Add character to a builder basic living room by installing a board and batten wall treatment! Follow the step by step DIY tutorial — it’s easier than you think!
Of all of the rooms in our house, the living room is the one that was the most intimidating to me when it came to decorating. It started out as this big, blank white box and was just empty!
It still felt so empty even after we had put in our furniture that the day after we moved in, I had Donnie run to IKEA to buy the matching love seat for our sofa just so it wouldn’t look so sad and bare! Eventually we filled it up bit by bit, and here is what the living room looked like after a few months in our house:
It was getting better, but it still needed a little something. I had known that I wanted to put a board and batten treatment on the walls almost as soon as we moved in.
We built our house with a community builder (It’s the Palermo model by Ryan Homes.) so it started out pretty generic, and I knew that board and batten would be a great way to add some of that character that we were craving.
But getting situated in a new house takes time and comes with a lot of projects, so putting up board and batten wasn’t exactly at the tippy top of the priority list.
But now that we’ve completed some of our highest priority projects (like the boys’ room, the kitchen, and my office!), we finally made time to get around to the board and batten in the living room, and I could not be more thrilled!
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How to Install a Board and Batten Wall Treatment
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Before I dive in to the process, I feel like I should mention that ours is actually a “faux” board and batten treatment, meaning that we used the wall as our base rather than putting flat boards over the wall and placing the “batten” over top. Since our walls are not textured, this worked just fine for us and was much easier than adding an extra layer.
Step 1- Gather Board and Batten Wall Supplies
We used the following supplies for our project:
- Windsor One Baseboards
- Windsor One Headerstop
- 1/4 primed flatstock – from any home improvement store or lumberyard
- 18 gauge brad nailer
- Stud finder
- Miter saw
- Tape measure
Step 2- Decide how you to handle the baseboards.
One of the first things we had to decide was if we would use the existing baseboards or rip them out and put in new ones. We didn’t mind the look of our previous baseboards, but since they were narrower than the vertical boards we would be attaching to the wall, the vertical boards would hang over the top rather than butting up against them neatly.
(This photo of Donnie installing our craftsman style window trim was the clearest shot I could find of our previous baseboard. You can see how it narrowed at the top, which would make our vertical boards hang out over it.)
When installing board and batten, should I use the existing baseboards or rip them out?
There are ways to use the existing baseboards when installing board and batten without having to remove them. But in some scenarios, removing the baseboards altogether may be preferable.
For example, we were able to keep our existing baseboards with the board and batten wall in our townhouse bedroom by cutting the bottom of the vertical boards at an angle so they wouldn’t look as blunt hanging over the baseboard. In that situation, though, most of the vertical boards were behind pieces of furniture, so our little “hack” wasn’t obvious.
photo from our townhouse master bedroom, with the vertical board cut at an angle next to the baseboard
In our current living room where it would be easier to see the intersection of the vertical boards and the baseboard, though, we decided to rip out the existing baseboards and use much taller craftsman style baseboards from WindsorOne. These baseboards were more square than our previous ones, allowing the vertical board to rest perfectly against the baseboard.
Once we removed the existing baseboards and added the new ones, we could start installing the board and batten.
Step 3- Decide what type of trim pieces to use.
This step will generally happen in tandem with selecting baseboards. It’s important to choose pieces that work well together.
Which type of boards should I use when installing a board and batten wall treatment?
For all of the board and batten trim, we decided to use standard 1×4 primed flat stock. This can be found at just about any home improvement store or lumberyard. We felt it was the perfect width for the look we were going for.
Along with the flat stock, we topped off the highest horizontal row with a header stop trim piece from Windsor One to create a little ledge and make it looked more finished. We attached this piece with wood glue and 1/2″ brads.
Step 4- Plan out the design of the board and batten.
There are many different factors to consider when deciding on a board and batten design that will suit your specific space.
How high should board and batten be?
This is more of a personal preference, but I’m happy to share the thought process we went through when choosing the height of our board and batten.
We knew we didn’t want to cut the room exactly in half because that can make the space feel a bit choppy. When I was looking at [hundreds and hundreds of] photos of board and batten, I kept finding myself being drawn to higher wall treatments, so we decided to go about 2/3 up the wall with our board and batten, with the top of our upper horizontal board at 6’4″. (We have 9′ ceilings.)
While we were thinking about the placement of the upper horizontal board, we also had to think about the placement of the lower horizontal board. We ran into some limitations with this lower board because it couldn’t go straight through the area where our light switches were located. After trying many different configurations, the top of the lower horizontal board ended up at 4’10”.
How far apart should I space my vertical boards when installing a board and batten wall treatment?
Spacing the vertical boards can be a little tricky because there are typically several “obstacles” that you have to account for– windows, outlets, cable hookups, and other things that may get in the way.
Again, the spacing of the verticals is largely based on personal preference. We first figured out what the spacing would be if we divided our wall into even sections, then checked to make sure our vertical boards wouldn’t be hitting any obstructions and made adjustments if necessary. There are 25.5″ between the boards on the window wall…
And 34.5″ between the boards on the love seat wall:
Step 5- Install the board and batten pieces.
Once we had double and triple checked our design plan, we were ready for installation! It was actually a fairly straightforward process.
What is the best way to attach boards to the wall with board and batten?
Once we had decided on the height of our horizontal boards, we used a pencil and a level to mark a line all the way around the room. Donnie installed both horizontal rows with a brad nailer, making sure he found many studs.
He used wood glue and a mitered cut to join two boards together when one board wasn’t long enough to stretch the length of the wall. The vertical rows were then attached using the brad nailer as well.
Step 6- Prep and paint the board and batten wall.
Prepping for painting sounds easy, but it can be a tedious task. It was important to take our time and pay close attention to detail so that the finished product looked smooth and seamless.
After all of the boards for board and batten are in place, how do you prep them for painting?
Once all of the boards were installed, Donnie used spackling to fill in nail holes and any gaps larger than 1/8″. After the spackling had dried, he lightly sanded it and then used caulking to fill the small gaps and the areas where the boards butted up against the wall. Then we were ready for paint!
We have always done all of our painting ourselves, but we were bringing in a painter to paint our stairwell (which is high and very scary and would have probably sent me to the ER with broken limbs if I had tried to paint it myself!) anyway, so we had him paint the living room and kitchen while he was at it, and he did an amazing job!
(If you are in the Pittsburgh, PA area and are looking for a painter, we highly recommend Jason from Artistry Homes!)
My friends at Behr were kind enough to provide my favorite paint for this project– the top of the space is Behr Marquee Silver City in an eggshell finish, and the bottom is Behr Marquee Cameo White in a satin finish.
Step 7- Enjoy your new board and batten!
I finally feel like the room has lost the stark, bare look that it always had before and is starting to feel more cozy and welcoming! I still need to add some wall decor and little accessories, but this space is very nearly finished! Woohoo!
Let’s take a look at some before and after shots:
Board and Batten Wall DIY: Frequently Asked Questions
Yippee! I’m interested to hear if you’ve ever taken on a board and batten project! If you have any additional tips or tricks to add, please share in the comments below!
Have a great day!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.