When we gutted of our bathroom in our first home, we decided to install beadboard paneling to the walls. We love the textural look it adds to a space to an otherwise boring room plus it’s super affordable and easy to install!
I will share our DIY tutorial for how we installed the beadboard paneling and the tools needed along with what beadboard material to choose that’s moisture resistant. Hopefully this will help answer your questions on if beadboard is right for your next project.
Our first home was a fixer upper and full of projects. The first project (excluding painting walls) was gutting our bathroom. The house was small so it was the only bathroom in the house and it needed to be updated BAD. It had original linoleum flooring, fixtures, ugly vanity and countertop and purple and white wallpaper all from the 1960s. Butterfly wallpaper to be exact.
I won’t get into how to remove wallpaper in today’s post, but what we found after we removed the wallpaper was damaged drywall from all the glue used on the paper. This was our first big home project and we were learning as we went, so skim-coating the wall wasn’t in our repertoire. We needed an inexpensive way to cover the drywall that was no longer completely smooth. Just painting it would look really bad and scraping off all the glue residue already took hours.
The vibe in our home was cottage-y and I loved the coastal look, so I thought doing some kind of wainscoting to the wall would be a good way to cover the drywall and add interest and texture. I saw lots of inspiration on Pinterest with beadboard paneling in bathrooms and figured it was a good solution to our problem and looked simple enough!
What Kind of Beadboard Should You Use?
Beadboard panels come in a couple different materials. There is MDF which is moisture resistant and perfect for bathrooms that may get damp, especially if it’s a full bathroom with a shower where you want something that will withstand mold and mildew. MDF usually comes primed and ready to paint. For more traditional wainscoting you can also get beadboard made from wood. This can be painted or stained but doesn’t resist mildew like MDF. As with all things wood, it expands and contracts depending on the temperature and season so there may be gaps between each sheet after installing. Wood also requires more steps to prep it for painting. You will have to use a heavy-duty primer to fill the knots and prim and also caulk all of the seams between each each after installed. In my opinion. you get the same look with wood without the extra cost and prep work with MDF.
Another option is vinyl beadboard which is waterproof and good for ceilings but costs a little bit more than MDF and cannot be painted.
For our project, we chose MDF beadboard. It was our main bathroom with a shower so we needed it to do well in damp areas.
How High Should Beadboard be in a Bathroom?
Panels are sold in a variety of sizes but standard height is to have beadboard come up around 38-54” inches off the floor, or at least above your vanity. The taller your ceiling, the higher your beadboard can go. Main thing is you want it to feel proportionate to your room.
For our bathroom, we went to Home Depot and got panels that were 4×8’ sheets. We cut the sheet in half so the beadboard went up about 48” off the floor. Our ceilings are 8’ and it felt right.
Below are a few different beadboard height examples to give you more ideas.
In this example, they even used beadboard on the ceiling for a country cottage look.
image via Home Edit
Here they took beadboard almost all the way to the ceiling.
Image via Hadley Court
The chair rail moulding in this beadboard bathroom is modern with a simple profile. I love the wallpaper above the beadboard in this bathroom. Wallpapering a quarter of a bathroom is much easier and cheaper than wallpapering the entire room!
image via Just a Girl and Her Blog
Materials Needed to Install Paneling:
Beadboard panels – we used primed MDF
Stud finder – affordable and makes the job much easier. You will use this for almost every single home projects!
16 gauge brad nails
Liquid Nails adhesive
Chair rail molding (we used 2-3/4″ chair rail)
Straight edge for marking your cuts
Miter saw for chair rail cuts
Jigsaw for cutting around outlets
Paintable caulk – This stuff is the BEST, we used it on all our trim in our home
How to Install Beadboard Panels
First thing you need to do is gently remove all baseboard trim. As you pry it off the wall, be as careful as possible so you can reuse the boards. The linoleum flooring was actually run up the bottom portion of the wall so we didn’t have any baseboards.
Use a level and draw a line where you want the top of your beadboard to sit. Then, using your stud finder, mark each stud so you know where to nail into it the wall.
Start in the corner of the room with your first panel and measure the length needed for the panel. Using a circular saw, cut the beadboard panel to your correct size, using a jig saw to cut around pipes for the toilet or any outlets.
To hang the first panel, apply a bead of construction adhesive to the back panel then line it up in the corner and press to the wall, using the brad nailer to nail it into the studs.
Take measurements for your second panel size and continue working your way around the room. The panels we used weren’t tongue and groove, so we lined up the panel edges as tight as possible. After painting, you can’t even notice the seams.
If you have any outside corners, there are a couple options, depending on what material you used. For wood beadboard, you can butt-joint the two pieces sand and paint, or miter cut them for a seamless look. MDF which is what we used, you can simply butt-joint it and then use a corner wood trim piece and nail it on the outside corner for a polished look or install the two corner edges as tightly as possible.
Once you have the paneling hung, it’s time to finish it off with the chair rail moulding. This is the trim that’s installed at the top of the beadboard where it transitions to drywall. You can go as fancy or simple as you want, it just depends on the rest of the trim in your home.
It’s easier to prime the trim pieces before installing, so give them a coat of paint first.
Measure and make your cuts for chair rail, using a miter saw for precise corners. Then install them using your brad nailer. For corners, use a miter saw to get a precise cut.
Fill nail holes, caulk the trim pieces, and give everything a fresh coat of paint.
We painted the upper walls a deep navy to contrast against the otherwise white bathroom and I love how it looks! It grounds the room so it doesn’t too flat or boring. That’s another reason why adding beadboard in bathrooms is a great idea. Painting all the walls a deep navy would have felt too dark and dramatic. Beadboard makes a good transition point so you can use a lighter on bottom and a darker on top, or vice versa! There are endless opportunities when painting beadboard to create a unique look.
Five years later after installing the beadboard it still looked great! It has held up so well and hasn’t gotten wet or damaged at all. I absolutely love how it turned out and how the architectural interest makes the room feel more custom and expensive even though we did it ourselves for just a couple hundred dollars!
You can check out the full reveal of our bathroom makeover here.