Installation of wall panels does not have to be difficult at all. All you need is a proper design and knowledge of a few rules, thanks to which you will avoid mistakes which will require later correction or complete replacement of the panels. It is also crucial to prepare the wall before starting the final installation.
One of the keys to successfully transforming a space with wainscoting is moderation. Remember, if you plan to introduce a bold color or pattern, a little wainscoting can go a long way. For example, instead of finishing all four walls of a room from floor to ceiling with heavy, dark wood with a strong vertical groove pattern, use paneling on just one wall or install paneling as wainscoting that stops before the ceiling.
If you plan to refresh an existing room with panels, consider what it will take to match the design and materials to the space. One key consideration is the thickness of the material you choose
Preparing the wall
If you plan to install plywood or fiberboard panels or thin 3D composite decorative panels that will be nailed and/or glued, you’ll need to start with a flat, solid wall base such as drywall or plaster. Check the wall for bulges and correct imperfections if necessary. Remove all protruding fasteners and repair any large holes or depressions. Remove all switch plates and other decorative electrical accessories, as well as mounting screws, switches, and box outlets so they can be aligned on the same plane as the finished panel surface
If the panel design has dark vertical grooves, it’s a good idea to paint thick strips of a similar color on the wall where the joints between panels meet to prevent “see-through,” since joints tend to open and close with changes in humidity.
Laying vertical patterns
When planning a vertical pattern panel layout, consider the following points that affect the final appearance.
- The pattern should be more or less centered on each wall in a way that avoids noticeably narrow strips of uneven width at opposite corners.
- Interior corners are rarely exactly square and vertical, which means you’ll probably have to draw the edges of the panels to match the corners exactly.
Using a level, mark a vertical line from the inside corner of the wall where you want to start installing the panels. Fix the full panel in place with one long edge aligned with the plumb mark, and then check how the other edge fits into the corner. If the corner is not straight and plumb, you will see gaps. Use a level to trace the gaps on the edge of the panel, then remove the panel and trim it with a jigsaw to match the contours of the corner before you attach it permanently.
If the vertical pattern of the board has regular rather than random widths or variation, you can move the initial vertical marker to the right or left to center the pattern and avoid a narrow strip in the opposite corner.
Laying out horizontal patterns
Check that the corner where the wall meets the ceiling is level, and mark the starting level guideline at a point that will ensure that a full pattern appears at the top of the wall. You may not need to draw the top edge of the panel to fill in the gaps between the top edge and the ceiling if you plan to finish the transition with crown molding. Irregularities in the pattern at the bottom of the wall can usually be hidden with crown molding.
Whether you choose to install plywood, fiberboard or solid panels, it’s best to set the material in the room where it will be installed at least a week before you start nailing it down to adjust to the humidity of the environment. This prevents the seams from opening if the material dries out and begins to shrink, or from swelling and warping if it absorbs moisture.
Cut panels to size and cut holes for outlets and switches as needed. When working with a circular saw or jigsaw, cut panels downward to minimize damage to the finished surface.