Maximum Style, Minimal Effort

Originally used in the 18th century as a way to protect walls from moisture or to disguise existing water damage, wainscoting has transformed through history from utilitarian finish to opulent interior design and, regrettably, to eyesore (think flimsy 1970s “wood” paneling).

Thankfully, skilled carpenters have elevated the art of decorative wall finishes to its former glory. And while many craftsmen take steps to build wainscoting from scratch on site, one former remodeler has developed a product that takes much of the labor and expense out of the wainscoting installation process.

“Traditional wainscoting had been lost to the remodeling industry because people considered it expensive and unattainable,” says Michael Yedowitz, founder of Wainscot Solutions . “We decided to create a way for people to get their hands on this design element at a reasonable price while maintaining authenticity and high expectations of style.”

Created in 2005, Wainscot Solutions offers professionals and homeowners a system that simplifies the wainscoting process. Rather than building wainscoting panels on-site, customers can provide the company with detailed measurements of their room and Wainscot Solutions will custom-build a series of wainscoting panels in its factory. After approval by the customer, fully assembled panels are sent to the jobsite and carpenters can then install them in the space at an improved speed, lowering costs.

Step 1: A combination of tongue-and-groove joinery, hidden pocket screws, and glued assembly is used to custom-build each panel. The pocket screws reduce the amount of prep work required before the panels are painted.
Step 2: Panels are constructed of ultralight MDF. Customers can opt for factory finishing with a noformaldehyde, low-VOC paint.
Step 3: Because no special carpentry skills are required for installation, the system makes decorative wall finishes accessible to remodelers who may not have attempted wainscoting before. Cost and labor savings will vary by room and panel style, but customers can potentially save days of installation time and as much as $1,000 on an average dining room project.

—Lauren Hunter, associate editor, REMODELING.

Michael Partenio

Common Wainscot Options

Traditionally, wainscoting served both an aesthetic function and protected the lower part of the wall. In many historical interiors, furniture would be stored against the wall until needed, resulting in nicks and dents in the plaster surface. Wood wainscoting provided the perfect solution for a more durable finish and a unifying design element.

The style of the wainscot and trim should match the design of the house. There are many variations, of course, but here are a few of the basic characteristics.

—Dick Kawalek, a registered architect for more than 30 years, is founder of Kawalek Architects, in Cleveland; [email protected].