Faux Wainscoting DIY–Version 2

Have you checked out the Community lately?  There are some new posts over there and I would love for you to join and follow along.  I am hoping to build it into a great resource for moms and women to share and learn from each other.

We recently added some more faux wainscoting to the walls in our basement.  I am really happy with how it turned out!  It really brightens it up down there and finishes off the look of the room.


The room is fairly big and there was quite a bit of wall space to cover so we decided to go with the easiest route.  The chair rail and base board were already in place. 


We spent a lot of time in the beginning figuring out the exact dimensions of the walls so that we could place the boards so that the squares measured out equally around the entire room but also took into account the small corners, etc. 

We wanted to work with the size of our existing chair rail and had a 1/4 inch overlap to match up.  We wanted the edge of the chair rail to fit flush with the boards we were adding.  This way we had very little caulking, puttying, and sanding to do. 

We bought a couple of sheets of 1/4 inch MDF board that measured 4 feet by 8 feet from our local Lumber Store.   They cut them for us for a small fee, into 2 and 3 inch strips.  This saved us a lot of money and we didn’t have to make the cuts ourselves.  They also made really straight and precise cuts.  Love that!!


The 2 inch strips we placed directly below the chair rail and directly above the base board all around the entire room.

After all the horizontal strips were placed,  we measured the length from the top piece under the chair rail to the base board.  On our walls the space measured almost 26 inches.  So we cut the strips of the 3 inch MDF into lengths to match each specific vertical position.  Then we placed the 3 inch strips vertically on the wall or from the top of the chair rail to the base board around the entire room.


In the corners where two walls met, we placed two strips of 3 inch boards on each end of the wall like the picture below.


To attach them, we glued them on with painter’s caulk to hold them in place so we could make slight adjustments if needed.  Then when we were certain they were in the right position we put a few nails in the top and bottom of the strip to securely hold them permanently in place.  Be sure to wipe up any excess caulk with a damp cloth.


Now, since the walls are not exactly the same measurements around the entire room, we had to make slight adjustments in the size of the squares.  So the squares on the opposite side of the room are slightly smaller than the others.  But when it is all painted, you will not be able to notice the difference as long as they aren’t drastically different in size.


We went around the entire lower section with painter’s caulk to fill/blend the chair rail and baseboard to the horizontal strips.  This step will make a big difference in the overall look of your finished wall!!  Additionally, we puttied the seams where the vertical strips meet up with the horizontal strips.  After it dries, lightly sand it and vacuum away any dust that is left behind.  You will also want to fill any holes or dents in the lower half of your wall that come from everyday life…or your wild kids :)


Put your son to work and prime the all of the new wood and any areas you filled with caulk and/or putty and let it dry completely.  He actually begged to help us out.  He’s a good kid like that and pretty good with a paint brush!


This one wanted nothing to do with the painting and was too busy playing with her other brother and sisters in their huge fort built out of the couches and several blankets…she’s a smart girl!


Now paint your walls!  Ours took two coats.  The paint is a white Behr paint in a semi-gloss finish.


I am loving it!  It looks so nice downstairs now and I actually want to spend time down there.  This is where we watch our Redbox and Netflix movies together.  But we are not completely finished.  We want to frame in these windows on either side of the fireplace and put a nice window sills for both.  We also plan to add some decorative moulding around the bricks on the fireplace and frame it in as well. 


I would also love to add a mantle but am not sure about how to go about that.  So I plan to do a bit more research on that.  Do any of you have experience with that? 


As soon as we get the rest finished I would love to share it with you.  Do you have any projects like this that you have been working on at your house?


The total cost for this project was around $65 dollars. Our room measures approximately 28 feet by 26 feet. We bought two sheets of the MDF which was $20 a sheet. They charged us $10 to cut both sheets into strips. And then we had to buy white electrical plugs and change them out fro the off-white ones that were originally installed. We also bought a couple tubes of Painter’s Caulk. We used paint and primer that we all ready had. If we had bought individual boards and not cut our own…the price would have been significantly higher!


  1. Thomas says

    This is wonderful. We've been thinking about how to go about adding some decorative detail in our dining room–and your tutorial here has convinced me that we can do it!

  2. Rymistri@la vie en fuchsia says

    Gorgeous! I wish I could convince my hubs to do it!!


  3. laxsupermom says

    You guys did an awesome job! It looks fantastic! Love the picture of your son eagerly helping. I love that age! Young enough to be excited about helping, but old enough not to make a mess of it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. MK says

    WOW, that's inspiring! And it looks fantastic! Makes we want to head out to pick up supplies and get to work! Will definitely show this to my husband. Thanks for sharing!

  5. southerninspirationsblog says

    What a great job you guys did! Thanks for the step by step instructions, I would love to do this project in my sitting room one day!


  6. The DIY Show Off says

    How beautiful! I've seen this a few times now and it's definitely on my to-do list. Finding the time is the hardest part! ;)

    Have a great weekend!

  7. Deb Plapp says

    Looks really nice. Doesn't look like a basement at all. Really dresses the walls up. Great job!

  8. The Millward Family says

    This is exactly what I have been wanting to do, but had no idea how to do it! I have already emailed the link to my husband, and I see a trip to the lumber store in the very near future. You are awesome!

  9. Jennifer says

    That looks really good! And it looked really easy to accomplish. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Jill @ Blessings of a Lifetime says

    Wowza! This project turned out beautifully! I love it lots and am totally jealous that you have a basement! Living in southeast Texas does not allow for basements, so I enjoy living vicariously in your "new" basement family room!

    Way to go!

    Blessings, — Jill

  11. Our Seven Dwarfs says

    This looks great! You did a fantastic job! Maybe one day I will do that!

    Jill of oursevendwarfs.com

  12. Kathleen says

    There wasn't a mantel on our fireplace either but bought one at Home Depot. My husband used a masonry drill bit and basically anchored a long 2×4 on the wall with masonry screws into the brick and then the mantel sort of sat on that and got screwed in from the top. It really changed the look of the fireplace. You can do it! :)

  13. Amy at Ameroonie Designs says

    This looks fantastic!! I love how bright it looks with the molding! I would love to add some details to our house like that, it just looks so rich and finished!

  14. Valerie says

    I love this blog post! You gave great directions and pics, to the point that I am confident this is something I could even do! And I can't do much, lemme tell ya! ;)

    I'm going to try this out. I am determined.

    Thanks you!

  15. evelania says

    I. Love. It. Seriously I've been wanting to do this for a while and just need to do it. It looks amazing!!!

  16. Alisha says

    looks great! We actually created the mantle on our fire place by taking pics of my brothers (we really liked his) and also took some measurements and built it all out of mdf, crown and a few wood accent pieces. Painted it all a semi-gloss white and LOVE it. It has made the biggest difference in our room. Our old mantle was a thick piece of cedar just held up by a few nails. Very 1980's.
    We are going to put up some faux wainscoting in our dining room this spring, so I loved looking at your project! Good luck and have fun!

  17. Amy {The Idea Room} says

    @Alisha-Thank you so much for your information on your mantle. I am really thinking that is something I really want to do!

  18. dustyperle says

    WOW this was such an awesome DIY. Thankyou for sharing. I will soon be purchasing a home and I wanted to do this down stairs in the basement. It has a red brick fireplace just like yours. My space isn't nearly as large as yours. I was wondering what you thought about doing that to a smaller space and what you think it would do to the room. If you think it would make the room visually smaller bigger taller etc. ????

  19. Amy {The Idea Room} says

    In my opinion, I think it actually helps the room to look larger. Especially if you have a darker paint on the upper walls. I also love the finished look it gives to the room. I have several smaller rooms done with this too. My daughter's room is particulary small (fits a twin bed and dresser and not much else) and it looks really good in her room. Hope that helps!

  20. says

    Ok, this turned out GREAT. I keep telling DH that I want to do fake Board and Batten or wainscotting in our kitchen but he always thinks it won’t turn out nicely. I’m going to forward him this link!

  21. Alicia says

    I LOVE this. I’m definitely going to do it in my dining room. Will the “big box” stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot cut the MDF for you, or did you need to go to a lumber yard? Is 1/4″ MDF hard to find? Thanks for posting your wonderful project!

    • says

      We went to a local lumber yard and they cut it for us for a small fee ($20 if I remember right). You could try Lowe’s or Home Depot though. They have cut stuff for me before but never so much at once. Not hard to find at all. Should be at most big box and local stores.

  22. sally says

    I know of this and we chose wainscoting instead. I like this but not the White they painted with the light Beige wall. There are sooooo many colors out there WHY do people choose white? Sorry just my opinion

  23. Ellen says

    You said you had te MDF cut into 2 and 3 inch strips. Do you mean 2 and 3 inch strips wide? Or is that supposed to be 2-3 feet long strips?

  24. Peggy Robbins says

    Thanks for posting instructions on the shelf you made for the bathroom. It is beautiful, and just what I need!!
    Actually, I think you could use the same idea to make a mantle. Then you would have to buy a special drillbit to go through the bricks and screw it into the bricks. I had the same fireplace you have in my old house and I bought the drill bit many years ago, just asked the guy at Home Depot what to use. It cost $3.50 10 years ago and worked like a charm.

  25. Brad says

    i love the wainscoting, as far as the mantle goes i did one for my father-in-law by simply installing a floating shelf …..it turned out GREAT! if u want to see i have pics i can send you!
    p.s.- i LOVE your site, i just fell upon it as i am a new home owner!

  26. Jen says

    How far apart were the vertical pieces roughly? I know they were not all exactly the same I am just looking for a starting point.

  27. says

    Amy- I’m just getting together my game plan to do this in my Master and this is a great tutorial!!! Very detailed thanks! This is such a great update.

  28. H Casey says

    Adding a mantel is no harder then what you have already done, you make up a back hanger, and it spanes the mantel on back, and it is made at a 45% degree angle, and you put one on the back of the mantel, with an upside down 45% degree angle hanger made of a 1 by 1 or 1 by 2 and it hangs on the other piece of wood you hug on the wall that has the 45% up, and they lock into each other, good luck, I am doing this for my fake fireplace, even went to the extent, to by a basket for wood, and the fireplace tools, and a cover to go infront of the fireplace, to catch any fake sparks coming out of the fireplace, I am also buying the faux rock brick, and will do the whole wall. Thanks for the info. HC

  29. Paalla Øvergaard says

    I am interesser in the wainscoting project for one wall in my small dining room. Am interested in your comments area.

  30. g vanderlaan says

    Wow!! Great job. I have seen this and want to try it. Are your walls smooth or do they just appear that way in the pic? My walls have a light texture and I am wondering if it would be okay to do this without adding plywood to the wall first. I do not have many tools and am not sure how I would cut plywood. Sorry for all of the questions but I am new at this. I love, love your ideas!!

    • says

      They have a little bit of texture to them due to the paint roller brush…but overall are not textured walls.

  31. alicia says

    Beautiful! the cuts that you made at home, would a hand saw work? Or would I need a circular saw? Thank you! Can’t wait to start this project.

    • says

      You could use a hand saw since they are simple straight cuts. Better yet…go to your hardware store and see if they will make the cuts for you. They may charge you a small fee but it might be worth the time it saves you!

  32. Kristen says

    This is an awesome idea and looks great! Thanks very much for sharing. The existing base trim I have is similar to yours but the smaller piece at the top of it only has a 1/8 inch lip, meaning the top only sticks out 1/8 inch from the wall though the rest of the base trim is deeper. Is your base trim 1/4 inch or is it smaller? Just wondering if it would look really weird if the MDF strips stick out 1/8 inch farther than the top of base trim. I was thinking maybe I could make it appear more flush by filling in with caulk. Thanks!


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