Published July 20, 2012

It used to be that wainscotting was traditionally used to prevent older homes from the notorious “rising damp”. Rising damp occurred in many older homes and buildings when water from the ground would make its way up vertically through a permeable wall surface and damage the wall. Many homeowners would try to camouflage this by adding something called wainscotting.

Wainscotting is defined as any wood paneling that is applied to the lower section of an interior wall. Over the years it is still being used by many builders as a way of decorating a wall and preventing furniture from scratching and damaging the interior surface. Today, wainscotting can be found in all homes ranging from traditional to modern and many different variations may be applied depending on the desired look.

So, why use wainscotting in your home? Well, some experts will say that not only does wainscotting protect your lower part of the wall but it also visually breaks up the wall space as well. It adds interest and texture to the space and can be used as a means of adding an additional colour to the room. A general rule of thumb is to run it at one-third, two-thirds or three quarters of the wall’s height.

Traditional wainscotting consists of either a painted bead board or rectangular/square panel moulding below a chair rail. If you are interested in a cottage and rustic look, you may want to try the painted bead board wainscotting that is finished with a ledge or plate rail that can also be used to display small decorative items. Often the wall above is painted in a different colour or wallpapered to add even more texture.

Another alternative is the more classic look of the shaped panel mouldings. This has a very traditional and more formal appearance. The pieces of moulding are cut and fit together to form any shape. The lower wall, panels and chair rail are usually painted in a contrasting colour to the upper wall. Experts agree that this is a nice way to add height to your wall and visually raise the ceiling.

Faux wainscotting is another less expensive and easier way to achieve the same look. Basically you will achieve the same look for half the cost. Plain walls are simply decorated with a chair rail (usually positioned at 3 feet above the floor) and a floor moulding and the upper and lower portions of the wall are painted a different colour.

More modern interiors are using tile, slate and other stones as a form of wainscotting as well. The general effect is achieved with many different forms of materials available today.