What Material Is Used For Wainscoting? A Comprehensive Guide

Wainscoting is a beautiful and timeless addition to any home, adding character and charm to any room. But with so many materials available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your project.

From traditional solid wood to modern alternatives like PVC and MDF, the options are endless. In this article, we’ll explore the different materials used for wainscoting and help you make an informed decision on which one is right for your home.

So, let’s dive in and discover the world of wainscoting materials!

What Material Is Used For Wainscoting

Traditionally, wainscoting was made from solid wood, but nowadays, there are many other materials available. Plywood, plastic, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) are popular alternatives that offer a range of benefits.

Board and batten wainscoting is a style that covers seams where boards connect with a thin and narrow board known as the batten. The boards in a board and batten wainscoting are wider and positioned vertically side-by-side. Even though it was originally designed for use as exterior siding, today this style’s appeal is adored in interiors that have a farmhouse, rustic, and cottage-core character to them.

Wainscoting now comes in various styles and materials to fit the aesthetic vision and budget of the homeowner. The most common materials used in wainscoting today remain hardwood and wood substitutes. Traditional wooden options usually come at a much higher price when compared to their thinner, less durable counterparts. The raw material costs more per square foot, and contractors may charge a higher service fee to install it.

Beadboard, a popular wainscoting style, often uses thickly cut wood panels to create its iconic appearance. Wainscoting designs consisting of paneling typically cost less than solid wood styles. Yet, the quality and density of the wood used during installation can drastically affect the project’s price tag.

Medium-density fiberboard is a cheaper alternative to hardwood that also comes in water-resistant varieties, which can prove beneficial for homeowners wishing to install wainscoting inside a room that encounters water frequently, like a bathroom or kitchen. Traditional hardwood succumbs to water damage easily and quickly, while water-resistant MDF, and its plastic alternative, PVC, can protect the underlying wall more effectively.

Introduction To Wainscoting Materials

If you’re considering adding wainscoting to your home, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different materials available. Traditionally, wainscoting was made from solid wood, which can be expensive and may require a higher service fee from contractors. However, there are now many alternatives available that offer a range of benefits.

One popular alternative is plywood, which is a durable and cost-effective option. Plastic, specifically polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is another option that is often found in kitchens and bathrooms due to its water-resistant properties. PVC wainscoting kits are now available in various designs and wood tones, making it a versatile option for interior applications.

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a cheaper alternative to hardwood that also comes in water-resistant varieties. This makes it an ideal option for rooms that encounter water frequently, such as bathrooms or kitchens. MDF can also be painted or finished to match your desired aesthetic.

Beadboard, a popular wainscoting style, often uses thickly cut wood panels to create its iconic appearance. Wainscoting designs consisting of paneling typically cost less than solid wood styles. However, the quality and density of the wood used during installation can drastically affect the project’s price tag.

Solid Wood Wainscoting

Solid wood wainscoting is a classic and timeless option that adds warmth and character to any room. It is made from individual beaded boards that are usually 5/8″ thick and can be milled from a variety of woods, including oak, maple, cherry, and pine. The chair rail needs to cover the end grain of the boards, so it should be a back band or an outside corner molding. However, homeowners can also make their own chair rail from flat stock to cover the end grain and project beyond the bead board.

The layout for solid wood wainscoting is similar to that of MDF beadboard panels. Homeowners should avoid slivers of beadboard at inside or outside corners. Solid wood wainscoting will hold up to traffic better than MDF options because it is more durable. Homeowners can miter or butt up the outside corners, but miter usually looks best.

While solid wood wainscoting is a beautiful option, it comes at a higher price point compared to other materials. The raw material costs more per square foot, and contractors may charge a higher service fee to install it. However, it is an investment in the long-term beauty and value of the home. Homeowners can apply paint, stains, or glossy finishes on top of solid wood wainscoting once installed, but consulting a professional before painting or staining is recommended.

MDF Wainscoting

MDF wainscoting is a popular option for homeowners who want the look of wood without the high cost. Medium-density fiberboard is a man-made material that offers the warm look of wood with the affordability and durability of synthetic material. It’s also lightweight, making it easier to install.

MDF wainscoting is available in a variety of styles, including simulated raised panel wainscot. This type of wainscoting is made from MDF and can be found at lumber yards, Home Depot, or Lowes. The most common size is 32” x 48” (height x length). This material is great because it’s so easy to assemble and install! It takes a paint finish very well.

However, there are some disadvantages to using MDF for wainscoting. Chances are you’ll run into some very visible vertical joints every 48”. Also, you won’t be able to control where existing electrical outlets fall within the panels. Finally, inside and outside corners can be difficult. Because you can’t vary the size of the panels, inside and outside corners have to be mitered at whatever point they fall in the panel.

PVC Wainscoting

PVC (vinyl) wainscoting is a relatively new alternative to traditional wood wainscoting that offers a range of benefits. This style of wainscoting is made from a durable, water-resistant material that is easy to clean and maintain. It’s perfect for bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas that are exposed to moisture, as it’s not susceptible to mold and mildew.

One of the biggest advantages of PVC wainscoting is its affordability. It costs approximately USD$1-2 per linear foot, which is significantly less than the typical cost of USD$5 per linear foot for real wood paneling. The material is also readily available and easy to find, making it a convenient option for homeowners looking to install wainscoting without breaking the bank.

Another benefit of PVC wainscoting is its versatility. It comes pre-finished in white, but can be painted to easily fit with the style of any room it’s installed in. PVC wainscoting panels come in a variety of easy-to-install sizes and styles, including reversible panels that allow for even more customization.

Installing PVC wainscoting is relatively simple and does not require specialized labor or equipment. The planks have tongue-and-groove joinery, allowing for the relatively easy assembly of PVC beaded boards into wall covering. They can be easily cut with household tools and installed with a combination of quality construction adhesive and fasteners.

Cleaning and maintaining PVC wainscoting is also easy. Simple dusting and wiping will keep the vinyl panels looking as good as new. This makes it a great option for households with actively messy children or pets, as the panels hold up to repeated cleaning and won’t discolor over time.

Metal Wainscoting

Another material option for wainscoting is metal, specifically steel. Metal wainscoting is a popular choice for pole barns and other industrial-style buildings. It is known for its durability and resistance to weather, making it an excellent choice for exterior applications.

Metal wainscoting is also relatively easy to install, as it typically comes in large panels that can be quickly attached to the wall. This can save time and labor costs compared to traditional wood paneling, which may require individual pieces to be cut and fitted.

In addition to steel, other metal options for wainscoting include aluminum and copper. These materials offer unique aesthetic qualities that can add a modern or rustic touch to a space. However, they may come at a higher cost compared to steel.

One potential downside of metal wainscoting is that it may not be as versatile in terms of design options compared to wood or other materials. Metal panels often come in standard sizes and shapes, limiting the ability to create intricate patterns or designs.

Stone Wainscoting

Stone wainscoting is a modern and stylish option for homeowners looking to add a touch of sophistication to their interiors. Although there are many material options available, faux stone or faux brick are recommended for their durability and aesthetic appeal.

Faux stone panels, like Keystone Stacked Stone, offer warm burgundy tones that can complement surrounding brick or light-colored homes. These panels have been tested for durability, ensuring that they can withstand even the most volatile climates. Made with 99.9% waterproof high-density polyurethane, they provide insulation and prevent moisture penetration, making them an excellent choice for bathrooms and kitchens.

Stone wainscoting can also be achieved with natural stone, but it comes at a much higher cost. Natural stone requires skilled labor to install, which adds to the overall project cost. Additionally, natural stone is heavy and can cause structural damage if not installed correctly.

Faux stone panels offer an affordable and easy-to-install alternative to natural stone. They are lightweight and can be easily installed with adhesive or screws. The panels come in various sizes and shapes, allowing homeowners to customize their wainscoting design to fit their unique style.

Overall, stone wainscoting is an excellent option for homeowners looking to add a touch of elegance and sophistication to their interiors. Faux stone panels offer a durable and affordable alternative to natural stone, while still providing the same aesthetic appeal.