Tips for Painting Wainscoting

These tips for painting wainscoting can help you create a beautiful, professional finish in your home!


When every toy in the house is on the floor and my children look at me with anguish and say, “It’s too much to do!”  My answer – as trite as it may sound – is always the same:

I love this warm gray bead board! Tips for painting wainscoting |

Take it one step at a time.

And I feel like I have to tell myself the same thing as I approach the myriad of projects in this new house.

I love this warm gray bead board! Tips for painting wainscoting |

I may or may not have already refinished a dresser, primed the fireplace, rearranged four eighteen times, painted, dreamed, planned…  But for the most part, I’m taking my own advice.

And starting with the powder room.

I love this warm gray bead board! Tips for painting wainscoting |

Step one?  Paint.

I love this warm gray bead board! Tips for painting wainscoting |

And since the entire room (wainscoting, walls, and cabinet) were a cream with a brown glaze…

Need to paint some wainscoting? Tips for how to do it well...

I have had a lot of practice lately. 😉  And I’m happy to share my tips for success with you:

I love this warm gray bead board! Tips for painting wainscoting |

Tips for painting wainscoting:

Here is what you’ll need:

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1. Consider something other than white.

I know that white is the traditional color for trim work and molding, but I have found myself pinning several images lately with colorful trim.  I was first inspired by our apartment when we lived in Paris that had gray trim, and I carried that over into our master bedroom at the last house.  In this case, I went even more extreme by painting the entire wainscoting gray.  I love how the gray grounds the space and makes the room feel taller with the white above.  Plus, the gray is a bit more forgiving of grubby little hands.

2. Use painter’s tape above and below.

I used some delicate Frog Tape (leftover from this project) because I painted the walls white just the night before.  I am often hesitant to mess with painter’s tape because it takes so long to apply, but this is quick: one strip along the top and one along the bottom.  Because you are working with the nooks and crannies of the chair rail, its especially helpful to have it along the top to protect your wall from stray brush strokes.  Plus, if you are doing a color that contrasts significantly to your wall, you’ll need that crisp, clean line.

3. Use a paint and primer in one.

Generally trim is done in semi-gloss paint, or at least satin, making it more difficult to paint over.  Save yourself the extra steps of sanding and priming by getting a paint and primer in one.  I used Behr Marquee, and while it still took two coats (as I mentioned, I was covering a heavily glazed semi-gloss off white), I could see the advantage of the primer’s adherence to the slick semi-gloss paint.

4. Have a heavy duty primer on hand for certain areas.

There were a couple of spots after the first coat where the paint didn’t seem to adhere as well (especially below where the pipes attached to the wall; I’m guessing there was some grease or sealant from the plumbing connections).  A touch of Zinsser BIN primer did the trick.

5. Work in sections to achieve the right brushstrokes.

Whether you’re painting simple board and batten or bead board like me, you’ll have the top piece and baseboards that go horizontally and the panel piece that goes vertically.  Rather than painting all the horizontal and then all the vertical, work in two foot sections: paint your horizontal pieces, getting carefully into the creases and seams, then immediately paint the vertical so you can smooth out the encroaching brush strokes.  Then move on to the next section.  This gets all the brush strokes going the right direction and leaves you with gorgeous, professional looking wainscoting.

And I’ll tell you what, this is “one step” that was incredibly rewarding.  Don’t you love projects like that?

What’s your next one step?

-walls and cabinet: Cameo White (in eggshell) by Behr Marquee
-wainscoting: Iron Gate (in semi-gloss) by Behr Marquee
-mirror: diy (tutorial here)

pin it image

I love this warm gray bead board! Tips for painting wainscoting |

 Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Behr, but all opinions are 100% my own.  You can read my full disclosure policy here.


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  1. You did a fab job on the painting in that bathroom girly:) I was just getting ready to ask you how you did your mirror, and then noticed the post! lol! I can’t believe that rub n’ buff did that! I’ve used it before, and liked the results, but your mirror looks fabulous with it:) Hope your having fun!

  2. Marlene Stephenson says:

    When i first put it up in my bathroom it stained and varnished it but ten yrs. later and it is wearing off so i was thinking of painting it. Now you have really got my rocks to rolling,or at least that is what my sons say i have in my head lol. Gray, i will have to see what colors they have in gray, thanks.

  3. I love the contrast of the gray against the white, and what a transformation from the previously over-glazed bathroom!

  4. This is lovely! You may have convinced me to paint some trim in something other than white. Because this is just so chic. I tend to be too matchy-matchy, thinking all trim must be the same. But you only live once, am I right? Thanks for the inspiration. Pinning!

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