In this post: Learn how to install inexpensive board and batten in your home. This affordable, quick and easy accent wall looks great in bedrooms, and living rooms too.


We’ve installed board and batten before. Several times actually.

The first time was in our little bungalow where we added it to cozy up a large addition at the back of the house and break up some long wall space. You can see a snippet of it on the small wall in the photo below. 

The second time we installed board and batten was in our last house’s dining room turned living room

In those first two installations, we used thicker MDF or pine as the battens. 

We also installed board and batten in our recent basement bathroom makeover. 

basement bathroom after

And in our guest bedroom. 

iron headboard tufted bench guest bed

For the last couple of installations, we were really trying to spend as little as possible, so we got extra creative! In the bathroom and guest room, we used thinner plywood (just like we did for our shiplap wall and backsplash) cut into narrow strips. 

Technically, no matter how you do faux board and batten, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to add character to a space.

What is Board and Batten?

Board and batten is traditionally a type of outdoor siding that uses narrow pieces of wood called battens over the seams of the boards underneath. This creates a more energy-efficient siding because it covers any gaps.

Board and batten siding is sometimes called barn siding because so many barns in North America are built with it. 

For the last several years, the look has been replicated indoors as a type of indoor wall treatment using only the battens attached to the wall at the desired intervals. 

Indoors board and batten is a simple and economical way for do-it-yourselfers to add style, visual texture, and character to a room. 

What is the Difference Between Wainscoting and Board and Batten

While both are used as wall treatments, and often used interchangeably in some areas, wainscoting and board and batten are differnt things. 

Wainscoting is traditionally a type of wall treatment that involves the bottom third of the wall and mitered squares of trim work below a chair rail. While board and batten is generally thin, vertical strips of wood installed on a wall from the top of the baseboard to whatever height you choose. 

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting Board and Batten

  • Read multiple tutorials, but only follow one. Otherwise, you may become confused or overwhelmed. 
  • Inspect your wood BEFORE having it cut to avoid any warped or unexpected bends. 
  • While it is an easy project, it is time-consuming to measure precisely and then install all those individual battens. 

Why You’ll Love This Project

  • Simple and doesn’t require any specialized skills
  • Perfect for the beginner DIYer
  • Adds character and depth for little money

Board and Batten Materials

As I mentioned, we have installed board and batten numerous times. And each time we did it a little differently. In general though, for most applications you will need:

  • 1″×4″ primed MDF boards (top board)
  • 1″×3″ primed MDF boards (battens)
  • 1″×2″ primed MDF boards (optional top ledge)
  • wood filler/spackle 
  • paint
  • 2″ nails for your brad nailer
be our guest dresser

For the guest bedroom installation, the baseboard, and top trim piece were already in place, so we used:

  • 8′ x 4′ x 5/8″ plywood sheet, ripped into 1.5-inch strips (how many sheets you need depends on how large your room is and how wide you cut your battens)
  • wood filler/spackle 
  • paint
  • 1″ nails for your brad nailer 
green board and batten detail in bathroom with hooks on horizontal boards

For the bathroom installation, we used:

  • 1″×4″ primed MDF boards (top board)
  • 8′ x 4′ x 5/8″ plywood sheet, ripped into 1.5-inch narrow wooden strips (how many sheets you need depends on how large your room is and how wide you cut your battens)
  • wood filler/spackle 
  • paint
  • 2″ nails for the brad nailer (for the top board)
  • 1″ nails for the brad nailer (for the battens)

Tools

  • measuring tape
  • stud finder
  • pencil
  • table saw
  • miter saw (optional)
  • brad nailer/nail gun
  • three-foot level
  • paint brushes, rollers, and trays
  • painter’s tape

How to Install Board and Batten

Board and batten is really simple to install and there’s no need to get fancy. 

Optional: Remove existing baseboards from the wall

If you are planning to install new baseboards, remove them before installing the board and batten treatment. 

See this article for how to remove baseboards

We typically don’t remove the existing baseboard for this DIY project.

  • When we use plywood, because it’s so thin, it fits well with almost any existing trim or baseboard – especially the cheaper, thinner baseboard found in many homes.  
  • When we use primed MDF, Dean would chamfer the bottom edge so it blended into the baseboard at the bottom, as seen on the bottom right in the below image: 

Optional: Install new baseboard

If you need to install new baseboards, do this before you install your board and batten wall treatments. 

See this article for how to install and finish baseboards

empty room painting

Paint the walls

Of course, before we could begin any faux board and batten installation, we had to empty the space and give the walls a couple of coats of paint. 

It’s much easier to paint the walls before the battens are installed, and then simply paint the battens after they’re installed, filled, and caulked. 

Place the top boards first

In the guest bedroom, there was already a top board present. But in all our other installations we had to install a top board. 

To do so, choose how high up you want your board and batten to go. Half the height of the wall? Two-thirds? Three quarters? All the way to the top? This is 100% a matter of personal choice or personal preference. 

Then cut and install your top boards around the room, using a level and a brad nailer or nail gun. Be sure to affix this top board to studs in several places. 

Mark where the battens will go

Decide how far apart you’d like your battens. We spaced ours 18 inches apart (on center).

Find the center of each wall and mark the top of the wall every 18 inches (or however far apart you’re spacing your battens, in both directions.

This way there would be a center batten and everything would be well-placed should we want to hang art or mirrors later. 

measuring to cut battens

Measure and Cut Vertical Battens

For the battens, rip plywood down to 1 1/2 inches wide or us 1×2 or 1×3 primed MDF pieces.

When cutting battens measure one wall at a time and cut the ‘battens’ to the correct length as you go. Your floors and walls will never be level enough for all the battens to be the exact same cut length. 

Note: Cut around any obstacles like electrical outlets, light switches, etc. or adjust your spacing to avoid those. 

leveling battens

Nail battens to the wall

Line one batten at a time up with the marked pencil lines.

Then nail in a single nail at the top. This allows the batten to be fixed to the wall, while still allowing for some movement to make it straight by checking it with the three-foot level before adding any more nails.

Once a batten is level, add more nails as necessary and repeat the process for every batten. 

(Optional) Add a Shelf Detail to the Top Board

If you’d like to add additional detail, you can add an additional 1×2 flat on the top of the top board. 

To do this, run a generous amount of liquid nails or glue along the top edge and then use your nailer to attach the MDF down onto the top board. 

(Optional) Add a Decorative Piece of Trim

If you’d like you can add a decorative piece of chair rail or other trim to the top board tucked right upright under the top shelf. 

Simply choose a style, measure and cut the correct length and then attach with liquid nails and finishing nails. 

Caulk Gaps and Wood Fill Knots and Nail Holes

Use wood filler (if you used wood) or spackle (if you used MDF) to fill in all the nail holes. Let dry according to the package directions and then sand lightly. Wipe with a tack cloth if necessary. 

Then caulk all the seams. Like ALL of them. This is where the project is time consuming – but the caulking makes it smooth and seamless and like it was a totally custom and expensive job. Let the caulking dry/cure as long as directed on the package. 

painting battens

Paint 

If you didn’t paint the wall before installing the battens, now is the time to do so. We usually paint the wall before we add the battens. So of course, we paint the battens to match the wall.

Use a roller for the wall and the front of the battens and a brush to get into the seams and all those corners. 

If you need help choosing a paint color for your board and batten walls, visit our How to Choose Paint Colors article. 

frogtape protecting baseboard
frogtape peeling off
be our guest corner

Installation Tips

  • If you’re doing this installation in an entire room, make sure to calculate the spacing between battens by wall to avoid awkward corners and meetups. 
  • Measure and cut each batten individually, as mentioned, because each wall will likely be a little different so each batten will need to be a different height. 
  • Always use a level to make sure each batten is level and true. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is board and batten outdated?

No! You can make it look as modern as desired based on the way you paint it and how you furnish the room. 

Is DIY board and batten hard to install yourself?

If you follow a single tutorial that you are comfortable with, nope!

How much space do you leave in between boards?

This is personal preference and often based on eye balling spacing. We will often tape a few battens up on the wall with painters tape to get a visual idea. 

How high should a board and batten be?

This is totally personal preference. It doesn’t matter at all and there are no rules for this. 

Can you do board and batten on textured walls?

You absolutely can! We did it in our last home’s dining room turned living room and it worked out beautifully. 

Of course, you could smooth out the walls first if desired or install a thin piece of drywall or wood over the textured walls if you wanted. 

How much does board and batten cost to add to an interior wall?

This project can cost anywhere from $50 to $300 depending on which materials you use and how fancy you get with it. Of course, even on the high end, this is still a very economical project in the big scheme of projects. 

What kind of lumber is best?

You can use pine boards, MDF boards or plywood boards (ripped down to desired size).

white sectional ikea
How to Install Board and Batten

How to Install Board and Batten

Yield: one roomful of board and batten!

Learn how to install inexpensive board and batten in your home. This affordable, quick and easy accent wall looks great in bedrooms, and living rooms too.

Materials

  • 1″×4″ primed MDF boards (top board)
  • 1″×3″ primed MDF boards (battens)
  • 1″×2″ primed MDF boards (optional top ledge)
  • wood filler/spackle
  • paint
  • 2″ nails for your brad nailer

Tools

  • measuring tape
  • stud finder
  • pencil
  • table saw
  • miter saw (optional)
  • brad nailer/nail gun
  • three-foot level
  • paint brushes, rollers, and trays
  • painter’s tape

Instructions

  1. Optional: Remove existing baseboards from the wall. If you are planning to install new baseboards, remove them before installing the board and batten treatment.
  2. Optional: Install new baseboard. If you need to install new baseboards, do this before you install your board and batten wall treatments.
  3. Paint the walls. Of course, before we could begin any faux board and batten installation, we had to empty the space and give the walls a couple of coats of paint. It’s much easier to paint the walls before the battens are installed, and then simply paint the battens after they’re installed, filled, and caulked.
  4. Place the top boards first. In the guest bedroom, there was already a top board present. But in all our other installations we had to install a top board. To do so, choose how high up you want your board and batten to go. Half the height of the wall? Two-thirds? Three quarters? All the way to the top? This is 100% a matter of personal choice or personal preference. Then cut and install your top boards around the room, using a level and a brad nailer or nail gun. Be sure to affix this top board to studs in several places.
  5. Mark where the battens will go. Decide how far apart you’d like your battens. We spaced ours 18 inches apart (on center). Find the center of each wall and mark the top of the wall every 18 inches (or however far apart you’re spacing your battens, in both directions. This way there would be a center batten and everything would be well-placed should we want to hang art or mirrors later.
  6. Measure and Cut Vertical Battens. For the battens, rip plywood down to 1 1/2 inches wide or us 1×2 or 1×3 primed MDF pieces. When cutting battens measure one wall at a time and cut the ‘battens’ to the correct length as you go. Your floors and walls will never be level enough for all the battens to be the exact same cut length. Note: Cut around any obstacles like electrical outlets, light switches, etc. or adjust your spacing to avoid those.
  7. Nail battens to the wall. Line one batten at a time up with the marked pencil lines. Then nail in a single nail at the top. This allows the batten to be fixed to the wall, while still allowing for some movement to make it straight by checking it with the three-foot level before adding any more nails. Once a batten is level, add more nails as necessary and repeat the process for every batten.
  8. (Optional) Add a Shelf Detail to the Top Board. If you’d like to add additional detail, you can add an additional 1×2 flat on the top of the top board. To do this, run a generous amount of liquid nails or glue along the top edge and then use your nailer to attach the MDF down onto the top board.
  9. (Optional) Add a Decorative Piece of Trim. If you’d like you can add a decorative piece of chair rail or other trim to the top board tucked right upright under the top shelf. Simply choose a style, measure and cut the correct length and then attach with liquid nails and finishing nails.
  10. Caulk Gaps and Wood Fill Knots and Nail Holes. Use wood filler (if you used wood) or spackle (if you used MDF) to fill in all the nail holes. Let dry according to the package directions and then sand lightly. Wipe with a tack cloth if necessary. Then caulk all the seams. Like ALL of them. This is where the project is time consuming – but the caulking makes it smooth and seamless and like it was a totally custom and expensive job. Let the caulking dry/cure as long as directed on the package.
  11. Paint. If you didn’t paint the wall before installing the battens, now is the time to do so. We usually paint the wall before we add the battens. So of course, we paint the battens to match the wall. Use a roller for the wall and the front of the battens and a brush to get into the seams and all those corners.

Notes

  • See the blog post for important notes and images.
  • If you’re doing this installation in an entire room, make sure to calculate the spacing between battens by wall to avoid awkward corners and meetups.
  • Measure and cut each batten individually, as mentioned, because each wall will likely be a little different so each batten will need to be a different height.
  • Always use a level to make sure each batten is level and true.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Have you ever installed board and batten in your house?

shannon pixie photo and signature

home made lovely book on table with get it now text button

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7 Comments

  1. Quick question. It sounds like you painted the battens after you painted the wall. I’m just wondering if that created more paint in the wall areas near the batten vs. the wall that is further away? I’m not sure if I’m explaing this right. Just wondering if it might be better to either paint the wall and batten at the same time or to paint the batten before hanging it up? I’m a complete newbie and have never painted a wall in my life, but your pictures are inspiring me to try. Forgive me if my question is wacky. Thank you and the room looks fabulous!