Creating Wainscoting with Wallpaper and Trim

Wallpapering tools
  • 3-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-300
What You'll Need
Wallpaper tools
Painting supplies

Wainscoting is a wall decorating treatment that uses wood paneling on the lower half of the room's walls. Traditionally, wainscoting was used to protect the walls in the areas that saw the most damage from chair nicks and scratches. Today's wainscoting is usually easy to clean and enhances the look of any room. However, wood paneling can be quite expensive and requires nailing or screwing into walls that may be old and fragile. Plaster walls, especially, do not enjoy or hold simple nails very readily. If that is the case, but wainscoting is still desired, there is another alternative. Creating wainscoting with wallpaper and trim is an easy way to forgo the cost of expensive wood paneling for the entire room.

Step 1 - Prepare

Just like when installing traditional wainscoting, it is important to measure the length of the room and the desired height of the wainscoting. Allow enough length for the wallpaper, because each length will need to be hung as a single strip from border to baseboard all the way around the room. Purchase enough rolls from the same dye lot to match up the wallpaper pattern around the room and plan on at least 10% waste. Choose wallpaper that is easy to clean, durable and that does not have an overly busy pattern. Remember that the wallpaper will either lighten the room (if it is a light color) or darken it (if it is a darker shade).

Along with the wallpaper, trim will also need to be purchased. Choose trim that matches the style of the wallpaper and the room. Wallpaper hanging tools will also need to be purchased. If unsure about what is needed, consult with a wallpaper specialist in larger home improvement stores. They have been specially trained to answer questions and give guidance about wallpaper installation.

Step 2 - Install Wallpaper

Man applying paste to the back of wallpaper

Begin the installation by cutting lengths of wallpaper to the desired height of the wainscoting. Following the manufacturer's directions, hang the paper on the wall with the bottom of it flush against the top of the baseboard. It is always a great idea to keep a dry rag and squeegee handy to get rid of wallpaper bubbles and catch any dripping water or paste. Allow the wallpaper to dry completely before installing the trim.

Step 3 - Install Trim

Installing the trim will require a saw, tape measure, hammer and nails. Cut the trim to the length needed and nail it into the wall at the top of the wallpaper. It is always a good idea when using wallpaper as the wainscoting, to install the top trim slightly on top of the top edge of the wallpaper. This will hide any uneven cuts and provide an even, finished look.

Although there are really only two actual steps to the installation of the wallpaper and trim wainscoting project, most of the time will be spent picking out materials. Choosing the best wallpaper for the room and the furniture in the space, picking trim that matches the wallpaper's style, but that also compliments the rest of the room, can be challenging. Take the time to consider all options and the time to install the wallpaper and trim properly. It will mean the difference between a polished, finished look and a haphazard job.