What Would Bob Do? Installing Beadboard

Bob Vila answers a reader's question about installing beadboard. To submit a question of your own, visit the Forum!

By Bob Vila | Updated Mar 9, 2021 9:49 AM

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How to Install Beadboard

Photo: kitchenstudio-ge.com

Q: We are thinking about installing beadboard in our bathroom. How do I install it so that it looks at home in the room? Should I butt the beadboard directly up to the door frame? And should I use trim to ease the visual transition between the beadboard and the ceiling?

A: We’re all used to seeing beadboard in utility areas, such as the mudroom, but I’ve noticed this wall treatment appearing more and more in the important rooms of a house, the ones used every day by all members of the family—and, of course, that includes the bath.

You can install beadboard in a number of ways.

One option is to install it as wainscoting, where the beadboard panel covers only a portion of the wall. Another approach—the one you’re considering—is to use beadboard as floor-to-ceiling paneling.

Beadboard material is easy to come by.

Your local home improvement retail chain store likely stocks beadboard made of solid wood, plywood, medium density fiberboard (MDF), and maybe even vinyl. Prices vary by material as well as by dimensions.

Take care installing beadboard over drywall.

If you are installing beadboard over drywall, choose a panel with 3/8-inch or 1/4-inch thickness. That will ensure a reveal, albeit a narrow one, at the point where your beadboard meets the door molding.

Apply a thin bead of caulk to fill the narrow gap between the beadboard and the molding. Where the beadboard meets the ceiling, you have a couple of options: Either use the caulk gun again or add a trim transition.

If you’re attracted to the latter approach—and it sounds like you are—select a molding profile whose design is consistent with the proportions and style of your bathroom.

Beadboard Installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

For a successful, pro-quality installation, apply best practices.

If you intend to install beadboard, whether in the bath or any other space, these are some tips to bear in mind:

  • Prior to installation, leave the panels stacked (with spacers between each one) for 72 hours, so they can acclimate to your home’s moisture level.
  • Remove baseboard and/or ceiling moldings before you begin work, and once you have completed the job, carefully reinstall them.
  • If you plan to paint the beadboard, make sure to prime and apply the first coat of your chosen color before putting up the panels.
  • Beadboard installs over drywall with panel adhesive. While the adhesive cures, use brads or nails to hold the panels in place temporarily.
  • Review scribing techniques: Because room corners are rarely plumb, it may be necessary to cut panels so that they conform to irregularities.
  • Buy or rent a battery-powered brad nailer to make quicker work of the project and, at the same time, eliminate accidental and unsightly hammer dings.