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Beadboard: What's It All About?

Decorative panels promise a fresh look for any room.

By Jan Soults Walker

When it comes to beadboard, what's old truly is new again. Originally used on the walls and porch ceilings of Victorian homes through 1930s farmhouses, these textural panels are popular again. Here's what makes this finish material a beauty bonus for rooms, plus some installation tips.

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Rose Marie Carr

Covering and creating

Think of beaded board as a kind of makeup for walls—use it as a concealer to cover up dents or even water damage, or simply install it to beautify or protects walls, especially in dining areas where chairs can slide back and damage the wall surface. 

You can apply beadboard directly over existing wall materials or to wall framing. Use it to instill architectural interest in a bland room, create vintage or cottage style, or introduce texture and color.

Beadboard is a welcome addition throughout the house, including on a kitchen backsplash, as wainscoting in a bathroom or dining room, or on the sides or doors of cabinetry.

Beadboard can be also installed at any height; cover the lower portion of the wall for a traditional wainscoting, change things up a bit with a three-quarters height installation, or continue it to the ceiling.

Installation tips

Tineke Triggs
Beadboard offers different looks with a wide variety of bead spacing, panel thicknesses, and widths. Here are some tips for installing it.

• Every panel has a tongue on one edge and a groove on the other, so the panel edges overlap and the seam disappears.
• Prior to installation, allow panels to acclimate to the room for 48 hours, separating panels with spacers so air can circulate.
• Use a pencil and level to mark the desired panel height on the walls and serve as a guideline.
• Start in the left corner and work to the right.
• Secure panels to walls with adhesive, nails, or both. Locate vertical framing members with a stud finder and secure panels with nails where practical. 
• When nailing by hand, drill pilot holes first to prevent splits.
• Make sure the sheets are level and plumb before securing them to the wall.
• To fit a panel around a wall outlet, first shut off the electricity to the outlet. Remove the cover and rub a piece of chalk on the front edges of the electrical outlet box. Dry fit the panel piece over the outlet and press so the chalk transfers to the back of the board. Drill pilot holes at the marked corners and use a jigsaw to cut the opening.
• Countersink nails and fill holes with spackle or wood filler. Let dry and sand. 
• Finish the top and bottom edges of the installation with moldings.

For more home design ideas and advice, take a look at:
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