Wainscot a Wall
Step 2: Getting Support: Meet the Nailers
Unfortunately, you can't nail wainscot to drywall or plaster without a nailer, such as 1 × 4. Instead, to hold the wainscot closer to the wall, we used 1⁄2"-thick strips of recycled hardwood molding, although 6" strips of 1⁄2" plywood would also work.
To find the studs for attaching the nailer, don't be afraid to drill through the plaster—after all, you'll be hiding the holes!
Countersink the screw heads flush to the nailer so the wainscot lies flat. Screw the top nailer to the studs, using screws that get at least 1" of “purchase,” or grab, on the stud. We used 2" screws (1⁄2" nailer + 1⁄2" drywall + 1" purchase = 2").
If the baseboard is the same thickness as the top nailer, baseboard can serve as the bottom nailer. Remove the base shoe and nail the bottom of the wainscot to the baseboard. Otherwise, remove the baseboard and screw the bottom nailer to the studs, as before.
Because this wainscot was in a bathroom, we stopped it 1⁄2" above the floor, to keep the wood dry. Although that's unconventional, the gap is hardly noticeable.
Screw a nailer to the studs, using one screw per stud. Nails are weaker and harmful to the wall.
Step 3: Nails, Anybody?
The preliminaries are over, and it's time to nail the wainscot. These suggestions will help get it right:
To prevent the hammer from slipping off the nail heads, clean the hammer face with sandpaper.
Attach the wainscot with 1" panel nails. They have rings for a good grip, and if you choose the right color, they will almost disappear on the finished wall.
Pre-drill holes in hardwood wainscot.
Don't try to hide nails by nailing through the underlap: This risks splitting.
Place the upper nails about 1 1⁄2" from the top, where they will be covered by the chair rail (the top molding).
Cut the last board by scribing: Hold the board vertical and place it against the corner. Measure the overlap on the next-to-last board. Set the divider to this dimension, scribe the last board, and cut with a jigsaw.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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