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November 22, 2007

How to save time installing tongue-in-groove paneling, bead board or wainscotting

Ready_pine_coloursIf you've ever installed tongue-in-groove paneling or wainscoting, you know how it adds warmth and character to a space (and new words to your vocabulary).

Even in a closet, a lining of aromatic cedar creates a sense of luxury, abundance and freedom from moths.

RedoakOne persistent problem with installing traditional knotty pine and western red cedar paneling is that it comes unfinished, so after you've installed the boards you'll still need to give them a couple of layers of clear coat or stain so they don't collect dust, absorb fingerprints and start looking grimy.  And don't forget to seal the knots first with a couple of coats of shellac so the pitch doesn't blister through your finish.

GoldenpecanAnother issue is that most paneling boards are milled thin, so the tongues are fragile.  It's easy to bust 'em during installation, or split them with a mis-aimed finish nail. 

Also, if you've applied a finish only on one side of the boards, changes in humidity can cause the paneling to absorb moisture in an unbalanced way.  The naked wood surface on the back of the boards draws in moisture and expands, causing cupping and twisting.

A new entry in the market solves many of the issues that DIYers have struggled with in installing traditional knotty pine and cedar.   Ready Pine (available through most Canadian hardware outlets) is treated on both sides with a vacuum-coated clear sealer (to halt pitch pockets in their tracks), followed by a finish coat.  Thicker than most available pine paneling, Ready Pine comes in eight-foot lengths and can be custom-ordered in several shades.  If you're cutting the boards to make wainscoting you can create matching trim using standard MinWax shades.   The nice thing is that the pine still mellows after a year or so, even underneath the finish, developing the honey-gold  tones you find in the best Canadian antiques.

Ready_pine_has_two_profiles_in_oneCost is reasonable considering the time you save on finishing.  About $108 to install 10 lineal feet of wainscoting. 

One design note:  Ready Pine is completely reversible, with a different pattern on each side, so if you prefer the detail of a narrower v-grooved board, you have that option.

One other design note:  The finish on the wood is a little bit glossier than satin, so if you want a more matte finish you can buff each board with a fine 3M abrasive rubbing pad, (which you can stick onto the hook-and-loop surface on the bottom of a palm sander or random orbit sander to speed things up).  Taking down shine on the boards is still WAY faster than all the drippy duties involved in staining or clear-coating.


Jim Barry

Hey Mag,

Another source for wainscotting...laminate flooring. Go vertical! :-)

Think about all the design options you could have with using engineered prefinished lam flooring. Consider a rustic dark walnut barnboard style. Varying widths available, for wainscoting go with a 2 to 3 inch wide board. Install the boards at the length they are (48-51) for fast installation, but that's a bit high for a chair rail. You can cut the length to whatever chair rail height you want ot achieve. Then the waste from the last becomes the starter for your next row on the wall.

In an perfect world, it would help to have a matching stain to the floor finish. That way you can stain solid wood baseboards and chair rail moldings to match the flooring...make that...wall coverings. I always found that maple is quite forgiving and can easily be used to match with other species, like birch or walnut, even cherry.

If you are not into matchy-matchy stuff, consider a complimentary stain match.

Hey, I've never done it...but it sounds good in theory! :-)

Woodwork Safely,
Jim Barry


That's darn brilliant, Jim Barry. No wonder I profiled you this week!

I have a similar not-intended-for-this-application idea about using paneling such as Ready Pine as flooring. I love a real pine plank floor, and since pine is soft it quickly picks up distress marks and character. I've installed rustic pine flooring (in my barn studio) using plain 1x12 planks but I failed to t-and-g the edges because I don't have a shaper so the boards cupped and curled and twisted and BOY does that floor have character.

Thanks for the great idea about wainscoting. I might give the rustic barnboard look a shot on the bathroom walls I just painted.

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