In the past, we've had the rail and stile connections open up, causing cracking in the finish. This method lets us strengthen these joints.
Wainscoting can dress up any room and add a layer of elegance to the otherwise plain walls. On our recent dining-room project, we decided to take a different approach with the install and preassemble the wall panels before installation.
In the past, we’ve had the rail and stile connections open up, causing cracking in the finish. This method would allow us the opportunity to strengthen these joints, which would rectify the previously encountered issues.
Like any job we begin with the layout and mark everything on the wall, being conscious of windows, doorways, and electrical locations. (If we’re able to relocate electrical to the center of the panels or stiles we do. You want to make it look like you planned those locations.) We also mocked up our rail and stiles on the walls to make sure everything would fit the way we hoped.
What we did differently
Using (2) 6mm x 40mm dominos, (1) 1-1/4-in. pocket screw, and wood glue, we assembled the rails and stiles face down on the table. Completing one task at a time rather than one wall at a time allowed us to work efficiently with only the tools required. When we moved on to the next step those tools would be put away and new tools would be setup for the next task. In this case, the router with a rabbeting bit. Laying face down we rabbeted out each panel section so we could install 1/4-in. plywood, often times we use MDF but in this case we used paint-grade plywood due to the availability. Gluing and stapling the plywood in from the back is where we gain a ton of extra strength with the preassembly method.
We then install the panels on the wall with construction adhesive and 18 ga. x 2-1/2-in. brads at the stud locations. It’s important to use construction adhesive on the plywood to prevent the panel from sounding hollow, should there be any low spots on the wall.
We follow up with our panel and chair rail moldings to complete the look. Traditional installation, glue, and brads secure the molding to the panels. We finished this job with a Water Alkyd in Dove White.