Home Decor

Complete Guide to Bathroom Wainscoting: What is It & How to Use

In this guide, we provide you with an overview of bathroom wainscoting and offer some ideas for incorporating it into this all-important room in your home.
Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

A bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your home. It’s where you start and end each day. It’s a space you visit multiple times throughout the day. If it’s a main bathroom, it’s also a room that your entire family and guests use, too.

Given how frequently the bathroom is used and how crucial this space is, you want the space to be as functional as possible. But just as important as the layout and features is the overall look and feel of the space. You want it to be an aesthetically pleasing space; a room where you can kick back, relax, feel good spending time in, and that you’re proud to show off.

Whether you’re building a new home or the bathroom in your current home is tired, outdated, or drab and you’re thinking about doing a remodel, you may be wondering what type of look to go for. While there are tons of styles to choose from and materials to use, there’s one feature that always stands at the top of bathroom design: wainscoting. It lends a classic look, makes the space looks finished, and gives a much “richer” feel than what it actually costs. In fact, wainscoting is quite economical.

If you’re interested in using wainscoting in your bathroom design but you’ve never used the material before, you’re in the right place! In this guide, we provide you with an overview of bathroom wainscoting and offer some ideas for incorporating it into this all-important room in your home.

What is Wainscoting?

If you watch home design shows or you’ve thumbed through the pages of interior design magazines, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the term ‘wainscoting before’ and have seen it being used on walls. But what exactly is it?

Wainscoting, also commonly referred to as beadboard, is wooden panels that are used as decorative wall trim. In bathrooms, these panels can also be used on sinks and bathtubs. Initially, this building material was used in 18th century buildings as a way to provide insulation, as it’s more durable than sheetrock walls. Of course, it also lends a finished look.

Given the advances in insulating materials, today, wainscoting isn’t used for the same reason it was when the material was first introduced in home construction more than 200 years ago; instead, it’s a decorative accent, and it definitely makes a room look more finished and “buttoned up”, so to speak.

Bathroom Wainscoting
Bathroom Wainscoting

Benefits of Using Wainscoting in the Bathroom

Wainscoting offers numerous benefits in any room, but especially in a bathroom. Some of the advantages include:

  • Aesthetic appeal. As mentioned, this building material is primarily used as a decorative element in 21st century homes. There’s no denying the finished look that it lends to a space. If you want your bathroom to look polished and like it came out of the pages of a design magazine, installing wainscoting over your sheetrock walls is definitely the way to go.
  • Protection. The benefits of wainscoting are more than just cosmetic; the wood panels also act as a form of protection for your bathroom walls. Sheetrock walls, even if they’re covered with the highest-quality paint or wallpaper, can suffer a lot of damage when they’re exposed to moisture and humidity, such as peeling and cracking. That damage can cost a lot to repair. To ward off moisture damage, wainscoting is a great idea. The wood can withstand moisture better than sheetrock. If you really want maximum protection for your bathroom walls, instead of solid wood, plywood, or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) panels, opt for plastic wainscoting.
  • Easy to maintain. Maintaining wainscoting is a lot easier than maintaining sheetrock. Just wipe the surface down, as need, and they’ll look as good as new. With sheetrock, paint needs or wallpaper needs to be reapplied every few years; plus, it can be difficult to remove dirt and debris that settles on the walls.
  • Conceals imperfections. If your existing bathroom walls are have minor damages – they’re cracked, nicked, dented, or dinged, for example – you can forego repairs with wainscoting. Instead of patching up the damage with spackle and then sanding them down, you can just hang up the panels over the damaged walls and they’ll look as good as new; in fact, they’ll look even better! (Of course, if the damage is extensive, repairs will need to be made.)
  • Increased property value. Wainscoting can also help to improve the value of your home. Because the bathroom is one of the most important rooms in a house, it has a big impact on its overall value. Since wainscoting lends such a polished, high-end look, you’ll be sure to see a return on investment when you add this decorative feature to the walls.
  • Insulation. As mentioned, wainscoting was initially used as a form of insulation. While today, it’s primarily decorative, it does still offer insulating qualities. It can help to maintain a comfortable temperature in your bathroom, which in turn, may help to cut your utility expenses; even if only a little, every bit helps!
Wainscoting can add an elegant look
Wainscoting can add an elegant look

Wainscoting Comes in a Lot of Materials and Styles

Back when it was first introduced, wainscoting was made of solid wood panels. While solid wood is still available, this decorative element is also made of a variety of other materials. Some options include:

  • Medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Also known as pressed wood, MDF which is an engineered material that looks similar to solid wood, but is a lot more economical.
  • Wainscoting is also made out of vinyl, which looks a lot like wood, but may be even better, because it will stand up well to moisture.
  • Ceramic tile. Believe it or not, there are even ceramic tiles that are made to look like wainscoting panels. It’s even better than wood and vinyl because, like any other type of ceramic tile, it’s non-porous, hence why this material is so commonly used in bathrooms.

All materials are also available in a variety of styles. Examples include

  • Raised panels. The traditional style, it features a beveled edge and a raised center.
  • Flat panels. As the name suggests, the panels are flat and offer a clean and simple look.
  • Beadboard. This style resembles slats with rounded edges that are arranged side-by-side and has a beach-cottage vibe.
  • Board and Batten. Also known as shaker, this style looks similar to flat panel wainscoting, except it’s taller and wider.

Other styles include overlay panels, picture frame, overlay, classic recessed, and beaded recessed.

In addition to the different styles, wainscoting can also feature different colors. The traditional color is white, which certainly lends a clean, finished look and will work well with any bathroom design; however, if you prefer color, you can either paint the panels yourself or if you’re planning on installing ceramic or vinyl panels, you could choose something that has color added to it.

For example, if you want a modern bathroom, colorful bathroom, consider adding a bold color to the panels, or if you want to create a farmhouse look, you might want to opt for something that has a natural wood finish or even add a rustic color, such as gray or light blue.

Wainscoting in the bathroom
Wainscoting in the bathroom

Ways to Incorporate Wainscoting Into Your Bathroom

As mentioned, wainscoting comes in an assortment of materials and styles, and it can also come pre-colored or you can add paint to the material to give it your own look.

How you incorporate wainscoting into your bathroom really depends on the look you are trying to achieve. With that said, however, here are a few suggestions that you might want to consider trying:

Half-Wall with Chair Rail

Add wainscoting panels to the lower portion of your walls and have it end in the middle (or higher) of the walls. Top it with a chair rail. This look would work with a variety of designs and could certainly be used with any style of wainscoting. Of course, you can choose from a variety of chair rails, too.

Whole Wall

Go all out and cover the entire wall with wainscoting panels. You could do a focal wall, and then paint the rest of the walls in a color that you love, cover two walls, or cover all of them. You could even incorporate panels in two different styles. Use one style on the lower part of the wall and a different style on the top, with a chair rail in between to separate them. For instance, you could use beadboard on the bottom and raised panels on the top of the walls.

Match the Cabinetry

To create a cohesive look, choose a style of wainscoting that matches the cabinetry in your bathroom. For example, if your vanity features white recessed panels, install the same type of panels on the walls. This will give the space a clean, uniform look.

Summing It Up

If you’re looking to make your bathroom an aesthetically pleasing and inviting space, add wainscoting to the walls. It’s the easiest way to get a designer look and there are so many different options to choose from, so you can really create a one-of-a-kind space that will speak to your taste.

Melinda Price

Melinda has a Bachelors Degree in English and has worked as an Interior Designer before starting her own home design company specializing in high-end finishes. She heads up our design team. Contact Melinda@HomesOutline.com

Write A Comment