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Board and Batten, Beginner Tips You Might Not Know

I have spent a lot of time over the last several years tackling a variety of board and batten style accent walls. From floor to ceiling board and batten in my master bedroom, to an elevated board and batten with added trim molding in my guest bedroom. Most recently, I did a traditional board and batten in my nieces nursery and shared some tips in Instagram stories that you found so helpful! So I decided to put all my knowledge here! Here are 11 tips to getting a beautiful board and batten, that you might not have known!

1 – Choose the right material for the room

If you are planning to do board and batten in a wet area such as a bathroom or a kitchen, you will want to purchase PVC or Primed Pine trim. PVC is the superior choice as it is 100% waterproof, but pine is a great alternative. Do not, I repeat, do not try and skimp on cost and use MDF in a wet area. MDF is essentially saw dust manufactured into a piece of wood. It paints well, it’s very inexpensive, but once it gets wet it expands. Once it expands it will never return to it’s original shape. You cannot sand it back down. It will forever be warped and will need replacing. So do yourself a favor and opt for PVC trim from the start.

PVC trim can be found at all of your local big box stores, although sometimes it is found by the exterior trim section. It is more expensive, but it can be cut, nailed, and wood filled just like regular trim and painted too.

PVC trim can be installed anywhere, but it’s more expensive.

If you live in humid climates you’ll also want to stay away from MDF and opt for Primed pine. I live in Utah and our dry climate allows me to use MDF in our bedrooms and living spaces. I personally prefer it over pine because of its cost, smoothness, and it paints really well.

2 – Textured Walls?

Do you have to cover up your wall texture before board and batten? Yes, and no. I HIGHLY recommend if your walls have medium to heavy texture to do one of two things before any accent wall. It will look like a professional did it instead of a thrown together DIY. Promise it is a step you don’t want to skip if you have medium to heavy texture.

1- Skim Coat. Skim coating is applying a thin layer of joint compound over the wall. Joint compound is the stuff used to cover up the screw holes and seams of your drywall to make your wall look like one piece. Here is a very good skim coat tutorial by my friend Jen, @Makingprettyspaces.

2 – Cover with Brown board – I have never personally done this, as I haven’t had a need to. But if you live in a home with heavy texture this is fast solution that Lindsay from @frills_and_drills does a lot. Just be sure to hide your seams where your batten will go so you don’t have a long seam in the middle of one of your boxes.

3 – Paint your wall 1st

I’ve done my fair share of accent walls, and unless you plan to mask off your room and spray the entire wall, it is best to paint the wall first, then install your batten trim! It will save you a lot of time cutting in around each board. Promise, paint the wall first.

4 – Baseboards

When doing a board and batten treatment you want to make sure that the battens do not stick out from your baseboards! See how all of the battens in my master bedroom meet the baseboards and they are flush? This. is. what. you. want.

What if your baseboards are very thin at the top? There’s a few different solutions.

1- angle the ends of your board so they meet the thin baseboard. This is not ideal, but it is a good workaround.

2- take a detailed trim and butt the two narrow ends together leaving a thick 1/2″ ledge for your battens to run into.

3- add an extra horizontal batten above your existing baseboard the same thickness as your vertical battens

5 – Measuring Your Boxes

No need to do all the fancy math! The equation is quite straight forward, but when it come sot fractions I can see where you might be off an inch here or there. Instead save yourself all the frustrations and use this wainscoting calculator. All you need to know is the length of your wall, how wide each of your battens are (mine are 1×3’s nominal, so they are actually 2.5″ wide), and how many boxes you want!

Plug them into this calculator and the website tells you exactly where each and every batten is going to go! Mark those measurements on your wall and line the battens up. You will always have 1 batten more than squares, and buy an extra incase you cut one the wrong size. **TIP for traditional board and batten you want your battens to be as close to 16″ apart as possible. This also helps them line up with studs!

6 – Install your Top piece first

For traditional board and batten there is usually a thicker 1×6″ board that spans from wall to wall and sits on top of the vertical battens. Install this piece level prior to your vertical battens. I’ll explain the important of this in tip #8

7 – Scarf Joint your seams

When you have a wall that is longer than your boards you need to combine 2 boards into one, or have 2 boards appear to look like one board. A beginner might just take the two boards and nail them in place next to one another, but a pro will take the ends and use a scarf joint to blend the boards together. This is a pretty simple process but does take a little more accurate measuring to get a tight fit. Each board is cut at a 22.5 degree bevel. 22.5 degrees is the golden standard for carpenters and allows the boards to be wood filled and caulked for the most seamless transition.

In the image below you can see I added a scarf joint to the 1×6 as well as the 1×2 that is sitting on top of it.

8 – Measure each batten individually, and then cut.

It would make sense that after you installed your horizontal header you can just get to cutting and cut all your battens the same length right? WRONG! Most of the time, your baseboards are not 100% level which means some of your battens might be too long or too short. To avoid this error measure each one and cut accordingly (I like to use my laser measurer, quick and precise!). This will ensure the TIGHTEST fit. Skipping this step might lead to a lot of caulk and less professional looking wall. A perfect fit is when you have to slightly bow your board to get it to fit in place and it stays without you holding it.

9 – Angle your nails

Do your boards need to line up with studs? No. Should they? Yeah that would be great, but it isn’t a deal breaker. If you shoot your brad nails into the wall at an angle, they will cross behind the wall locking them into place. To do this slightly angle your gun in alternating directions. Left, right, left, right. or up, down, up, down.

Should I use liquid nails? No. unless you have plaster/cement brick walls… avoid liquid nails at all costs! Once you apply any type of adhesive, it’s going to tear apart your drywall should you change your mind down the line on the wall treatment. Caulk and a few brad nail holes are an easy fix to remove and repair.

10 – Use a Spacer Board

You’ve used the board and batten calculator, you know how big each of your boxes are going to be. CUT A SPACER BOARD. use scrap wood and cut a spacer the size of your box. Use the spacer board to line up your battens saving you from measuring, and leveling each and every batten. Your board and batten will FLY up in no time with a spacer board!

11 – Caulk and Wood Fill

This process is tedious, but is necessary to give you the best finish. I like to lightly overfill my nail holes with Dap Plastic Wood Filler. It comes in a variety of colors but I use natural and white the most. As that is drying I go over all my seams with a bead of caulk. Be sure to pack the baby wipes. I will wrap my finger in a baby wipe and run my finger down the bead of caulk. Be sure to watch this instagram video where I share my caulk tips!


Material List for the nursery:

these are ACTUAL dimensions not nominal. so what your tape measurer reads when you measure the wood.
1/2″ x 2.5″ MDF on the vertical battens.
1/2″ x 5.5″ MDF for the horizontal baseboard
3/4″ x 5.5″ MDF for the horizontal top piece
3/4″ x 1.5″ (1×2) Primed Pine for the top cap.
I switched materials for the top cap because I wanted a square profile on all sides. MDF is usually rounded.

Be sure to follow along in STORIES on instagram @honeybuilthome for more tips and tricks.

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DIY Beginner Basics

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Christine Gummersall

DIY Beginner Basics is here to help get you comfortable with power tools and finishing supplies (such as paint), so you can start tackling your own honey-do list and save thousands, all while getting the satisfaction of saying, “yeah, I built that!”