Wainscoting vs. Beadboard and Other Paneling

You’ve decided that your wall needs a fresh look. Instead of decorating the entire wall, you’re considering using panels to create a beautiful interior design. You know that paneling is flexible because there are so many materials and styles to choose from. However, that wide selection raises a challenge:

What sort of paneling should you choose?

This article explains several paneling options, including wainscoting and beadboard. We look at what makes each type of panel an attractive choice and compare wainscoting to beadboard.

What Is Wainscoting?

Wainscoting is a type of wall paneling typically laid over a wall’s lower portion. Many use it to contribute to a wall-length designer look. However, it can also support the room’s overall construction or protect the wall from dirt and damage.

It’s prevalent in dining and living rooms due to its traditional aesthetic. Wainscoting can be made of wood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or plywood. Panels can be factory- or hand-made and are usually measured separately for each room.

What Is Beadboard?

Though it’s often called wainscoting, beadboard is actually its own type of wall paneling. Wainscoting is a general term for wall paneling, while beadboard is a specific style that uses vertical panels. With wainscoting, you can separate the boards using decorative elements or by using frames around panels.

Beadboard differs because you get vertical grooves and small ridges between each board. This combination creates the beaded effect that gives the paneling its name. With beadboard, you lay a row of narrow, vertical planks on your wall. Like wainscoting, installing beadboard is easy as long as you have some nails and glue.

Many modern versions of beadboard come in a single long panel with multiple ridges rather than as separate panels you need to line up.

What is Board and Batten?

With board and batten panels, you get a thin strip of wood molding, called a “batten,” to place over each panel board seam. This technique creates stronger vertical lines, adding shadows and texture to a wall.

Though it’s usually used as a type of exterior siding, some people enjoy the pronounced look that board and batten provides so much that they use it internally. The interesting shadows this paneling creates can lend a unique look to your walls. Board and batten can cover the entire height of a wall.

Topping off Wainscot Installation with a Chair Rail

Traditional wainscoting installs will have the top trimmed out with a “Chair Rail”. This horizontal trim board adds a nice finish detail, and is in fact typically the height of a chair-back so it adds beauty and even more protection for the wall.

A Detailed Look at Paneling Types

With the three main paneling types explained, it’s time to dive deeper into all your options. There are four more things you might want to think about for your interior design project besides the three we've already talked about.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.


Now that you understand what wainscoting is, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth your investment. Here are the pros and cons of this type of paneling:


  • Wainscoting can protect your walls from children and pets or hide existing damage to a wall behind the panels.
  • Trends come and go, but wainscoting remains. This style of paneling has been in fashion for decades.
  • It’s reasonably easy to remove wainscoting if you wish to try a new interior design option or intend to sell your home.
  • Wainscoting breaks up your room, making it feel cozier and more intimate.


  • Though wainscoting is tough, it isn’t impervious to damage. Heavy impacts may break the panels, causing damage to the wall behind them.
  • Wooden wainscoting requires relatively regular maintenance to repel rot and ward off warping.
  • Poor design or installation choices can lead to a room going from cozy to cramped.


Beadboard offers a fresh twist on the traditional favorite, and here’s the gist:


  • Beadboard is easy to install, often requiring only a strong adhesive and some nails to fit into place.
  • You can get prefabricated beadboard that incorporates several panels into a single longer panel.
  • It’s easy to clean splashes and sprays from beadboard.
  • Beadboard is a versatile type of paneling that meshes well with many other interior design choices.


  • Most beadboard is made using wood, which is susceptible to rot and warping in humid conditions.
  • While the main panels are easy to clean, the ridges that give beadboard its name don’t wipe down so easily.


A tongue-and-groove click paneling system allows you to slot multiple panels together quickly. The smaller nature of these panels makes tongue and groove an excellent choice if you want to create customized designs to fit on your wall.


  • These panels are extremely popular, meaning you have a lot of choices available in terms of style and color.
  • Installation is easy because you can slot the boards together using the built-in joints.
  • The glue you use to secure these panels into place also protects them against spills.


  • Tongue and groove panels are primarily used for flooring, meaning you may need to customize your installation to fit them to walls.
  • Repairing a damaged tongue and groove panel is often more difficult than replacing a full wainscot or beadboard panel.
  • The panels may separate over time if you don’t use enough glue to hold them together.


Shiplap is a type of horizontal wooden board that’s usually used when building sheds and barns. These boards have grooves cut into the top and bottom, making them relatively simple to install on your walls. Alternatively, Stikwood offers a range of shiplap boards, which you can peel and stick to your walls for a simple installation.

If you’re considering going down that route, there are several pros and cons.


  • Staining or painting shiplap is very easy, allowing you to customize your panels as you see fit.
  • Shiplap is one of the least expensive types of wood paneling.
  • These boards are highly versatile, especially if you protect them with an appropriate finish.


  • Shiplap can be a dust magnet, meaning you have to wipe it down regularly.
  • If you don’t use an appropriate finish, shiplap is susceptible to rotting or warping when exposed to moisture.

Board and Batten

Though traditionally used for exterior walls, there are several pros and cons related to installing board and batten panels on an interior wall.


  • Board and batten offers a unique aesthetic appeal that you rarely see inside a home.
  • The vertical grooves built into board and batten ensure a tight fit to protect your walls against moisture.
  • These panels are exceptionally durable, meaning they can withstand most impacts.


  • It can take a long time to install board-and-batten due to the number of panels required.
  • Material and design availability vary depending on where you live, making it hard to find the style you want.
  • If board and batten panels get damaged, they’re often difficult to replace.

Raised Panels

Raised panels are a type of wainscoting that uses panels to create a picture-frame look in your home.


  • Raised panels are a cost-effective way to add volume and dimensionality to your walls.
  • These panels are easy to install because you can often fit them directly onto your walls.
  • Raised panels are ideal for achieving the traditional “Hamptons” look.


  • The traditional look these panels create isn’t ideal for homes with a modern aesthetic.
  • Most raised panels are made using wood, which makes them vulnerable to rotting and warping when exposed to humid conditions.

Flat Panels

Many manufacturers refer to flat panels as recessed panels. Though they offer a similar picture-frame look to raised panels, the big difference between them is that these panels feature a raised edge.


  • Flat panels create a more formal look because this is the traditional form of wainscoting.
  • These panels are ideal for framing the lower part of a wall up to chair rail height.


  • Flat panels aren’t as versatile as other panels, making them less useful for more complex interior design projects.
  • Installation can often be more challenging due to the need to fit recessed panels inside a frame.

Wainscoting vs. Beadboard

The big difference between wainscoting and beadboard lies in their aesthetic and size variations.

Wainscoting is often the best choice for those who want to achieve a traditional look. The picture frame aesthetic is big and bold, ensuring these panels stand out from the rest of your wall.

With its vertical placement, beadboard may be a better choice for those who want a more modern look. The bold vertical lines add depth and incorporate raised bead spaces. They also look good with wallpapered walls and make an interesting contrast with plasterboard walls.

Wainscoting vs. Board and Batten

Do you want a subtle look or an intense look?

That’s the central question when choosing between wainscoting and board and batten panels.

Board and batten paneling gives a room a strong look that was popular in the early 1900s. The battens cover the seams between the panels and stick out, giving the building a strong look. However, it’s fair to say that this look isn’t the trendiest. You may find it challenging to sell your home if a potential buyer doesn’t enjoy the powerful aesthetic that board and batten presents.

Wainscoting is a more subtle form of wood paneling, which may be why it’s been popular for over a century. Also, the fact that it's easy to put up and take down gives you flexibility that you don't get with board and batten.

Lower parts of walls can also be covered with wainscoting, while board and batten is often used to cover the whole wall.

Beadboard vs. Board and Batten

The advantages and drawbacks of board and batten in the wainscoting comparison also apply when comparing it to beadboard. Again, it’s a choice between power and subtlety. The big and bold panels used for board and batten can cover an entire wall. While this gives them a powerful look, that power may be off-putting to some.

Beadboard’s sleek vertical lines offer a more modern aesthetic. Like wainscoting, beadboard is easier to install and remove than board and batten panels.

How Does the Appearance of Wainscoting Differ From Beadboard?

Wainscoting tends to use large picture-frame panels, creating an airy look. Large frames separate these panels, which are typically long rectangles placed horizontally.

Beadboard panels are placed vertically and have a tighter fit than wainscoting. They’re far less traditional in style, though the smaller panels offer more opportunities for customization.

Placement also affects appearance. Wainscoting is usually placed along a wall’s base, covering the lower three or four feet. While you can use the same placement for beadboard, and many do, you have more options with these types of panels.

How Does the Composition of Wainscoting Differ From Beadboard?

Traditional wainscoting is made using wood, making it susceptible to rot and warping if untreated. However, there are versions of wainscoting made using MDF and PVC that are easier to maintain.

Most modern beadboard is made with MDF, which is a combination of wood and resin that gives the boards a rustic look and keeps them safe from water.

What Are the Differences in Cost?

There can be vast cost differences between wainscoting and beadboard.

Wainscoting made using MDF, plywood, or PVC can cost as little as $1 per square foot. However, opting for solid wood wainscoting can cause these costs to rocket up to $40 per square foot.

Beadboard is a much less expensive option. Wooden beadboard panels tend to cost $1 per square foot, with the prices for wood imitation panels ranging between $0.50 and $0.75 per square foot.

How Easy Are Wainscoting and Beadboard to DIY?

Both options can be easy for a DIY installation. You can usually complete the job with glue, putty, a hammer, and nails. Better yet, you can install both directly onto drywall or plasterboard.

However, wainscoting comes with a caveat.

Wainscoting is straightforward to install if you opt for raised picture-frame panels. If you choose recessed panels, it will take you longer to build the frame and take measurements to make sure the panels fit right.

Make the Right Choice for Your Project

Which one you choose between wainscoting and beadboard comes down to how you want your home to look.

Wainscoting offers a more traditional look that’s ideal for those who want to stay trendy while still replicating a popular style with over a century of history behind it. Those seeking a more modern look or those who wish to install wood paneling over more than their walls’ bases may prefer beadboard. Its flexibility and modern aesthetic make it a great choice for less traditional homes.