How to Update a Ceiling with Wainscoting

Enhance a builder-grade ceiling by creating a cottage look with wainscoting.
White Room With Wainscoted Ceiling

White Room With Wainscoted Ceiling

Brian Patrick Flynn draws attention upwards in this room with a wainscoted ceiling.

Materials Needed:

  • 4 X 8 sheets of tongue-and-groove wainscoting
  • spirit level
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • furring strips
  • drywall screws
  • drill
  • 1 X 2 pine or MDF trim
  • caulk
  • caulk gun
  • stud finder
  • table saw
  • drop cloth
  • flat latex paint
  • paint roller
  • paint pan
  • paint roller pad
  • extender pole
  • drop cloth
  • 1" paint brush
  • ladder
  • spackle knife
  • spackle
  • sanding block

Mark Ceiling

Standing on ladder, use a tape measure to determine the length and width of the ceiling. Use the spirit level and pencil to mark a straight line down the center of the ceiling's width and length, crossing in the center to create four quadrants.

Attach Furring Strips

Locate the ceiling joists with a stud finder, and then mark each joist with a spirit level and pencil. Cut furring strips to size with table saw. Place each furring strip along the ceiling perpendicular to its corresponding joist. Attach furring strip by drilling drywall screws through strips and into joists.

Know the Drill

Know the Drill

Cut Wainscoting

Referring to dimensions of each marked ceiling quadrant, cut sheets of wainscoting to size with a table saw. To appropriately account for any ceiling trim, deduct width of pine or MDF trim from overall cut size of sheet.

Install Wainscoting

Have a partner assist by standing on ladder to hold each sheet of wainscoting up and in place. Attach wainscoting to furring strips by drilling drywall screws into recessed grooves on left and right edge of each sheet.

Power Drill

Power Drill

Add Decorative Trim

Use drill and drywall screws to attach 1 X 2 pine or MDF trim to furring strips along center and perimeter of ceiling. Fill holes from drywall screws with spackle and spackle knife, then lightly sand with sanding block.

Unfinished Wainscoting

Unfinished Wainscoting

Paint the Wainscoting

Protect floors with drop cloth. Standing on ladder, use a caulk gun to fill any gaps between trim and sheets of wainscoting. After filling paint pan with flat latex paint, attach extender pole to roller handle and apply paint to wainscoting with roller. Touch up any hard-to-reach grooves with a one-inch paint brush.

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