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Bathroom board and batten wainscoting {tutorial}

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Our recent bathroom renovation included a full wall DIY board and batten treatment that I will admit, was tedious and somewhat painful to install. This is not your typical 1/2 or 3/4 wall flat paneled board and batten installation. When I started this project, I had no idea the amount of measuring and cutting that would be involved but once I got started, I couldn’t stop!

how to add board and batten diy

DIY budget bathroom renovation towels

I purchased two sheets of 4×8 1/2″ MDF wood at Home Depot. I cut each board (strip) using the table saw at our workplace to  2 3/4″ wide. Thank you “Mouse” for helping me cut these (Mouse works with my dad). How wide your boards (strips) are is completely up to you. I started by framing the wall with the 2 3/4″ pieces of MDF. You essentially will box in the wall. Once your wall is framed (top, sides and bottom), you will then need to determine the size of the squares you want. My squares are roughly 28″x28″.

full wall wainscoting bathroom

This room doesn’t have a lot of natural light so the quality of these pictures are not that great. Once I determined how big I wanted my squares, I measured the length of the wall and ran the pieces of MDF (7′ for this particular wall) across. Try to envision me holding the piece of MDF that is 7′ long, using a level to make sure it’s straight and then using the nail gun to adhere to the wall. Of course, everyone was at work when I was doing this project, hence the painful comment above. Definitely have another set of hands to help you hold and measure. If someone was able to take a picture of me using my head to keep the board in place, you would have thought I had lost my mind.

NOTE: you will need to cut around any light sockets or switches.

Next, I cut the “in between” MDF pieces and used my smaller level to ensure they were straight.

wainscoting in bathroom

You can see I worked my way around the room framing the walls with the MDF and adding smaller pieces to create my square wainscoting look. Note below, some of the MDF is already painted as I decided to prime some pieces first.

framing a wall with board and batten

Note how I framed the corners in this next picture. I used white paintable Caulking to fill in all the gaps throughout the room as well as spackle to fill the nail holes.

bathroom full wall wainscoting

I used an air compressor and nail gun with 1 1/4″ nails to adhere to the wall. I would not suggest going below 1/2″ MDF as the power from the nail gun will force your nail to go right through the MDF and you will be left with a hole and the MDF will not be secured to the wall. Be sure to use 1/2″ or higher. My little man took this picture for me.

how to install board and batten

Make sure you where your safety glasses.

how to install board and batten

Once you have gone around the room and added all your MDF boards (took me about 8 hours) it’s time to fill all your nail holes, caulk every seam and gap.

chaulking the diy wainscoting bathroom

Once that is dry, you need to sand . This was the painful, “I can’t believe I got myself into this project” moment. This took me about 5 hours.

how to install board and batten

Once you are finished sanding and cleaning your walls (I vacuumed mine), they will be incredibly dusty and dirty, it’s time to add your paint. I used Sherwin Williams rhinestone color on the walls.

bathroom wainscoting board and batten

Finally, after all the measuring, cutting, nailing, caulking and sanding, the board and batten wainscoting was finished.  Would I do it again? Absolutely, but I would enlist some help!

how to install diy wainscoting

Here is a picture of our spring bathroom makeover with Better Homes and Gardens.

cottage bathroom refresh with Better Homes and Garden

I tend to lean more towards the “go big” or “go home” motto and I think that by adding a full wall board and batten wainscoting treatment to the entire bathroom, turned a good makeover into a fabulous makeover. You can see more board and batten wainscoting pictures of this space by checking out our bathroom renovation post from last month. If you are not interested in doing such an elaborate board and batten project such as this, check out our dining room makeover where I show you how to install basic flat board and batten panels 3/4 high on a wall as well as our recent mudroom makeover where I installed the same type of board and batten wainscoting. Are you motivated now to install your own board and batten wainscoting?

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Responses to Bathroom board and batten wainscoting {tutorial}

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  1. Ali January 8, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    It looks so good though! Great job!

  2. Kim @ Sand & Sisal January 8, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I think it looks amazing Jess! It adds so much architectural detail to the room. Great tutorial too!

  3. nest of posies January 9, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Jessica, this is amazing! holy smokes it looks so good!

    we’re about to take on board & batten for the first time in a couple of weeks. eek!

    • Jessica Bruno January 9, 2013 at 11:35 am #

      Thank you Miss Kelly! Did you get your truck unloaded from your IKEA extravaganza yet!? Good grief, did you save anything for anyone else to buy? :) Good luck on your project!

  4. Ashley@AttemptsAtDomestication January 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    It looks absolutely fabulous Jessica! Fantastic job! :)

  5. Claire January 12, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Wow- that’s my favorite kind of wainscoting but haven’t attempted it yet! Featured this on my Saturday favorites!! Claire

  6. Taylor June 9, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Looks amazing! I am wanting to do this to my entryway… What is the point of the sanding though? Can’t I pant the wood as is? Or is sanding needed to adhere the two together? Looks amazing!

    • Jessica Bruno June 11, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      I only sanded b/c when you fill in the nail holes with putty, you need to sand the putty once it’s dry to get it smooth prior to painting :)

  7. Shannon G July 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    I love your wainscoting! It looks beautiful! I’m definitely going to use that!

    I have this hideous wainscoting (a-la 1960’s) in my tiny bathroom, which was also installed as my tub surround. I’ve been thinking about swapping it out for beadboard, but it’s so expensive! I’ll have to replace the tub surround (due to the condition), but this will be a great solution for the rest of the room!

    Thanks, Jessica! You have just helped me save my reno budget!

    Shannon, The DIY Newbie

    • Jessica Bruno July 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

      Thank you Shannon and good luck with your project :)

  8. Lauren August 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    I’m loving all your projects! One question I have is are your walls textured? We are going to do batten & board soon but we want the smooth finish. Would you have a recommendation on how to get the smooth finish? Like maybe add plywood then batten & board? I hope I’m making sense!

    • Jessica Bruno August 4, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

      Hi, thank you! Yes, you could add plywood or they actually sell an MDF version (which might be lighter and less expensive). Good luck and send some pictures when you are finished, I would love to see the room!

  9. Bryan January 26, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    Was the MDF at 8 1/2 standard at Home Depot? I went there today and all I saw was standard 8ft. Did you have to specifically ask for the 8 1/2?

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