Entry Way Makeover Part I - DIY Wainscoting

I have been wanting to do a DIY wainscoting project forever but couldn’t get myself to commit. It wasn’t until I did my plywood floor project, and I got this beautiful new upgrade in the house, when suddenly I started looking around at everything else and thought, “now the rest of this place doesn’t match the new floor.” What’s a girl to do? Upgrade everything! Funny how one thing leads to another, that leads to another, etc., you get the idea. So, I decided it was finally time to bite the bullet and tackle the wainscoting notion. I realized this is a pretty simple process and there is a tonne of looks you can create with wainscoting, it’s just deciding which look you want. I thought about it for quite some time, scouring through pictures for inspiration and ideas, before I decided on a stacked square design. It was all from one picture I found of a gallery that had this same design and it made the entire room look so elegant and dramatic. A far cry from the panel design that everyone else uses, and I’m all about being a little different than the same old. In combination with a dark grey colour on the bottom with white walls on top, again different than the norm, this design was going to make everything I hung on the walls for décor stand out so much more lovelier and have more of an impact drawing the eye upwards, making my small entrance feel large. There is a method to my madness, don’t question that! I absolutely loved doing this build because, as I was nailing simple little 1 x 4’s and 1 x 3’s to the wall, I could see a room take shape and transform before my eyes in a very short time. It really was a thrill. My favourite result of this project is having friends come over and having to pick their mouths off the floor because they are blown away by the transformation. Yeah, a simple change can look this good!


I can only give you general directions for this project because you are going to have different dimensions of walls than I have, so there can’t be a cut list. But, once you have the basics of how to do this, you can spread your little wings and take off on your own. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

All my corners were butt joints, joining two surfaces at right angles, which makes this installation even simpler than mitering everything. Just keep that in mind as I go through the how to’s here. In preparation, remove any old baseboards and outlet covers that could potentially get in the way.


Measure out the length of the wall, or at least from one end to the outside edge of a door frame, or door frame to door frame. You get the idea here, we are just measuring the wall. 

On the miter saw cut (2) 1 x 4’s and a 1 x 2 to that length.


Brad nail one of the 1 x 4’s to the bottom of the wall against the floor creating a base board. The other   1 x 4 will get nailed to the wall, usually to the height of ¾” below the light switch cover. That’s because the 1 x 2 will get nailed to the top of the top 1 x 4 resulting in everything fitting snuggly under the switch cover. Get it? 


For the 1 x 3’s, you can quickly run them through a table saw to shave off about 1/8” to each side giving them crisp 90-degree edges that will make them look more coherent with the 1 x 4’s when installed. They usually come with a slightly rounded edge, but this is totally up to you to take this extra step.


Cut a 1 x 3 to the same length as the other boards that match the wall length. This will get nailed to the wall exactly centred between the two 1 x 4’s.

*Tip* - If the walls aren’t perfectly straight and square, the boards can have issues laying perfectly flat against the wall and no matter how hard you try and how many brad nails you put in, it won’t stay flat. Grab a stud finder and mark out where the wall studs are. Then, grab some 2” deck screws and a drill to countersink the screws through the boards and into the wall studs. That should keep it there! Deck screws are preferred because they have a flat head and can be either completely flush with the board or sunk below the surface.

For the dividing pieces, again using 1 x 3’s for this, find a starting point to begin the square pattern. Think about potential outlets that could get in the way or anything else on the walls that could disrupt the pattern. You wouldn’t want to make the mistake of ending up with a board covering an outlet on the wall. Once you have a starting point the rest is simple because you are just creating perfect squares repeatedly.

Measure the distance between the top of the centre 1 x 3 on the wall to the bottom edge of the top 1 x 4. You can double check measurements by measuring in reverse on the bottom half, bottom edge of 1 x 3 to top edge of bottom 1 x 4.

That measurement is cut, multiple times as needed, to carry out the design on the wall. 

Nail the divider into place and from the edge of that board, measure out the equal distance from top to bottom and side-to-side to know where to nail the next divider. Repeat on both top and bottom sections until pattern is complete. 


Once all the boards are installed, fill any nail and screw holes with wood filler and let dry.

Sand everything smooth with a sander and sandpaper. Some surfaces may have to be hand sanded. But it shouldn’t take much to get it smooth, usually just a quick pass over is all it takes.


Paint everything with primer and a brush in preparation for colour paint.

When the primer is dry, paint on the colour using a brush to cut into corners and edges and a small roller for larger surfaces. Usually two coats should do it. The colour I used is called Village of Yorkville P5220-62 from Para in case you were interested. Isn’t it fabulous?

That’s it, done! Apparently, I couldn’t resist and had to carry this through to the hallway and downstairs. Once you get started you love it and can’t stop!

If you are sparked by the finished result but thinking it looks too complicated, please don’t be intimidated, because I’m telling you this is easy,and the finished result is off the charts! This may look hard or like a big project; but, this is totally a beginner build project and you can throw up in a day for sure. 

Cami TannerComment