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Bathroom Wainscoting: Everything You Need to Know

Wainscoting is a style of wall paneling that originates from England and Holland, where it was popular in the mid-century. At the very beginning, covering included the whole wall surface. Later on, people used them to cover only lower parts of the wall, which is still the practice nowadays.

Modern technology of wood processing and a wide range of other materials enables wainscoting installation in every part of your home, including the bathroom. So, if tiles are not your style anymore and you want to avoid the monotony of the wall, you should try bathroom wainscoting. It will protect the walls from moisture and damage and provide excellent insulation. At the same time, this solution creates a stylish, cozy, and rustic atmosphere and adds value to your home.

The Difference Between Wainscoting, Beadboard, and Shiplap

Although the purpose of these three techniques is mainly the same, there are a few differences between them regarding the appearance.

  • Wainscoting – It contains the flat panels within the frame. The primary characteristic of its appearance is the existence of upper and bottom rails, plus the side rails that divide the board.
  • Beadboard – Its panels match vertically, so they look like stripes. The indented line between them comes from the tongue and groove connection.
  • Shiplap – In this case, panels overlap horizontally. The space between boards here is deeper than in a beadboard.

The Height of Wainscoting

The Height of Wainscoting

Bathroom wainscoting is usually 38 to 42 inches (96.5 cm to 1 m) high, which is approximately one-third of the wall. It is easier to install it if the height doesn’t go over the sink and vanity.

If you decide to make it higher, it can serve as a backsplash, although you will need to put in more effort during installation. Even though you choose high bathroom wainscoting, avoid heights over 48 to 54 inches (1.2 to 1.4 m).

Anyhow, you should always consider the actual size of the walls when you think about bathroom wainscoting. If the bathroom is small, the height of wainscoting needs to be lower and vice versa.

Keep in mind that dark-colored bathroom wainscoting visually diminishes the bathroom, especially if the ceiling is low. Try the trick with the wall tape if you can’t imagine how it will look like. Use it to mark the desired height, and then decide.

Types of Material Used

The first available material in use for wainscoting was wood, usually oak. Later, people preferred to use pine and spruce wood. Nowadays, you can find many types of wood panels, and you should pick out the best option for your home, depending on the climate you live in and the conditions in your home.

It is always an excellent idea to leave the wood to adjust to the room where you plan to install it for a while. Also, you should always prepare and protect it to prevent mold and wood rot as a result of high humidity.

You can also pick out some other water-resistant and long-lasting solutions instead of wood, such as vinyl and plastic. They are easy to maintain and install, but less flexible at the same time.

On the other hand, marble wainscoting will enhance your bathroom look and add value to your home. It is a costly solution, but it is a classic and long-lasting style you will love.

Types of Wainscoting

Use different moldings and trims to combine them with the decor and furniture you have already had. These are popular styles you can choose:

  • Flat-panel – It is a simple style with divider panels and rails. Keep in mind that you can’t mold them.
  • The raised panel – This classical model has a protruded middle. It is the most expensive style since the wood has to be shaped in a particular manner.
  • The board and batten panels – They have a simple, rectangular shape. You can install only one rectangle or combine it with a smaller, additional square on the top.

Wainscoting Prices

The main factors in determining the price are dimension, type of material that you want to use, and the style you prefer. Also, it will vary depending on whether you install bathroom wainscoting on your own or hire a professional. For example:

  • The price of flat-panel is from $7 to $10 per 1 sq. ft (0.09 m2).
  • The price of beadboard is from $7 to $20 per 1 sq. ft (0.09 m2).
  • The price of board and batten is from $7 to $20 per 1 sq. ft (0.09 m2).
  • The price of the raised panel is from $10 to $30 per 1 sq. ft (0.09 m2).

Wainscoting Installation in the Bathroom

The difficulty of installing bathroom wainscoting depends on two primary things:

If you have a baseboard, you should decide whether you want to leave it or not, before starting with removal. It is crucial to be careful not to damage a panel if you plan to keep it. Otherwise, remove it before beginning with wall repairs.

The part of the wall you want to cover with wainscoting doesn’t require too much attention, but you should treat the rest of the wall. Caulk all the gaps and cracks and sand the wall to get a perfect and smooth surface. Also, you can create a texture with the spray, which is the most comfortable approach.

If you want to get a beadboard style, you should purchase large panels. However, be careful to measure them correctly. Don’t forget to use the level to align all of them precisely.

Also, you need to make some adjustments and cut the holes for pipes and a light switch. Don’t forget to turn off the water supply before starting the installation. Then, attach the board to the wall with adhesive and nails.

Take care to hammer the nails on the bottom and top of the panel since the baseboard and top rail will cover them after finishing the installation. The other way to cover the nails is to putty the holes in the end and sand the surface before painting.

There is a bit more work when you decide to install a flat panel or board and batten style since you need to create the wood frame and molding. Most of the stores have an option to cut the boards depending on your need, so you can use that help and avoid making a mess at home.

It is essential to seal and prime the wood before painting to avoid excessive absorption of paint. Also, you can stain the wood instead of painting it if you want to keep its natural look. Remember to caulk and sand the wainscoting before the final painting. Always use water-resistant paint to prevent mildew.

Another way to install the wainscoting is to create a finished panel and then just fit it on the wall. Add a frame to a plywood base, and it will look like a picture that you want to put on the wall.

This technique will enable you to finish all the work in your workshop instead of in the bathroom. Still, you need to paint the panel at the end, after you install it. Another possibility is to finish everything and then apply the last coat in the bathroom. In case of any damage during installation, you can repair it at the spot.

Recessed Wall

If your walls are perfect, you can install wainscoting with frames, molding, and top rail but without panels. Once you set up the entire construction and paint over the smooth wall and the frames, there will be no noticeable difference.

Still, you should think twice since a lot of water splashes around in the bathroom. For example, the recessed wall is not the best solution if you have drywall, which is not resistant to moisture.

Redecorate Existing Wainscoting

Redecorate Existing Wainscoting

If you have already had bathroom wainscoting but want to refresh and change it, there is a way to do it without removing the existing one. You can do the job efficiently if you have beadboard wainscoting.

The only tools you need are a spackling paste and spatula. Fill out every other or every third groove, depending on how wide the new boards you want to be.

Apply the paste thoroughly so that it seals the groove entirely. Wait until it dries and then repaint it. This trick will help you create a different pattern without complicated removing of your bathroom wainscoting.

With board and batten, you can add new molding to existing wainscoting and paint it differently or change a chair rail. It can change the style from an antique to an art-deco. Also, you can choose to paint it in dark colors for a stunning effect or combine it with the bold wallpaper patterns on the top part of the wall.


If you are bold enough to learn a new skill, bathroom wainscoting is an ideal option to improve your space. On the other hand, if you have already had the experience, you shouldn’t hesitate to enhance the look of your bathroom when needed.