Board and batten diy: do’s and don’ts

This is my board and batten wall. There are many like it, but this one is mine 🙂

The internet does not need another board and batten tutorial – those are a dime a dozen. So instead of giving you a step-by-step, I thought I’d help you navigate through some do’s and don’ts I learned along the way

Board and batten, in its many iterations, is probably the easiest and most impactful way to bring character and interest to a space. Have a boring gray wall (you know I have too many of those)? Slap some boards on them, pick an interesting color, and instantly you’ve added character and some architectural interest!

I first tried my hand at board and batten in our old house in my daughter’s room. She loved it so much, she is still upset we “sold her room”. The color and the little trim detail made it so special.

In our new home, I knew I wanted to add both interest and function to the walls in the hallway, so I designed this project with an extra horizontal board in mind to anchor the wall hooks. It turned out better than expected, and really only took two afternoons from start to finish.

The list of things you need for this project is short and very flexible:

  1. You need a saw. A miter saw is ideal, but if you don’t have one, a hand saw will do just fine, the cuts are very straight forward. Just know it will take a bit longer to complete it.
  2. You will need a nail gun. I can’t really think of an analog alternative to it, this one is a must, but doesn’t have to be anything too intense. I own this one, and it’s more than enough for all of my projects.
  3. Wood filler, caulk and sandpaper. I also used my palm sander to smooth out the wood filler, but you could just use a sanding block and some elbow grease.
  4. Painting supplies: brushes, rollers and trays – the basics.

So here we go: the board and batten do’s and don’t’s!

DO: remove the toe kick (quarter round) and the baseboard first. Score along both of them with a sharp knife and carefully remove with a hammer and a crowbar trying not to break the old trim and not to damage the drywall. If you are replacing the baseboards with new trim, you can be less careful trying to preserve the old ones. I was going to reuse them, so I took extra care not to have them snap.

DON’T: make a mistake of having your vertical boards die into the old baseboards, overhanging and creating an awkward and unfinished look. Make sure your trim has another piece of wood to die into that’s at least as wide.

DO: mark out your spacing for the vertical boards. Many tutorials will have you mark out the studs and follow that spacing. I didn’t do that in any of my wall trim projects. I find that the boards have no problem staying up. The reason I would decide on the spacing is simply to figure out what looks good to you. For example, in our case, I used 1×4 boards and spaced them 15″ apart. I calculated that by measuring the full width of the wall, subtracting 4×3.5″ from that total ( the number of vertical pieces I was using times the width of each board, since a 1×4 is actually 3.5″ wide), and dividing the remaining width into four equal parts.

DON’T: use Liquid Nails to help secure your boards to the wall. You may change your mind in the future and decide to remove the trim. Using an adhesive like Liquid Nails will make removing the boards impossible without damaging the drywall. If your boards are just nailed to the wall, you would just have to patch the nail holes and paint!

DO: use a spacer cut to the desired width to ensure each board is spaced at an equal distance. I cut a piece of scrap board 15″ long and placed it in between each vertical piece to make sure the spacing was even.

DON’T: worry about nail holes and spaces between the boards – wood filler does wonders for that.

DO: think about other details that put an additional special touch on your project. For me this time it was the decorative cap trim that makes the whole thing look a little more polished. And the hooks – every project needs a little drama! Make it stand out with color, wood trim, art placed in creative ways, add a photo ledge to the top to rest frames and pictures on it!

DON’T: pick trim style that fights the general feel of your house. If you live in a traditional colonial, skip the distressed wood barn look. If your trim is going into a room that has a lot of clean straight lines, maybe avoid millwork that is too ornate or decorative. Of course, there are exceptions to all rules, and if done right, juxtaposing styles can be stunning. For me, this was only the second time doing it, and I wanted to keep it simple and safe.

DO: caulk and wood fill everything. The spaces between the wall and the boards get caulked, the holes and spaces in and between the wooden pieces get wood filled. Overfill the with the wood filler – it shrinks when it dries. Let everything dry completely before sanding.

DON’T: forget to address the baseboards. Here is what I did to achieve a clean look: not only did I remove the baseboard on the wall I was working on, but also on two adjacent walls. Then I installed a 1×6 board on the bottom to create a place for my vertical pieces to connect to. Then I used the old piece of baseboard to attached to the 1×6. However, the corer baseboards needed to be adjusted, since my new trim made the wall stick out by 3/4″ farther than before, which meant I had to have a slightly longer pieces of baseboard to make that connection. Luckily, I had a scrap of baseboard from an old project that I was able to cut to size and make everything fit.

DO: Sand, prime (if using wood that’s not primed, like I was), and then sand again. The second time, after priming, it’s a very quick sanding with a 220 grit, and can be done by hand or with a sander.

DON’T: skip this step! This really makes your paint shine!

DO: apply one coat of primer and two coats of paint – and you are done!

DON’T: tell anyone just how simple this little update really is!

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