Introduction: Wainscoting Project!

About: I am an artist, builder and teacher living in Japan.

I've always wanted to cover a room in wainscoting.

Wainscoting is a broader term for paneling and refers to decorative paneling used as a wall accent, insulation and/or to prevent or cover up walls. It's basically just a decorative wall accent that typically rises to chair-rail level and helps make a room more visually appealing. Most sounds fancier than paneling!

I live in Japan and bought this house about ten years ago. It was originally built as an office building, so it has an awesome and unique layout. I had a lot of maintenance work done to the house this year and this room was included. Mother Nature is brutal to Japan with all the earthquakes, typhoons and unbelievable humidity. Buildings take a beating!

Step 1: The Start

This room is my lesson room and it's connected to my workshop. I opened this wall to fix the window and change out the insulation.

For the wainscoting, I used:

-165cm tall and 5mm thick plywood.

-15X90mm lumber for the framing

-All purpose adhesive to glue the plywood to the wall. (Not needed)

-30mm screws to fasten the plywood to the studs

-45mm screws to fasten the framing through the plywood into the studs.

-Caulking for around the wood framing and spots where wood meets wood.

-Wood putty for the screw holes




-Orbital sander

-Caulking gun


-Heat gun (to remove paint)



-Navy blue wood paint

-Milky white wall paint-30% glossy

-Dedicated paint brush for each color

-Paint roller and extension arm

I glued and screwed 5mm plywood to the walls and studs. This is the only difficult part, because you need to know where your studs are. The plywood is 165cm tall and 5mm thick. This is a double height room, so I made the wainscoting tall.

The wood framing is 15X90mm lumber. This is a little slimmer than a 2X4 which is about 38X89mm.

All of the framing is glued to the plywood and screwed into the studs.

*You don't need the plywood for this project. A popular way to do this is by just attaching the framing to the wall. I used plywood, for the added insulation.

*You also don't need to glue the plywood to the wall. I definitely wouldn't use glue if you plan on removing the wainscoting in the future.

*MDF has a much smoother and cleaner look.

Step 2: Wall #1

I played with designs in Illustrator to get the spacing down. I've been inside most of these walls, so I know the spacing of all of the studs.

I did one wall at a time.

I attached the plywood first and then all of the framing.

*Get all of the wood putty and sanding work finished before you caulk.

*The framing doesn't need to be exactly spaced.

Step 3: Wall #2

I think this wall would also look awesome with wainscoting up to the ceiling!

Step 4: Wall #3

This was tricky, because I had to work from the top of a ladder. I love how it turned out!

We don't have any good paint removers in Japan, so I use a heat gun and scraper. I stripped the window right above this ledge and painted it the same color as the wall.

Step 5: Wall #4

I stripped the door and painted it with a white base coat. My lovely wife Mariko covered the windows with cling film cutouts.

Step 6: Wall #5

The last wall!

Step 7: Painting

The most time consuming and expensive part of this project was the painting! All of the wood took two coats of navy blue and the walls took four coats of milky white.

This project took me about 6 weeks and cost about $500.

Step 8: Tips


Be careful with outlets.

My house was once an office building, so there are old phone lines in the walls. Telephone lines have 48 volts of electricity running through them, but it's usually not enough to cause a shock. The electricity in a phone line spikes to around 90 volts when the phone rings, which can give a mild shock. I'm not familiar with phone lines, so I called a professional to come and check that everything was disconnected.


I recommend painting the walls first. I waited, because I wasn't sure on the wall color yet. I also decided last minute to paint the ceiling which was super difficult!

Painters tape and plastic.

Don't skimp on the painters tape and plastic. Cover everything!


5mm plywood cuts easily with a boxcutter.

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