors and outdoors and are closely related to wood putty because they are dense, non-porous, and generally aren’t stainable, although they are sandable.

To apply the wood putty, first mix it up in its container with a putty knife until it is a smooth, peanut-butter-like consistency with a uniform color and texture. Then, spread an ample amount of wood putty over the seam using a putty knife. Make sure to spread the putty both above and below the seam to help hide it. Afterward, use a wide putty knife to feather out the putty over a larger area to make the seam less noticeable.

It is important to note that wood putty should not be used to fill gaps between sheets of paneling or any other gaps. Gaps should be filled with caulk, sealers, and expanding foam. Wood putty will not work for this purpose.

Sanding And Painting Over Wood Putty

Once the wood putty has been applied and allowed to dry, it’s important to sand and paint over it to achieve a smooth and seamless finish. Sanding the wood putty is optional but highly recommended, as it helps to improve adhesion of the paint. To start, lightly sand all of the paneling, along with trim and moldings, with 150-grit sandpaper. The idea is to take off the sheen and create a lightly gritty surface so the paint will adhere. Be careful not to sand too hard, as this can damage the paneling.

After sanding, wipe down the surface with a slightly damp cloth to remove all the dust. Once the surface is clean and dry, you can begin painting. Apply a good primer that will stick to the old finish, as this will ensure that the paint adheres properly. If necessary, check with your paint supplier for the proper primer.

Using a paint roller, fill in the seams with paint. You cannot fill a seam with just a single move, so keep decreasing the pressure you apply gradually with each filling and re-filling. Filling the seams is a continuous process which will take some patience. Avoid rushing, as getting into a hurry will not work in your favor.

If desired, you can also apply wood putty with a putty knife to fill any remaining holes or cracks and allow it to dry before painting. Once you’re finished painting, allow it to dry completely before touching or moving anything.

Using Drywall Mesh Tape To Hide Seams

If you’re not experienced with taping drywall seams, using mesh tape is a better choice than paper tape. Self-adhesive mesh tape can be applied directly over the seams between panels, without the need for an underlying layer of compound. Mesh tape allows for a thinner buildup over butt joints and repairs, and it eliminates common issues like rippling, slipping out of place, or trapping air bubbles that can occur when using paper tape.

To use drywall mesh tape to hide wainscoting seams, start by taping the mesh tape from the top to the bottom of the seam. Make sure to avoid lapping the mesh anywhere and check for any bumps or puckers that may need adjusting. After taping, apply a small but sufficient amount of drywall mud in a paint tray and use a paint roller to fill in the seams. Wait for the drywall mud fillings to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

It’s important to note that mesh tape is not suitable for taping out corners, as it is not as strong as paper tape. To compensate for this weakness, cover the mesh tape with setting-type joint compound, which is stronger than premixed compound. Apply mesh tape no more than a few hours before you’re ready to cover it. Left uncovered, it will eventually fall off.

Sanding And Painting Over Drywall Mesh Tape

After applying drywall mesh tape to the wainscoting seams, it’s important to sand and paint over them to achieve a seamless finish. Start by using a pole sander with 120-grit sandpaper to sand the area where the tape was applied. This will ensure that any bumps or roughness are smoothed out before painting.

After sanding, wipe down the area with a clean rag to remove any dust or debris. Then, apply a coat of primer over the taped area. This will help the paint adhere better and provide a more even finish. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the primer is dry, apply a coat of paint over the taped area. It’s recommended to use a paint that matches the color of the surrounding walls or wainscoting for a seamless look. Use a paint roller to apply the paint evenly and allow it to dry completely before applying a second coat.

After the second coat of paint has dried, inspect the area for any imperfections or areas that may need touch-up. Sand and paint over these areas as needed until you achieve a smooth and seamless finish.

By using drywall mesh tape and following these steps for sanding and painting, you can effectively hide wainscoting seams and achieve a professional-looking finish in your home.

Alternative Methods For Hiding Wainscoting Seams

Aside from the methods mentioned above, there are a few alternative ways to hide wainscoting seams. One option is to position the seams over the studs and use a rail and stile construction for the wall frames. This will create a more traditional look and help to hide the seams. Another option is to create “protruding” rectangles from thin trim molding to cover the seams. This method can add a unique and decorative touch to your wainscoting.

If you’re looking for a more natural approach, you can choose to embrace the seams and make them a part of the design. You can use a different color or finish for the paneling on either side of the seam, creating a subtle contrast that highlights the seam. Alternatively, you can add decorative elements such as wallpaper or stenciling around the seam to draw attention away from it.

Finally, if you’re feeling creative, you can use the seams as an opportunity for artistic expression. You can paint or draw designs directly onto the seams, turning them into a feature rather than a flaw. This method requires some skill and creativity, but it can result in a truly unique and personalized wainscoting design.

Overall, there are many ways to hide wainscoting seams depending on your personal preferences and design goals. Whether you choose to use wood putty, drywall mesh tape, traditional construction methods, or creative design techniques, the key is to experiment and find what works best for your space.