I’m a bit of a detail freak. A perfectionist, I guess. I refuse to start a project unless I have a clear idea how I am going to handle every little intricate aspect. That’s probably why I put off this DIY board and batten project in our front entry for so long.
There were four things I just couldn’t figure out exactly how to get around:
- Our walls are textured. Some people have nice smooth walls, so they can get away with attaching the battens directly to the wall for a faux board and batten look. Not so much at our house.
- The casing around all of our doors is super-thin MDF. I thought it would look funny if the battens (the vertical pieces) and top/bottom boards protruded past the door casing.
Maybe you can live with this.
I just can’t.
See opening paragraph.
- There is a 3-gang light switch smack in the middle of the wall.
- We wanted a 1×2 ledge on the top of the board and batten. However, I wanted it to tie in to the existing door casing in a way that wouldn’t look awkward or disjointed. Again, see opening paragraph.
But we had to do something. Our front entryway faces the north, so it gets very little natural light. Sometimes it feels more like walking into a dungeon than a welcoming entry. So Jess put it at the top of the list and I devised a plan and got to work.
DIY Board and Batten Project
I started by carefully removing the baseboard from the wall with a flat bar. Seriously, CAREFULLY. I wanted to re-use it later on.
I found 1/8” hardboard to cover the texture. This stuff is flat, smooth, and super thin so it works perfectly. It covers up the texture without making the entire board and batten treatment too thick.
I cut the hardboard width-wise with a circular saw. I didn’t worry about keeping a straight edge, because the edge against the inside corner would be covered with a batten. I positioned it on the wall so that the top edge was level and 52” above the floor.
Next, I measured and marked the location of the hole for the switch and an outlet. I drilled through the hardboard at the corners of the cutout marks and finished cutting the holes with a jig saw.
Finally, I attached the 1/8” hardboard to the wall with a generous amount of construction adhesive and brad nails at the studs. I applied ¼” beads of the construction adhesive approximately 4” apart and spread it around with an el-cheapo disposable notched putty knife. In reality, the brad nails are only there to hold the hardboard in place until the construction adhesive dries. I used a bunch of nails, because I wanted to make sure the hardboard stayed pressed firmly against the adhesive.
The top of the hardboard was positioned at 52” above the floor so that I could layer a top board completely on top of the hardboard and still clear the light switch. Unfortunately, because the hardboard is only 48” wide, there was a 4” gap between the bottom of the hardboard and the floor. I just filled that space in with scrap pieces of 1/8” hardboard.
Bottom Trim Boards
The battens and the top and bottom boards were cut from more hardboard (this time 1/4” thick) on the table saw at the following widths:
- Bottom boards: 4-1/2”
- Top Boards: 3-1/2”
- Battens: 2-1/2”
The 4-1/2” bottom board height was perfect, because it was just high enough to cover the bottom of the hardboard backing that was 4” off the floor. Also, the top board (3-1/2” tall) plus a 1×2 ledge (3/4” tall) would be 4-1/4” tall. Having a 4-1/2” bottom board balances that nicely, keeping the overall appearance of the wainscot from being too visually top- or bottom-heavy.
Once the bottom boards were cut, I installed them with more construction adhesive and brads.
Next, I moved on to the battens. I chose to rip them to 2-1/2” wide so that they would be about the same width as the nearby door casing. Each of the battens was cut to 44” long to get the overall bottom board + batten + top board height to 52”.
I planned to use construction adhesive to attach the battens to the hardboard, so aligning them with studs was not critical. I spaced them at 18” on-center. Since none of the wall lengths are exact multiples of 18, I adjusted the position of the battens so that the space between the first batten and the end of the wall and the last batten and the end of the wall was equal.
Once I had the spacing that I wanted, I plumbed them up with a level and attached them to the wall with adhesive and brads.
Installing the top board was easy. I just cut it to length, added adhesive to the back side, set it on top of the battens, and nailed it into the hardboard backing. This was a fun step – it really started to look like board and batten.
The ledge, on the other hand, was anything but easy. Firstly of all, the wall to the left of the front door was anything but flat. The drywall taping guys went a little crazy with mud in that corner, so when I held the pine 1×2 up to the wall, there was an ENORMOUS gap between it and the wall. To make it fit well, I scribed it and cut it to fit with a jig saw.
Also, to make the ledge flow smoothly into the door casing, I wanted it to slightly overlap. To do this, I cut the ledge to extend past the edge of the door casing by about ½”. Then before I attached it to the wall, I held it in position and marked lines to cut a notch to fit around the door casing. The casing has a radius on the corner, so I drilled out the corner to match the radius, then cut out the rest with a jig saw.
Remember how I said I liked to have every detail figured out before I get started? Yeah, well, there was one detail that I didn’t exactly have down pat before I got going. The 1/8” hardboard backing plus ¼” top board was only 3/8” in total thickness. This isn’t exactly a substantial surface to attach a ledge. After trying unsuccessfully to glue and nail it to the top of the hardboard backing and top board I gave up and decided on a new method.
Instead of nailing it to the top of the hardboard, I used screws to attach the ledge directly to the wall studs. I started by pre-drilling holes in the ledge at the stud positions. Next, I used 3” long trim screws to screw through the ledge into a stud. Trim screws worked great for this because they have a smaller head than ordinary wood screws. The hole that they leave behind can easily be filled with wood filler.
To cover the gap between the top board and the ledge, I used a piece of ¾” cove moulding. I “returned” the cove moulding where the wainscot met the door casing for a more finished look.
Finally, I reinstalled the baseboard. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but we wanted this board and batten wall to maintain some cohesiveness with the surrounding regular walls. I returned the baseboard also, just as I did with the cove moulding above, for a cleaner finished look.
Because hardboard has a tendency to “swell” wherever a nail is driven, I went over everything with 150 grit sandpaper to knock down these high spots. Then, I used spackle to fill in the holes from the brad nails. Trim screw holes were filled in with wood putty, and a bead of caulk was applied to all of the seams. I used a brush and foam roller to apply two coats of Zinsser primer followed by two coats of semi-gloss white trim paint.
And the finished product…
Well, there you have it. This turned out really well, so naturally Jess wants more. 🙂 She’d love to extend it down the front hallway, but that is going to be a lot trickier – mainly because of the stairs. (WAAAAYYY more details to figure out!) Who knows? She’s changed my mind in the past, maybe she will do it again!
How about you? Have you ever finished a DIY board and batten project? How did it turn out?