You may have heard panelling referred to as “wainscoting”, this term can be used to describe all panelling generally, but typically refers to panelling fitted to the lower half of the wall between the dado rail (which runs around the permitter of the room, mid-way up the wall) and the skirting board. This style is particularly popular with DIY panelling projects in hallways and living areas.
Whether your chosen aesthetic is classic or modern, whole-wall or partial, there’s a style of panelling out there to suit your space. Consider your budget, your capabilities, and the final result that you’re looking to achieve, and you’ll be well on your way to a totally new look in no time.
Find Your Style
Jacobean or Shaker
Jacobean or Shaker panelling typically features uniform squares or rectangles ideal for a feature wall or space you’d like to make as cosy and inviting as possible such as an office or reading room. This style of panelling requires attention to detail to ensure that the panels are even and an open space to lay panels out for cutting, but can be easily achieved using MDF boards. Simply choose a board large enough to cover the area to be panelled (or stack boards side by side), measure your “recesses” onto the MDF, carefully cut out your marked areas allowing the wall behind to show through, and adhere your MDF board to your chosen wall.
Tongue & Groove
Another option is Tongue and Groove panelling. Tongue and groove panels are engineered to fit neatly together to form a flush cladding effect with the entire panel standing proud of the wall beneath a dado rail, ready for painting or finishing. In contemporary homes, this style of panelling is often seen in bathrooms (properly treated to withstand moisture, this can make an excellent alternative to tiles) and running along staircases. With the right skills, it’s possible to install tongue and groove cladding yourself, but consider consulting a professional if you’re new to DIY.
For DIY projects, decorative mouldings are an excellent option for creating a simple and low-cost alternative to larger panelling projects, offering the luxurious high-end finish of panelled walls, without the need for too much preparation space, technical know-how or financial investment. Slim lengths of timber moulding are cut to size and fixed to the wall in squares or rectangles to create a three-dimensional effect.
Create Your Look - How to Install DIY Decorative Wall Panelling
Before you begin any panelling project, be sure to properly prepare your wall ready for adhesive. Small cracks, old paint marks and dirt can make it more difficult for your panelling features to stick to the wall evenly, and any imperfections in the wall will be all the more noticeable when the eye is drawn to decorative panels. Carefully sand these away before you begin.
Perhaps the most important step, and not one to be rushed. Make sure you have a laser level or spirit level and pencil to hand to lightly map out where your mouldings will be positioned on the wall. Measure the panels’ size, the space you’ll leave between them, the space between the panels and dado rail (if you have one) and space between the panels and skirting board or trim. Once your panels are marked out on the wall in pencil, take a moment to step back and ensure everything looks level to your eye, as well as to the spirit level – floors are not always level! If you’re planning to add decorative panelling to multiple walls, it can help to measure out the room and plot out your panels on a sheet of paper before taking the pencil to the wall. Remember to carefully erase any accidental or incorrect pencil marks to avoid confusion!
When cutting your mouldings to size, keep in mind that they’ll need connect neatly into boxes. Make sure that edges are cut to a consistent 45-degree angle to create the panels’ corners (remember this will make one side slightly shorter than the other – ensure you’re measuring the outside edge each time). Cut each “panel” one by one, carefully laying the pieces out on a clean surface in the arrangement they’ll be positioned on the wall to catch any potential mistakes as you go.
Depending on how confident you feel with your measuring and cutting, you may want the extra reassurance of testing. If so, using Blu Tack or similar, gently stick your panels to the wall in the position you marked out earlier. This will also give you a chance to make any changes to your plans if the mouldings look larger or smaller than expected once actually on the wall. Use this time to adjust any of your pencil guides if necessary.
Attach & Finish
Using a quality instant grab adhesive, apply a generous amount to the back of the moulding and apply it carefully but firmly to the marked position on the wall. Ensure the moulding is flush with the wall, with no gaps. If you notice gaps are present, it may be down to an uneven or bowed wall. In this case, you may want to use panel pins and a nail punch to carefully hammer the moulding to the wall. After painting, these won’t be visible, and will ensure a uniform finish.
Continue to attach all your individual moulding sections until your wall looks exactly the way you want it. Check the instructions on your adhesive and once you’re sure it’s dry, congratulations, it’s time to paint your new decorative panelling!