There are a lot of different wooden trims and decorations that are used on walls and ceilings, including shiplap, beadboard, board and batten, wainscoting, panel molding, chair rail, and beadboard. But what’s the difference between all of them? Are shiplap and beadboard the same thing? And which is right for your home or project? I’ve spent years and years working with wood all around my home (tour all of our houses here!) – but it wasn’t until recently I really learned the difference between each type.
Shiplap and Board and Batten are two different wooden wall treatments. Shiplap refers to wooden boards of the same width with grooves that help each board fit together tightly, while board and batten refers to boards of different widths installed with space between, usually vertically.
But those two aren’t the only types, and to be honest, all the different options for wooden wall treatments can be confusing! That’s why I’m breaking down what shiplap, board and batten, panel molding, chair rail, wainscoting, and beadboard are, as well as how much each cost, and how hard they are to install.
Table of Contents
- What is Shiplap?
- What is Board and Batten?
- What is Panel Molding?
- What is Chair Rail?
- What is Wainscoting?
- What is Beadboard?
What is Shiplap?
Shiplap originally comes from the practice of overlapping boards with rabbet joints (grooves) to create a watertight seal by sailors when building ships, but most people today know about shiplap because of Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper.
You can tell a wall or ceiling is shiplap because of the even spacing of the boards and small gaps or reveals between each board. Often, shiplap is painted white, but there’s no rule that says its the only appropriate color.
Those rabbet joints are why there’s a small line between each board – though you can definitely fake it with MDF boards spaced slightly apart.
How much does shiplap cost?
Shiplap prices vary between $2.50 and $7.00 per square foot (if you’re using real boards), and can be even less if you’re using shiplap-like wallpaper or MDF boards. As with all things, use resources that are readily available close to you, and your costs will be lower.
How hard is shiplap to install?
Shiplap is very easy to install – there are no spacers involved, and the boards just stack one on top of the other. Painting can be a little more difficult when compared to drywall (or another smooth surface) since you have to get in the gaps, but it’s still quite easy. Even a beginner DIYer can install shiplap!
Where to buy shiplap
Many of the big box stores have started carrying shiplap if you’re looking for the real deal, but you can also pick up MDF and cut it into smaller strips to mimic the same look. Amazon has some really good shiplap-esque wallpapers, too.
Are Shiplap and Beadboard The Same Thing?
Shiplap and Beadboard are two very different materials – shiplap refers to wooden boards of the same width with grooves that help each board fit together tightly, while beadboard is a collection of narrow wooden planks of equal size, installed vertically, with grooves between each board (also known as the bead). While it can be installed board by board (which would make it easy to confuse with shiplap), it’s usually sold and installed in 4’x8′ sheets to save money and time.
What is Board and Batten?
Board and Batten refers to alternating boards of wide and narrow sizes. The boards are the thicker of the two, and the battens are the thinner. Usually, the boards are 12″ wide and the battens are 1/2″ wide, but not always. Board and batten is used in both exterior siding and interior paneling.
Board and batten originates from exterior siding, where craftsmen would layer the battens on top of siding boards to create better insulation – it’s actually often used in barn construction. It’s usually used in less formal styles, though that doesn’t mean it looks inexpensive!
How much does board and batten cost?
The cost to install board and batten depends – the more frequent the spacing, the more material you’ll use, and if you decide to skip the boards and install battens directly on top of drywall, the cost will be even less. Again, if you can, use locally sourced products to lower your overall investment.
The picture above refers to Angela’s board and batten project, where she covered a 10′ wall for only $84!
How hard is board and batten to install?
Board and batten is very easy to install, though not as foolproof as shiplap. You’ll want to be sure to keep a tape measure or template handy to ensure consistent spacing.
Where to buy board and batten
Board and batten isn’t so much something that you buy, but rather an installation technique for wood. If you’re okay with a little grain, consider using hardwood, and if you want a super smooth finish (which is my preference), MDF is a great choice.
What is Panel Molding?
Panel molding always makes me think of traditional, swanky rooms – it’s the slightly raised molding, usually found in squares and rectangles, that accent walls and frames out art perfectly. It is raised up off the wall, and adds depth. Usually, it’s made from wooden trim, but can be easily found in urethane too.
How much does panel molding cost?
Even though it looks expensive, panel molding is pretty affordable. That being said, it all depends on the type of trim you decide on and how many panels you want. If you use a simple square board, it’s going to be way less expensive compared to an ornate piece of trim, and the same can be said for the number of boards.
How hard is panel molding to install?
As long as you have a laser level and a decent miter saw, installing panel molding is pretty easy! I’d say it’s definitely a touch more difficult than other techniques on this list because of the miters, but still do-able.
Where to buy panel molding
Just like board and batten, panel molding isn’t something you can buy as a kit, but is more of a technique used with flat trim. In other words, you can use any flat trim as panel molding. If you’re looking to purchase trim to install panel molding, you can pick up all kinds from the big box stores. like these from Home Depot.
What is Chair Rail?
Chair rail usually refers to a single piece of molding installed about 30″ off the floor, right about the same height as most chair backs (which is how it got its name). It’s often found in late 1900s and early 2000s homes without any additional molding beneath the main chair rail.
My two cents on chair rail? It looks best when paired with other types of molding (like wainscoting, more about that next!) beneath the chair rail.
How much does chair rail cost?
Of all of the types of trim I’ve discussed so far, basic chair rail is by far the cheapest because it simply takes less material. Again, use local materials and more simple designs to cut down on cost, but because of how simple the design is, it’ll be a pretty inexpensive project overall.
How hard is chair rail to install?
Chair rail is very easy (and quick!) to install. The hardest part is the miters in the corners, but once you master that, you’re smooth sailing. Make sure you have a laser level on hand to help keep everything square.
Where to buy chair rail
You can pick up chair rail trim at every big box home improvement store out there – just find a flat piece of trim, and you’ve got chair rail! I tend to like thicker and more substantial chair rail rather than something thin.
What is Wainscoting?
Wainscoting is a combination of decorative wood paneling and trim that is usually installed on the lower third of a wall (under where a chair rail would go), though more modern installations can take it up all the way to the ceiling. The recessed shapes are usually square or rectangular in shape, and the whole installation is usually painted white, though there’s no rule that says you have to.
Wainscoting, like panel molding, can lean a little more traditional than modern, but it gives you a really stunning and expensive look.
How much does wainscoting cost?
Depending on the type of wainscoting you go for, and how much material you need, wainscoting can be somewhat expensive. The material cost alone, combined with a pro trim carpenter’s fees, makes it one of the most expensive options on this list.
How hard is wainscoting to install?
Because of the intricate nature of wainscoting, it can be more difficult to install than shiplap, beadboard, chair rail, etc. Unless I was going for a very simple design, I would probably say wainscoting is best left to professionals – and that’s coming from someone who REALLY loves DIYing pretty much everything. It definitely can be done by an amateur, but it will never look as good as a professional trim/finish carpenter’s work… there are just too many angles!
Where to buy wainscoting
If you do decide to go ahead with installing wainscoting yourself, you’ll want to head to the trim and sheet good aisles of your local home improvement store. You’ll likely need a combination of MDF for the raised panels and delicate trim for the recessed pieces.
You can also buy MDF panels that do all the hard trim work for you – like this one!
What is Beadboard?
Beadboard is a collection of narrow wooden planks of equal size, installed vertically, with grooves between each board (also known as the bead). While it can be installed board by board, it’s usually sold and installed in 4’x8′ sheets to save time.
To get the most luxury and/or historically accurate look, go for the thickest panels you can find – it’s not really about the thickness of the material, but rather the thickness of the beads/divots that make it look more convincing.
How much does beadboard cost?
Beadboard is one of the least expensive wood panelings available – if you go with the premade 4’x8′ sheets. The cost for a 4’x8′ panel is about $0.72 per square foot, which is quite inexpensive, especially compared to some of the pricier options like wainscoting or shiplap.
How hard is beadboard to install?
Because beadboard can come as a 4’x8′ sheet good, it’s very easy to install – though you’ll need a power tool like a jigsaw, circular saw, or table saw to trim the sections down to size. Other than that, you can either use construction adhesive to glue it to the wall or nail it into place with a finish nailer, which is both very easy to do and a great project for a beginning DIYer.
Where to buy beadboard
Beadboard panels are widely available at big box home improvement stores and are generally easy to find in stock. From experience, if you don’t have a truck, you’ll need to rent one to get the beadboard home – it won’t fit inside your car or minivan.
If I had the opportunity to install any of the wood paneling/accent walls from this list, I would choose board and batten over and over again – I love the modern feel and how it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to install.
|Type of Wood Trim / Paneling||Distinguishing Characteristics||Cost To DIY||Installation Difficulty|
|Shiplap||Evenly sized boards with small gaps in between||$$$||Very Easy|
|Board and Batten||Alternating wide and narrow boards placed equidistantly||$$||Easy|
|Panel Molding||Square or rectangular raised pieces of trim||$$||Easy/Medium, Depending on Trim Type|
|Chair Rail||A single piece of trim installed horizontally about 30″ off the floor||$||Very Easy|
|Wainscoting||Very dimensional combination of wood paneling and intricate trim, usually installed on the lower third of walls||$$$$||Medium/Difficult, Depending on Trim Type|
|Beadboard||Narrow wood planks of equal size, usually installed vertically, with grooves between each board (the beads)||$||Very Easy|
And if I could rid the world of any of these? (& remember this is just my OPINION – feel free to disagree with me!) It would be chair rail, closely followed by beadboard. While both of these had their time and place, they read dated and inexpensive now – they got overused in the McMansions of the late 90s/early 2000s, and just haven’t swung back into style yet. I’m sure in a few decades, they’ll be all the rage again!
I would love to add more trim below the chair rail in our dining room – I think it would really level up the space. But until then, I’ll make the most of what I have, and continue to dream about beautiful, beautiful wooden wall trims.