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Wainscoting vs Beadboard vs Board and Batten

Are you thinking of installing wainscoting but can’t decide which style? There are a variety of wainscoting styles available that will add depth and drama to any room. This guide will explain two different styles of wainscoting, board and batten and beadboard, what they look like, and a comparison of the two.

There are technically five main types of wainscoting styles: raised panel, flat panel, overlay, beadboard, and board and batten. Today, we will focus on the traditional wainscoting panels, beadboard, and board and batten.

It’s important to note that these wainscoting styles are more about the paneling patterns than the building materials. 

This wainscoting overview contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t recommend wholeheartedly. Read my full disclosure here.

Solid wood was the original paneling material for wainscoting projects. Now, there are a variety of other materials available, including vinyl, plastic, MDF, and plywood.

Installing paneling is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to add depth, drama, and a little extra style to any room. Most recently, shiplap (another paneling pattern) overtook the interior design world and was basically on any wall that would stand still. I still love this farmhouse look! It’s also a great example of how a few boards and panels can transform a space!

What is wainscoting?

Wainscoting is wood panels and/or trim that are installed on the bottom portion of the walls.

Contrary to popular belief, wainscoting itself isn’t a pattern of paneling. Instead, it’s the pattern installed that determines the style of wainscoting. Those patterns could be beadboard or board and batten in this example. The size, width, and direction in which the boards are installed differentiate between each pattern.

I love this modern style dining room image with wainscoting on the bottom half of wall with top half painted blue.
This easy-to-use wainscoting kit looks great in this modern dining room!

Traditionally, wainscoting paneling is installed on the lower half to one-third of the wall. This paneling usually stretches around the perimeter of the room. With traditional wainscoting, the paneling is finished with a horizontal chair rail as a visual cap across the top of the panels.

Recently, we installed wainscoting panels over drywall in our guest bathroom. It totally elevated the look and feel! (See picture below)

Wainscoting in a bathroom painted green with Behr's In The Moment next to the bathtub.

While installed as a decorative accent, wainscoting can also be used in high-traffic areas to protect the walls from scuff marks from chairs, furniture, and shoes. It’s also great for protecting the paint from sticky fingers. Additionally, wainscoting aids in soundproofing if needed.

Wainscoting feature painted white next to freestanding white bathtub.
Wainscoting panels add a touch of class to any room that they are installed in!

Traditionally, these panels are made of solid wood but are also available in plywood, plastic, and even MDF. Wooden panels can be stained and painted to achieve any decor style.

Use high-quality paint along with a primer or add a clear polyurethane finish over stained surfaces to easily wipe away marks, scuffs, and splatters easily. 

Related Reading: Check out these other DIY wainscoting ideas for more inspiration!

What is beadboard?

Beadboard is a style of paneling with a series of long, vertical grooves and ridges, spaced every inch or two. While there are varying widths available, the most noticeable difference between beadboard and other paneling styles is the more narrow width of the panels.

closeup of beadboard panel
Love the detail on these beadboard panels!

Originally, these were narrow, individual boards that were attached via tongue and groove. Now, you can purchase these as larger panels for a much easier installation.

Much like wainscoting, beadboard is used as a decorative accent and as protection against scuffs, chair backs, and other elements. 

Beadboard is usually installed on the lower portion of the wall; however, it’s also used as an accent on ceilings. It can even be used for wall-to-ceiling coverage. This style of paneling is typically associated with coastal and cottage-style decor.

Beadboard panels can be used in conjunction with wainscoting on the inside of the square or rectangles of the wainscoting.

One unique characteristic of beadboard is that you’ll often see it in a kitchen installed as a backsplash, like this gorgeous kitchen featured below.

What is board and batten?

Board and batten is frequently used on the interior and exterior of a home.

Inside, you will typically see board and batten installed from floor to ceiling to give the room depth and an element of drama as an accent wall.

Outside, board and batten is used as vertical or horizontal siding, like in the photo below.

This style of paneling is similar to shiplap paneling and gives any room or exterior a modern farmhouse vibe. I still love this look! It’s also a great example of how a few boards and panels can transform a space!

3/4 up the wall board and batten painted gray.
Love this beautiful board and batten wall from Angela Marie Made!

The great thing about board and batten panels is that they can be installed on textured walls. In fact, a “true” board and batten wall involves adding trim pieces to larger panels, then adding those directly to the wall. 

The “board” is a smooth board that is applied to the wall first. The “batten” are trim pieces that are added to the top of the boards with other vertical and horizontal pieces as decorative accents. 

Many of the tutorials show trim pieces added directly to the wall, which is definitely a very inexpensive way to install board and batten, but, that version doesn’t work on walls that are heavily textured or with varied backgrounds.

With the home improvement space exploding, many other patterns of board and batten have emerged. Some in rectangular shapes, squares, mosaics, and more. In some cases, you will see board and batten installed floor-to-ceiling on all four walls which adds major drama to the room!

Painting full length board and batten from floor to ceiling.

When we were planning the design of our modern farmhouse nursery, we used the Board and Batten paneling technique and painted it with this beautiful blue-green paint color!

Completed board and batten feature wall in nursery

Since we only did this on an accent wall, it was the perfect amount of visual interest we needed in the nursery. We loved the way it turned out!

Wainscoting vs beadboard

When looking at the difference between beadboard and wainscoting, keep in mind that beadboard is actually a style of wainscoting with a narrow, grooved, vertical pattern.

Traditionally, these boards were manufactured as thin, individual boards that were locked together with tongue and groove connections. 

Now, these boards are manufactured in large paneling sheets that make installation much easier but still give the illusion of individual boards.

Beadboard is also commonly installed on the ceiling for a coastal, beachy vibe (like this photo below). It reminds me a bit of when we put shiplap on the ceiling in our home office.

White board and batten on the ceiling and wainscoting on the wall below.
This room features beadboard on the ceiling and wainscoting on the walls down below! Love this design from Charleston Crafted.

Wainscoting vs board and batten

While wainscoting is usually installed on the lower ⅓ of the wall, the board and batten paneling style is oftentimes installed to the full height of the wall. This adds a lot of depth, severity, and drama to a room.

Board and batten is also utilized in outdoor spaces, including exterior siding. 

Beadboard vs board and batten

While beadboard and board and batten can be used in exterior and interior applications, beadboard is the only type of wainscoting that is sometimes installed as a ceiling accent.

Additionally, board and batten consist of wide vertical panels while beadboard consists of narrow panels of raised beads and grooves.

Comparison Table

FeatureWainscotingBeadboardBoard and Batten
DescriptionCategory of paneling that includes five main patterns or styles.Long, vertical grooves with raised beads and grooves spaced every 1-2 inches.Trim pieces are installed on large, flat panels. Then, attached to the wall.
Height on WallLower ½ to ⅓ of the wallLower ⅓ of the wall, sometimes to the ceilingUp to the full height of the wall.
Where to InstallUse on entryways (mudrooms, foyers), stairways, halls, eating areas, living areas, formal dining rooms, other high-traffic areas, etc.Ceiling, walls, backsplash, common in bathroomsExterior siding, accent walls, hallways
Decor styleTraditional, Formal, All Decor StylesCoastal, CottageFarmhouse, Modern, Traditional
Interior or Exterior?InteriorBothBoth
PurposeDecorative accent, covers existing damage and protects walls from chair backs, footwear, and other elements. Insulates and soundproofs room.Decorative accent, covers existing damage and protects walls from chair backs, footwear, and other elements. Insulates and soundproofs room.Decorative accent, covers existing damage and protects walls from chair backs, footwear, and other elements. Insulates and soundproofs room.

Installing paneling is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to add visual interest to any room. Plus, you can do it over a weekend!

Which wainscoting paneling style will you try?

Let us know in the comments below!

Hallway looking into living space with wainscoting on the wall and text overlay

2 thoughts on “Wainscoting vs Beadboard vs Board and Batten

  1. This is one of the best posts (articles?) of any subject I’ve read. Detailed to the point that it answered all my questions.

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