How to Install a DIY Board and Batten Wall
A DIY board and batten wall can add depth and visual interest to your interior that's unachievable with ordinary painted drywall. While there are many DIY accent walls across the internet labeled "board and batten," a true board and batten wall feature narrow vertical battens covering the seams between wider vertical boards.
Often associated with farmhouse style, board and batten walls look great in several home styles, like modern, minimalistic, and coastal. While this exterior siding style started as an effective rain-shedding solution for exterior walls, it has made its way into interiors as a purely decorative element.
Before You Begin
To better understand the difference between traditional board and batten and the interior iteration we've outlined in this tutorial, we've broken them down below:
- Traditional Method: Traditional board and batten consist of installing vertical panel boards, then covering each seam with thin battens. The only reason you would opt for this method over the drywall method is if you were starting on a stud wall with no drywall installed or if you planned to leave the board and batten wall raw or stained rather than painted. Of course, this method is also ideal on an exterior.
- Over-Drywall Method: This method is outlined in the steps below. It treats your drywall as the wide boards in the board and batten look, rather than requiring the actual installation of boards. This makes the project more accessible by cutting costs and labor significantly. Because of this, this method is the most common method for interior walls.
Board and Batten Size and Spacing
Because the over-drywall method doesn't rely on the width of actual board seams for batten placement, you can really place them wherever. While placing 1x3 battens on 10- to 12-inch centers will yield the most traditional board and batten look, playing with the spacing can yield a better look that's more tailored to your space. For example, if you want a thicker batten such as a 1x4, which has an actual width of 3-1/2 inches, you'll likely want a larger space in between battens.
This will be dependent on the size of your wall and the look you're after. In a tighter space, it often looks better to opt for closer battens. However, on a large wall, spacing the battens more will keep the wall from looking too busy. In the same vein, thinner battens will look better in a smaller space, while wider ones will work in larger spaces. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules, and you can always adjust according to your preference.
How to Determine Your Board and Batten Spacing
While a quick online search will yield several calculators for determining your board and batten spacing—the easiest way is to decide how many spaces you want between the battens, then add one to this number to determine the number of battens needed. Once you determine this, input these numbers into the formula below.
Wall length in inches-(batten width X total number of battens) ÷ total number of spaces = space between battens
For example, here is what the formula would look like for a 15-foot wall with 15 spaces and 16 battens measuring 2-1/2 inches each:
180 inches - (16 x 2.5 inches) ÷ 15 = 9.33 inches
This means the battens will have 9-1/3 inches between them. Always round your number to the nearest 16th inch.
If your results of the formula yield too large of spaces between the battens, simply increase the number of battens and spaces in the formula until it yields a space width that you like. Likewise, if the spaces are too small, decrease the number of battens and spaces. Just make sure to add or subtract the same number from the battens and spacing when changing the formula. The number of battens should always be one more than the number of spaces.
Board and Batten vs. Wainscoting
Many people use the terms "board and batten" and "wainscoting" interchangeably. The main differentiation is that wainscoting typically describes a type of trim and paneling system that covers part of the wall, most often the lower third. Additionally, wainscoting can be done in a variety of styles such as beaded paneling, flat paneling, and stile and rail, which closely resembles board and batten.
What Wood to Use for Board and Batten
Premium pine (pine with no knots) is a great, economical option for an interior board and batten feature wall. But, if you'd like to upgrade the wood and still plan on painting it, poplar is an excellent choice. While the tight, unique grain isn't known for staining, it accepts paint very well and is easy to work with, even for amateur carpenters. Additionally, poplar is more impact-resistant than many pine options.
Another popular option for the painted board and batten walls are MDF (medium-density fiberboard), which. is very dimensionally stable and easy to work with. However, we don't recommend the use of MDF in areas with potential water exposure.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Miter saw
- Measuring tape
- Stud finder
- Level or laser level
- Utility knife
- Flat pry bar
- Brad nail gun
- Caulk gun
- Painting supplies
- 1x4 x 8' premium pine boards
- 1x3 x 8' premium pine boards
- 1x2 x 8' premium pine board (optional)
- 1-1/2" 16-gauge brad nails
- Latex caulk
- Construction adhesive
- 120-grit sanding block
- Raw wood primer
- Latex interior paint
How to Install a DIY Board and Batten Wall
Remove Existing Baseboard
Remove the existing baseboard and any other trim present on the wall. To do so, first, lightly score the caulk seam between the trim and the wall using a utility knife, then pry at each nail point using a flat bar.
Mark Wall for Horizontal Board
If you're installing a partial board and batten wall rather than a full wall, measure up from the floor the distance that you've specified for the wall to stop, then use a level to trace a horizontal line across the wall or set up a laser level representing the line on the wall.
If you're installing a full-height board and batten wall, simply mount the board against the ceiling.
Find and Mark Studs
Locate the studs using a stud finder and mark them at several points from the floor to the horizontal line for future reference. Your finish nails will not always land on studs, especially when securing the battens, but the construction adhesive will hold them in place once it dries.
Install Horizontal Board
Measure the length of your wall and cut a 1x4 to length. Apply a wavy bead of construction adhesive to the back of your board, then hold the top of the board against the line, press it against the wall, and fasten it using finished nails in the studs where possible.
Mount Top Trim (optional)
On a partial board and batten wall, you have the option of placing a decorative trim board on top of the upper horizontal board. To do so, cut a 1x2 to the exact length of the horizontal board. Place a small bead of construction adhesive along the top of the horizontal board, then place the 1x2 on top of the horizontal board with its edge overhanging and secure in place with brad nails.
Cut and install a 1x4 (or whatever board matches your baseboards) along the floor using construction adhesive and a brad nailer.
Install Corner Vertical Battens
Cut each corner board to length, apply a wavy bead of construction adhesive to the back, then nail it in place using a brad nailer.
Cut Spacer Board
To make quick work of mounting the vertical boards, use the formula above to determine the space between each batten, then cut a scrap board exactly to this length.
Cut and Mount Each Batten
Cut each batten to the length of the space between the two horizontal boards. Starting at one of the corner boards, slide the spacer board in place, then butt the edge of the batten against the end and mount it in place.
Continue this method on the top and bottom until you reach the other end of the wall. For extra holding power, apply a wavy bead of construction adhesive to the back of each batten.
There is a good chance your floor isn't perfectly level, especially in older homes. If that is the case, make sure you individually measure the length of each batten, rather than cutting them to one specific length.
Sand the Boards
Sand away any splintered edges or rough points, then lightly sand each board's edge to remove the sharp edge. This will add durability and help keep the edges from being creased as easily on impact.
Prime the Boards
Once all dust has been removed, prime the boards using a raw wood primer, following the manufacturer's instructions for application and re-coating, including sanding between coats if necessary.
Caulk the Joints
Caulk every single joint and fill any nail holes with caulk. If necessary, drive the nails further into the wood using a nail set.
Paint the Boards
Once the caulk has hardened, paint the boards and the wall with your desired paint color, applying as many coats as necessary for coverage.
How to Install a Stained Board and Batten Wall
If you desire to show off the wood grain of your board and batten wall, the installation process is similar, yet slightly more involved. The main difference is that, because you obviously can't stain drywall, you must either remove the drywall or cover it with wood.
Covering it with wood is the easiest route, but this can add nearly one inch of thickness to your board and batten wall. If that works for your space, simply cut panels using stain-grade plywood and install it over your drywall before following the steps above.
How to Care for a Board and Batten Wall
To keep your DIY board and batten wall looking its best for years to come, regularly clean it according to the paint manufacturer's guidance. Keep any leftover paint on hand for touch-ups in the future.
What kind of wood do you use for a board and batten wall?
You can use nearly any type of wood for an interior board and batten wall. Popular options include premium pine, poplar, and even MDF. For board and batten walls that won't be painted, hardwoods such as oak and maple are great options.
Is board and batten an easy DIY?
Installing board and batten in your home is an easy DIY project that nearly anyone can do. Once you figure out the best board and batten layout for your space, the installation process is quick and can be finished in one weekend.
Does board and batten go over drywall?
Board and batten can easily be installed over drywall in interiors that already have drywall installed. In most scenarios, it makes more sense to use the drywall as a backer and simply attach vertical battens to the wall. Once the entire feature wall is painted, the drywall behind the battens looks like boards.