What is Wainscoting?

January 21, 2021

Trim can elevate the look and feel of a room. Wainscoting is a common type of trim that can be used in a variety of ways. Here is a guide to wainscoting to help you determine if this trim is the right fit for the look you want as well as some ideas on how to use it in your custom home design:

What is Wainscoting?

Wainscoting is a type of trim used on the walls of a room. It is a molding that is applied to the side of your wall. It became popular in the 18th century as a way to provide a more durable surface on the wall and to help insulate a room. Now, it is mainly used for decoration. Wainscoting tends to sit at chair-rail level, which is well above the floor but below the waist, but the height can vary depending on the look you want.

Traditional wainscoting can be difficult to get right and can be an expensive addition to your home design. Applied molding wainscoting is more flexible and tends to be more affordable as well. With applied molding wainscoting, the molding is applied directly to the drywall. However, this means wainscoting cannot be an afterthought and needs to be considered before the home is built.

Designs, repeated patterns, and straight lines are all common ways to shape wainscoting. Once your walls are painted and you’ve moved in, no one will be able to tell the difference between traditionally added wainscoting and applied molding wainscoting. Whichever wainscoting method is right for you, this type of wall trim can add an attractive design element to your home.

Pros and Cons of Wainscoting

As with anything, there are pros and cons of wainscoting. Here are a few of each to help you decide if this wall trim is right for you:

3 Pros of Wainscoting

This type of wall trim provides several benefits. Here are a few pros of wainscoting:

1. It Enhances the Design of a Room

Wainscoting is a great addition to enhance and elevate the design of a room. It doesn’t take up available floor space. And, because it sits on the lower part of a wall, it doesn’t take up valuable wall space either.

2. Wainscoting is Versatile

In addition to being beautiful and elegant, this wall trim is also versatile. It is available in any design or repeated pattern you want, which means it can fit into just about any design style. Although wainscoting was traditionally made from wood panels, it is now available in a variety of materials. Plus, you can vary the height of this wall detail to fit the look you are trying to get.

3. It Can be Included in Any Room

Because it is so versatile and is available in different materials, you can include wainscoting in any room. This type of wall trim is a popular choice for dining rooms, living rooms, home offices, and more, but it can also be found in kitchens, bathrooms, and other unexpected areas.

Ceramic tile can be used to creating wainscoting in a bathroom that will stand up to moisture and humidity. This wall trim can also be added in an entryway or along stair walls to add an element of architectural interest to areas that usually lack them or are typically overlooked.

3 Cons of Wainscoting

There are also some potential drawbacks to this type of wall trim. Here are a few cons of wainscoting:

1. Wainscoting Costs Can Vary Greatly

Although wainscotting can be a great investment when added to your home design, it can also add a lot of cost depending on what you want. Because it comes in a variety of materials, types of panels, etc., the costs can vary greatly. The size of the room, height designer for it, the local market, and more can all affect how much it will cost to add this type of wall trim to your home design.

Oftentimes, it’s worth the cost as it adds warmth to a room and can add value to your home. Your home builder should be able to provide you with some estimates on what you want. And, if cost is a concern, they will be able to give you some options that work within your budget.

2. It Requires Skilled Installation

Although it may be tempting to DIY a wainscoting project, it can be hard to get right. You need very precise measurements, skill with a chop saw, and the know-how to install it well. Your custom home builder should have the experience necessary to successfully install this wall trim. So, if you’re designing and building a home, this should not be a concern.

3. Wainscoting Can Look Too Formal or Outdated

Wainscoting is a popular wall trim with many options. Depending on what you choose, you could end up with trim that looks outdated or creates a look that is too formal in a room. Working with an experienced custom home builder can help you make sure the trim style you want will give your home the look you want without looking outdated or creating the wrong atmosphere.

4 Wainscoting Ideas for Your Custom Home

Because this type of wall trim is so versatile, there are a lot of ways you can add it to your home. Here are some wainscoting ideas for your custom home:

1. Pair Wainscoting With Accent Wallpaper

It’s common to paint walls and also to paint wainscoting panels. But, you can also get a unique look by pairing this trim with accent wallpaper. This is one of the popular wallpaper trends. Depending on the rest of your decor, wallpaper can make a room stand out or add interesting detail to an often-overlooked space.

2. Play With Height

Although this type of trim is traditionally around chair-rail height, you can go with higher or lower panels for an interesting look. A full wall of wainscoting can sometimes work, but it generally looks outdated, especially if it is a wall full of brown paneling. If 70s retro is what you’re going for, that can work. But, it generally doesn’t work with other styles.

But, you can go further up the wall if you want to. Taking it up to five feet or more can make an impact and provide some extra protection while also leaving a few feet for accent paint color or wallpaper. You could also go lower than chair-rail height for an interesting look.

3. Put it in Unconventional Spaces

Wainscoting can be a great way to make a space stand out. Adding it to an entryway, stair walls, hallways, or a powder room can add an interesting design element to these spaces. Depending on the style you choose, it could be a subtle enhancement or a focal point for the space.

4. Add Color

This type of wall trim is conventionally white or cream. This works well in many cases, but can also sometimes look more formal. If that’s not what you’re going for, you can add color and create a less formal atmosphere by painting your wainscoting panels an accent color.

Wainscoting is a versatile trim that can be a great addition to your custom home design. With so many options available, you’re bound to find the perfect fit for the look and feel you want. Partnering with a custom home builder, especially one with an in-house design/build process, can make sure you get the home you want.

If you’re ready to bring your dream home to life, contact Custom Home Group at 717-284-4090!