September 6, 2018  

Everything You Need To Know About DIY Board And Batten Walls


Thinking about creating a DIY board and batten wall in your house but still have a few questions? This blog post is packed with everything you need to know before you before you begin. You’ll be ready to create a beautiful board and batten wall of your own after reading this!

navy-diy-board-and-batten-wall-in-entryway

One of my big goals is to add some architectural interest to our builder-grade home, and our small entry wall was the perfect place for a DIY board and batten wall treatment. If you saw the reveal of our Modern Navy Small Entryway Makeover last week, you probably noticed how pretty the navy board and batten turned out!

The DIY board and batten wall treatment really amped up the look of our entryway and I’ve received so many comments and questions about how I did it. It’s honestly easier than you think! Today I’m here with the answers to all of your burning questions about adding board and batten to your own walls.

This was my second DIY board and batten project (I first attempted it in the bathroom of our last house). It’s actually pretty easy to install DIY board and batten, but there are a lot of little logistics that tend to hold people back (myself included!). The type of lumber, the spacing of the boards, how to attach the boards and more are all things you need to consider before you begin your own board and batten project.

navy-blue-diy-board-and-batten-in-entryway

When I was researching for my own projects, I had a tough time finding one place with the answers to ALL of my questions. There are tons of blog posts with tutorials, but none of the posts I found were a 100% comprehensive guide to everything I needed to know.

So I kept notes of all of the little questions I researched as I was planning my DIY board and batten wall and am going to do my best to answer them for you today. I’m a huge researcher, so you better believe I searched Pinterest and Google high and low for best practices and tips. All that time I spent researching is your gain!

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure for details.

DIY Board And Batten FAQ

This post got pretty long, but I tried to organize the frequently asked questions into categories. Use these links to jump from category to category:

The Basics
Supplies
Planning
Installation
Final Thoughts

THE BASICS

What exactly is board and batten wall treatment?

Also referred to as board and batten wainscoting, this style of wall treatment is a great way to add architectural interest to a wall. Board and batten is a type of exterior siding or interior paneling with narrow wooden strips, called battens, that form a grid pattern. I’m specifically talking about interior board and batten in this blog post.

And just to clarify, I’m actually going to talk about the popular DIY version that’s technically only battens (no boards). You see, true board and batten is comprised of thin flat boards attached to the wall and covered with a grid of “battens”. But in the DIY world, it’s very common to skip the board part and attach your battens directly to your wall.

Board and batten is different from picture frame molding (another popular wall treatment). If you’re wanting that look, here’s a tutorial for a simple picture frame moulding wall.

Is DIY board and batten hard to install yourself?

This is a fairly easy beginner to intermediate project. Board and batten doesn’t require a ton of tools or woodworking experience, which makes it a great project to DIY in your home.

I consider myself a beginner woodworker and was able to complete this wall by myself after taking the time to plan my wall and study tutorials from other bloggers. If you’re also a beginner, I suggest choosing a small room or accent wall so the project is manageable. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be ready to tackle a huge space!

What I find with most projects like this is they seem intimidating before you begin, but they’re not that difficult once you get started. The toughest part of this project, in my opinion, is just figuring out what kind of boards to use and the layout you want. Hopefully, this blog post will answer those questions for you!

How long does it take to make a board and batten wall?

I installed this small wall of board and batten by myself and, without interruptions, I’d guess it probably took me roughly 3 hours to actually cut and install the boards. I spent a lot of time running in and out of the garage to cut pieces. If you’re experienced with a saw, you could probably do a small wall like mine quite a bit faster.

I recommend planning an entire weekend for completely finishing this project so you have plenty of time to paint, install the boards, caulk and touch up everything.

If you’ve never done a project like this, try starting with a smaller room or accent wall to keep the project manageable.

Also, always account for projects taking longer than you think! And definitely gather up all of your supplies ahead of time so you are prepared with plenty of supplies to do the job.

SUPPLIES

How much does board and batten cost to add to an interior wall?

Using MDF boards, my small entryway wall cost me about $40 in lumber. For reference, my wall is approximately 8×8 feet plus that tiny diagonal part under the stair railing.

So if you want a rough estimate, you could consider $40 per 8 feet of wall if you follow a similar layout to my boards. To get a much more accurate cost estimate, you can quickly shop homedepot.com and see the actual total in your cart. (And did you know you can order it all online and pick up in store? I love doing that so I’m not wandering the hardware store lost for hours!)

In addition to the lumber, you’ll need to factor in the cost of your paint, supplies and other tools. See my source list a few questions down to get a better idea of what you’ll need to buy.

What kind of lumber is best?

Because of cost, I suggest budget-friendly MDF (that’s what I used for our entryway). You can buy pre-primed MDF boards at your home improvement store which will save you time since they are already sanded smooth and primed for you. You can also use standard pine boards if you’d like, but they will be more expensive.

Note: You will find a lot of tutorials on Pinterest that use cheap wood boards, lattice boards or furring strips. These are economical but I do not recommend them. I used cheap lattice boards in the bathroom at our last house and spent waaaay too long trying to sand them smooth and hide their imperfections. And they still didn’t look perfect when I was done! It’s totally worth spending just a bit more to buy pre-primed MDF boards. They were already smooth and ready to hang right away!

board-and-batten-supplies-at-home-depot

What size of boards do you need for DIY board and batten?

The size of boards will depend on the dimensions of your specific wall. I primarily used 1×3 boards, with a larger 1×6 board as the baseboard and a 1×4 along the ceiling.

Here’s a diagram of the sizes I used for the wall along my stairway:

diagram-of-board-and-batten-sizes-of-boards

What tools and supplies do you need?

You will find everything you need for this project at your hardware store. Did you know you can order projects supplies online and pick them up at The Home Depot?

Here’s a full list of the supplies I used:

PLANNING

How do you plan the layout of board and batten?

To plan your board and batten layout, sketch the board placement on paper first. I recommend starting with a rough sketch to figure out the layout you like before calculating the exact measurements.

You can even print an actual photo of your wall and draw a layout on it. This was really helpful for visualizing my entry wall, especially since the shape is a little awkward with the stairs.

Measure the width and height of the wall first and then calculate the distance between boards. To calculate exact placement, you will need to decide what width of boards you will use. Make sure to account for the size of existing baseboards (if you’re keeping them) as well as any crown molding. See the next question for more considerations.

How much space do you leave in between boards?

For our entry wall, I knew I wanted my board and batten grid to form squares. The measurements didn’t end up working out to exact squares, but they are pretty close.

I first decided how many vertical boards I wanted and then figured out the horizontal board placement I would need to make squares.

When planning your board and batten layout, consider any existing obtrusions like light switches, outlets, vents and windows. Ideally, it’s easiest to plan your boards around these awkward things. But you can also notch out parts of your boards if necessary.

I ended up cutting a couple of the vertical boards to make room for a vent but planned everything to avoid the light switch and wall outlet. I also had to notch out a tiny bit of the vertical board along one of the steps. If you look at the below photo, you’ll notice that I horribly miscut the notch too large and filled it in with scrap board (and later wood filler).

diy-board-and-batten-wall-in-hallway

What do you do with the baseboards?

This question seems to hang up a lot of people, and for good reason! It sounds like such a small thing, but as I was planning our entryway board and batten, I realized that my decision on whether to keep the existing baseboard or add something different could impact the baseboards in the rest of our house. Would a change in our entry baseboard mean I was committing to new baseboards in the rest of the house?

The problem is that the boards you use for your board and batten will probably be thicker than the top of your baseboard. Some people just cut their boards at an angle so they taper off above the baseboard, but I really wanted things to look clean and seamless.

I opted to remove our baseboard and replace it with a much wider piece of 1×6 MDF board. I kept the original quarter round molding to create a nice finished transition between my new baseboard and the floor. You can see the old and new baseboards in this photo below.

navy-diy-board-and-batten-in-entryway

INSTALLATION

Should you paint the wall and/or boards before or after installing the battens?

I read a lot of blog posts to see what the general consensus was and didn’t find a “right” way. Some people paint the wall and boards first, others just the wall, and others save painting until the end.

I decided to paint the wall first and wait to paint the battens until after they were installed. I definitely recommend at least painting the wall first because you can quickly roll on the paint before the battens are in the way.

I decided to wait to paint the board and batten after it was cut and installed on the wall. Since I was making a lot of cuts and would need to fill nail holes and caulk around all of the boards anyway, it seemed just as easy to paint the entire boards since I would have a ton of touch-ups to do no matter what. If your boards aren’t primed, I would definitely roll on a coat of primer before installation.

painting-a-board-and-batten-wall

How do you make DIY board and batten look nice and professional?

Caulk and spackle are your friends! Plan for a lot of time to caulk, spackle, fill nail holes and sand everything smooth. You can hide all of your imperfections and little gaps if you take the time to do this tedious work before painting.

Use paintable caulk to fill the gaps between the wall and all board edges. This will take time, but it’s how you end up with a professional-looking end result! Fill your nail holes and go over everything with a sanding block and/or sander.

Once you think every gap and hole is filled and everything is sanded smooth, wipe the wall down with a damp microfiber cloth. This will remove dust before you paint, and it will also help you catch any little areas that may need more sanding or any nails that are sticking out a bit.

caulking-board-and-batten-wall

How do you finish off the top of board and batten if it doesn’t go all the way to the ceiling?

There is a huge variety of board and batten styles. A lot of people cover the entire wall and cap off the top with a thicker board or some type of crown molding.

It’s also common to add DIY board and batten to the bottom third of a wall and use a small trim piece to finish the top edge, with paint or wallpaper on the top two-thirds of the wall. You can use a basic 1×2 piece sticking out from the wall the wide way to create a little ledge a the top. In our bathroom, I chose a more decorative molding to trim off the top.

diy-board-and-batten-trim
Click For Detailed Tutorial & Image Source

Do you need to nail the boards to the studs?

I’m not a professional contractor, but in my non-expert opinion, I found that my boards were very sturdy after nailing them straight into the drywall and caulking all the edges. Attach your boards to the studs where possible, but I don’t think you need to stress about this if you are using thin, lightweight lumber.

Many tutorials instruct you to use Liquid Nails or a similar adhesive to secure the boards to the wall, with a few nails for good measure. This is a great way to ensure everything is secured, but I felt like my boards were fine without the adhesive so I didn’t mess with it. Plus I want to be able to remove the boards fairly easily if I decide to change the look in the future and any kind of adhesive could damage the drywall.

Since I was planning to hang a fairly heavy mirror on our entryway wall, I did use a stud finder to locate the stud near where I wanted the mirror to hang. I lucked out that there was a stud right where I needed it and planned my batten layout with that stud in mind.

ryobi-brad-nailer-for-board-and-batten

What do you do with awkward things like windows, vents, outlets and light switches?

Account for these awkward things when you’re planning your board placement and plan around them whenever possible.

If your boards do run into these awkward things, there are a few solutions:

  1. You can taper the ends of your boards so they sort of blend into the wall (how I handled the vent in our entryway).
  2. You can also notch out part of the board to accommodate a light switch that juts partway into the board’s path.
  3. I’ve also seen some nice-looking examples of people framing vents and switches with the boards and then running the board and batten right into the edges of the frames.
  4. If your board is too narrow, you could potentially cut a larger “base” to hang an item from. This is what I ended up doing with the brass sconce I hung in our entry. I cut out two semi-circles and nailed them to the wall to make a solid base for the sconce.

instructions-for-hanging-a-wall-sconce

brass-sconce-in-entryway

board-and-batten-navy-wall-around-wall-vent

how-to-trim-board-and-batten-around-outlet
Click For Detailed Tutorial & Image Source

How do you create board and batten if your walls aren’t straight?

Don’t assume your walls are straight or level no matter if you have a new build or an old fixer-upper. We live in a fairly new house, but I discovered that things still weren’t quite square.

You can use a level and square to line things up perfectly, but in the end, I think it’s better to cheat things a bit when you need to so they look normal to the human eye.

Caulk will be your best friend for those awkward gaps between boards that don’t square up quite right. Once things are caulked and painted, no one will notice small imperfections. If you have any large gaps, use wood shims to fill in the gap before caulking.

Can you add DIY board and batten to textured walls?

True board and batten is comprised of a flat, smooth board with battens over it to make a grid. But in the DIY world, it’s very common to forgo the flat board and install the battens directly to the existing wall.

I’ve installed board and batten on two different wall textures and have always been happy with the results. I don’t personally mind seeing the slightly textured walls, but it’s really a personal preference.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Measure, Measure, and Measure Again

Don’t forget to measure everything three times! This applies to calculating the spacing of the battens on your wall as well as cutting the boards during installation.

How do you hang pictures and art on board and batten?

Once my entryway wall was finished, I was eager to hang artwork on the wall to complete the space. But deciding where to place my picture frames was a bit of a predicament.

After looking at photos on Pinterest to see how others handled this and trying a few things myself, I personally found that hanging single picture frames in the center of the board and batten squares doesn’t look that great.

In my opinion, you have two options:

  1. Hang one larger piece that intersects with multiple squares of your grid (like my entryway mirror).
  2. Create a gallery wall with some frames hung on the battens and other frames hung inside the grid.

mirror-on-navy-board-and-batten-hallway-wall

mirror-and-art-on-board-and-batten

Whew! That was a ton of information. I hope I answered all of your questions about adding DIY board and batten to an interior wall in your house. So now all you have left to do is decide which wall to start with!

Catch up on our entire small entryway makeover with these blog posts:

You can also catch up on all of the real-time updates from our entryway makeover by watching the highlights in my Instagram stories!

Modern Navy Entry Sources

Here’s a list of all of the sources for our modern navy entryway!

Planning your own room makeover?

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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