Wainscoting Installation Cost

The average cost of installing wainscoting is around $3,855.

In this guide

Pros and cons
Types of wainscoting panels
Materials
Labor
Maintenance
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to install wainscoting?

Wainscoting has a long history that goes beyond creating a decorative surface within a room. It was traditionally used as protection for plaster 1 walls, and it still serves that purpose today. 

Wainscoting comes in many different materials and styles. To wainscot a 12x12-foot room in flat panel material made of solid wood, primed, and painted on site, the average homeowner will pay around $3,855 for the finished project.

Pros and cons

Wainscoting has been around for decades and has a lot of positive proponents as to why you would want to install it. Wainscoting is first and foremost a way to protect your walls. While today’s drywall 2 is less fragile than old plaster 1 was, wainscot is usually easier to clean and maintain. So, fingerprints, scuffs, or children’s drawings are easier to get off of wainscot than walls.

With the many styles available, wainscot can also enhance the appearance of a room and determine the interior design. For example, raised panels give a room a very formal style, while beadboard can be used to create a cottage look.

Wainscot is an expensive way to cover your walls, however, and it makes it difficult to change the décor over time. If the wainscot is installed at the wrong height, it can throw off the proportions of the room. Some materials may also not be durable in high-traffic areas, such as bathrooms or mudrooms, which can lead to the need for frequent repair.

Types of wainscoting panels

While wainscoting refers to any panel or board applied to the wall, many different types are available to choose from. Each gives a unique look to a room:

Type of panelDescriptionCost
Flat panel

Middle panel is completely flat

Little decorative molding

Has a traditional appearance

Fits in well with transitional rooms

$7-$20/sq.ft.
Beadboard

Many thin slats set together with a “bead” between them

May be decorative or plain

Works in cottage and farmhouse styles

$7-$20/sq.ft.
Board and batten

Wide boards with a thinner board (batten) installed on top at the joins

Many spacing options available

May be decorative or plain

Works in a wide range of settings

$7-$20/sq.ft.
Raised panel

Middle panel extends outward

Has more decorative features

Very traditional appearance

Fits in well with formal settings

$10-$30/sq.ft.
Overlay

Moldings applied over a flat or raised panel

Very decorative appearance

Works well in formal and traditional settings

$10-$40/sq.ft.


Materials

Wainscot is available in a wide range of materials as well as styles. Most materials can also be found in several styles and finishes:

MaterialProsCons

Vinyl 3

($4-$7/sq.ft.)

No need to paint

Smooth surface

Fast install

Good in bathrooms and wet areas

No color range

Has a fake appearance

May crack

Plastic

($4-$7/sq.ft.)

No need to paint

Smooth surface

Fast install

No color range

Has a fake appearance

Plywood 4

($7-$17/sq.ft.)

Range of surface textures

May have veneer 5

Inexpensive

May contain formaldehyde

May warp over time

May have a rough finish

MDF

($7-$17/sq.ft.)

Smooth surface

No need to paint

Inexpensive

May delaminate

Limited color options

Poplar veneer 5

($7-$17/sq.ft.)

Smooth surface

Easily paintable

Less expensive than solid

Veneers may delaminate

Some grain visible

Oak

($12-$30/sq.ft.)

Range of styles

Range of grain options

Many paint and stain choices

Visible grain if using stain

Expensive

More difficult to install

Maple

($13-$35/sq.ft.)

Smooth, consistent surface

Many paint and stain choices

Range of styles available

More difficult to install

Some maple may be hard to cut

Cherry

($14-$40/sq.ft.)

Beautiful grain and finish

Range of styles available

Many paint and stain choices

Expensive

More difficult to install


Installation

The type of wainscoting and material that it is made of impacts the installation, both in terms of cost and how it is carried out. The walls need to be clean, dry, and in good repair. The panels are usually made to fit into one another and are generally installed with an adhesive before being nailed into place.

It is common to do a dry fit around the room and to make cuts for corners, ends of rows, and outlets before installation begins.

Because there is no one set height for wainscot, it may be adjusted based on the overall height of the wall. The general rule of thumb is that the wainscot will take up roughly ⅔ of the height of the wall and will extend around the perimeter of the room.

Labor

Many contractors who install wainscoting charge on an hourly basis to install the material. This may mean that a solid wood wainscot with a lot of moldings will take longer and, therefore, cost more to install than the same amount of a flat panel wainscot with no moldings.

The average installation for a 12x12-foot room using wood, flat panel wainscot takes around 17 hours to install start to finish. At a rate of $90 per hour on average, this comes to $1,530. Material that is more difficult may take longer or have a higher hourly rate, while easier-to-work-with materials may take less time or command a lower hourly rate.

Maintenance

Wainscot is considered fairly low-maintenance. When properly primed and painted or stained, it is usually easier to clean than the walls themselves. This is because wainscots are often given a high-gloss finish, which is designed to be easy to wipe clean, protecting the walls from scuffs and other issues.

Wainscot with a lot of moldings may need to be dusted more frequently than flat wainscoting. Otherwise, most wainscot is easy to clean with a soft cloth, soap, and water.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Painting wainscot panels

Wainscot panels are available primed and ready to be painted or already painted and ready for installation. If you choose to purchase primed panels, you can either paint them yourself or have them professionally painted at a rate of $2 to $5 per square foot.

Additional considerations and costs

  • In most cases, it is best to contrast your wainscoting with the wall. For a bold wall, choose a white panel. For white or cream walls, choose a bright color or wood stain for the paneling.
  • Many homeowners choose to install wainscoting in high-use areas to help keep them clean, such as mudrooms, children’s rooms, hallways, and dens.
  • Wainscot is designed to run the perimeter of the room. The height may vary but is generally considered best at ⅔ of the height of the wall.
  • Solid wood wainscot is more expensive and difficult to install but gives you the most classic appearance, as well as the option for a stain.
  • While wainscoting itself does not add much to the value of the home, it increases appeal and may make homes easier to sell.

FAQ

  • How much does it cost to put up wainscoting?

The average cost to install wainscoting in a 12x12-foot room is around $3,855.

  • How much does it cost to install wood paneling?

The average cost to install wood paneling or wainscot in a 12x12-foot room is around $3,855.​

  • What is the proper height for wainscoting?

Wainscoting should take up roughly ⅔ of the wall you are installing it on.

  • What material is used for wainscoting?

Wainscoting can be made of many materials including solid wood of various species, plywood 4, veneers 5, plastic, MDF, and vinyl 3.​​

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Plaster: A paste composed of sand, water, and either lime, gypsum, or cement, which forms a smooth hard surface on walls, ceilings, and other structures upon drying
2 Drywall: Type of plasterboard, commonly used to build walls and ceilings, composed of gypsum that is layered between sheets of heavy paper
3 Vinyl: A synthetic plastic made from ethylene and chlorine. Vinyl has many applications in the construction industry and it is widely used in sidings, window frames, roofing and gutters, among others
4 Plywood: An engineered construction material manufactured from thin slices of wood glued together in alternating grain patterns for strength
5 Veneer: A thin layer of decorative finishing applied to a coarser construction material

Cost to install wainscoting varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Albuquerque, NM
-14%
Annandale, VA
+24%
Annapolis, MD
+11%
Asbury, NJ
+26%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Austin, TX
+13%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Baton Rouge, LA
+19%
Bayonne, NJ
+23%
Bedford, TX
+5%
Brandywine, MD
0%
Buffalo, NY
-1%
Chula Vista, CA
+8%
Coldwater, MS
-49%
Dallas, TX
+10%
Des Moines, IA
+1%
Detroit, MI
+16%
Durham, NC
-1%
Eau Claire, WI
-5%
Flagstaff, AZ
-27%
Fort Wayne, IN
-7%
Fremont, CA
+35%
Gilbert, AZ
-2%
Grand Rapids, MI
+7%
Grove City, OH
+5%
Hampton, VA
-18%
Hinesburg, VT
0%
Honolulu, HI
+35%
Hope Mills, NC
-21%
Houston, TX
+24%
Hyde Park, MA
+38%
Ipswich, MA
+19%
Irving, TX
+10%
Isanti, MN
-25%
Jupiter, FL
-21%
Lansdowne, PA
+26%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Littleton, CO
+2%
Lockport, IL
+25%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Louisville, KY
-7%
Mckinney, TX
+23%
Memphis, TN
+11%
Meriden, CT
+21%
Miami, FL
+1%
Middletown, NY
-4%
Milwaukee, WI
+12%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
Montgomery, AL
-10%

Labor cost in your zip code

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Methodology and sources