DIY Board and Batten Wall

If I could, I would install millwork in every room in every house. In my opinion, it is the best way to add character, without committing to any particular design style. Although there are many types of millwork, today we’ll focus on board and batten specifically. It is pretty simple to DIY board and batten, and I’ll show you how!

What is Board and Batten?

Board and batten refers to any interior molding or exterior siding that incorporates wood strips (battens) over the boards on the walls. Now, modern iterations of interior board and batten often skip the “boards” because we can just install battens over existing walls. It’s commonly used for interior accent walls, wainscoting, or entire rooms, particularly bedrooms and bathrooms.

How To DIY Board and Batten

Here’s a tutorial based on the board and batten I did for the green nursery project. This how-to can be used for wainscoting or full walls. The listed measurements are for tall wainscoting, approximately two-thirds up the wall. So if you want battens to the ceiling, change the measurements accordingly.

Materials

  • 4×8 MDF boards (1/2 inch thick)
  • Table saw or circular saw
  • Chop saw or mitre saw
  • Caulk & caulk gun
  • Primer & paint of choice
  • Laser level
  • Nail gun of choice and/or wood glue

Step-By-Step

  1. You’ll want to cut your 4×8 ft boards in half so they are easier to work with. I had two of these huge boards. One I had cut in half length-wise, and the other width-wise. I had them cut at the store (most Lowes & Home Depots will do basic cuts for you). This makes them easier to load/ unload, and to lift up and off your work areas.
  1. Prime and paint your MDF boards ahead of time. This is optional, but I prefer this way because MDF is a bit porous and it takes a couple coats to soak in – much easier to do while the board is lying flat, than on the wall in my opinion. It’s also easier to get a smooth finish this way.
  1. You should now have two 2x4ft boards and two 2x8ft painted MDF boards. Rip your 2x4ft boards through the table saw to create 2.5 inch wide pieces (or your desired width) for your battens. Alternatively you can use a circular saw.
  1. Now you’ll have 48 x 2.5 inch pieces. Chop them into 36 inch and 12 inch long pieces for the battens.
  1. Next, rip your length-wise boards 2.5 inches wide, creating 2.5 inch x 8ft long strips. These will be the horizontal pieces. Now most of your wood is cut… and with a first layer of paint!
  1. Before you install anything, it’s best to find and mark the studs throughout the room. Though most studs are 16 inches apart, you’ll want to make sure by the time you install around the room, you are still hitting studs. (note: you can opt for wood glue and finishing nails if you want battens closer together or further apart, but I always feel safer hitting studs)
  1. I started with the horizontal pieces first. Measure from the corner of the room to the last stud before you hit 8 feet, because you want to nail the end of the piece to a stud.
  1. Cut the first piece down to size with your chop/mitre saw. Then cut each end mitre right at 45 degrees. This is so the pieces look flush when nailed together (see image)
  1. Install your first row of horizontal trim 36 inches above the baseboard, using your preferred nailer and continue on until you reach the next corner of the room. Be sure you cut an outside 45 degree mitre where it meets the corner. I used my laser level throughout the installation and it makes it so much easier!
Image of DIY board and batten wainscoting process with green paint and a nailgu
  1. Feel free to install the vertical battens as you go, or wait until the full horizontal batten is up first. Both ways worked well for me.
  1. Next, nail your 12 inch tall battens above the first horizontal row. Use a laser level to make sure they are perfectly aligned with the row below.
  1. Then install the second horizontal row using the same method as steps 7-9
  1. At this point, you can add your chair rail of choice. I used a very slim lattice piece to keep costs down. Or you can leave it as is (see photo).
Almost finished project – before the top trim / chair rail
  1. Finally, you are going to need a lot of caulk to hide the seams and nail holes. Then apply your final coat of paint!