Laying out wainscot paneling
Addressing common problems before layout helps ensure a trouble-free installation
Historically, most paneling in houses was wood. It was available, it was beautiful, and it was more durable than plaster. But solid wood has a pesky attribute: It moves as temperature and humidity change.
Our clever forebears figured out how to turn this limitation into an advantage. They floated panels in a railand-stile frame. The panels were beveled around the perimeter so that they were thick enough in the center not to warp, but thin enough at the edges to fit into the grooves or rabbets in the rails (horizontal pieces) and stiles (vertical pieces). Known as a raised panel, this design not only allows for wood’s natural movement but also creates attractive profiles and shadowlines. Around the turn of the 20th century, the advent of sheet goods meant that a thinner, flat, dimensionally stable panel could be used. In flat-panel construction, the rails and stiles are still grooved or…