I’m so excited to share my first big DIY in our new home! A year ago, we purchased a new home that had a ton of space for our family and SO MUCH potential. It was, however, stuck in 1996- equipped with peach walls, popcorn ceilings, brass EVERYTHING, and almond colored tile, outlets, switches, and toilets! Right when we moved in we repainted the entire main floor and put in a new foyer light.
When I was ready for something more serious, I decided to start in the dining room because it was a relatively small space and I didn’t think I could mess it up too terribly. I decided on a wood feature wall, new wall color, a pretty light, and finally some real dining room furniture.
Let’s first start with a look at the room before.
I considered many wood feature wall options, searched Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration, and eventually landed on the traditional board and batten. It looked simple enough (oh boy would I learn) and relatively inexpensive. I decided to give it a try after reading approximately 876 “easy board and batten” tutorials.
First things first, what style did I want? Half way up the wall or more? I went back and forth on this one for a bit but finally landed on just a TINY more than half way up, you know, split the difference. Then the decisions kept on coming: use real wood or MDF? Primed wood or raw? Replace the baseboards or leave? Big spacing or small spacing? Once I set my choices, which actually took 2 weeks because I over analyzed it, I was finally able to purchase my supplies
My Supply List:
- 7: 1 x 6 x 8 ft primed pine
- 20: 1 x 4 x 8 ft primed pine
- 4: 1 x 2 x 12 ft primed pine
- 4 tubes of painting caulk
- DryDex Spackling and Nail Hole Filler
- 3M Edge Detailing Sanding Sponge
- 1 Gallon of White Paint (satin)
- 1 Gallon of Blue Metal Paint by Behr (eggshell- because I have kids)
- Miter Saw (Depending on the width of your boards, you might need a 12 in)
- 12-in 80 Tooth Saw Blade (DO NOT cheap out on this step, I did at first and regretted it immensely)
- Caulk spreading tool
- Nail Gun and Air Compressor
Step 1: Remove Existing Baseboards
I decided to remove the existing baseboards after trying to figure out a good way to blend my 1 inch boards with 3/4 inch thick baseboards. I tried to blend them on an angle too but ditched that as well.
Step 2: Install New Bottom Baseboards
I started this process by installing all the new baseboards first. This was relatively simple to complete with easy cuts and leveling. I started cutting the boards on a 45 for the corners when connecting them but I didn’t see the value (real carpenters cover your ears). I did however keep the 45s when joining outside corners. One thing I wish I had done differently here is to had bought a 12 foot 1×4 for my long wall because even the slightest mistake in leveling threw it off.
Step 3: Measure and Install Top Boards
I measured up the wall and found how tall I wanted the wood to go and then secured my 1x6s at the top. My long wall got me again! When I installed the top boards, I thought it was level enough when the bubble was technically in the middle of my level but not exact. I’m here to tell you friends, make sure it is PERFECT the first time. After looking at it for a few hours I realized it was going to throw the whole thing off and so I removed and tried again.
Step 4: Measure, Space, Measure, Space, Go Crazy, and Install Vertical Boards
This is where the project gets difficult. TAKE YOUR TIME. I struggled with spacing and it felt like I was doing an SAT problem. Spoiler alert: I failed miserably. Every tutorial did it differently and nothing related to my room with different sized walls and a number of obstacles on each (like 7 outlets and a window). I tired planning it by hand, measuring the wall, accounting for board thickness, using a template but nothing seemed to work.
I started with my small walls and those were easy peasey, not a lot of option here.
After a little trial and error on my shorter/longer wall, I finally got it. This happened simply by cutting the boards to vertical size and manually placing them and adjusting/measuring until they were right. The placement on this wall helped set the spacing for the longer wall.
My bad case of perfectionism paralyzed me on the long wall until I gave in and called my friends from House on Henderson to come help. To add insult to injury, my vertical boards all ended up being slight variations in length along this longer wall, likely because my spacing of the horizontal boards was ever so slightly off. Another possibility is that my cuts were not exact every time, even when I was measuring the same, my blade placement was off. That is where I started to get sloppy, thinking that I could easily calk and fill in areas of imperfection from my cuts (BAD DECISION GINA!). I was worried about wasting material BUT had I’d taken my time to perfect this step, I would’ve saved so much time on the back end. In hindsight I likely should have had all the vertical boards cut to the exact same length and then installed in this order: bottom/base boards, vertical boards, top boards. That truth bomb is useless to me now, but hopefully helps you.
The last challenge this wall brought was waviness where the wall bowed back in between the studs. This caused my vertical boards to sink back pass the top and bottom boards. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS prioritize a flat flush front. When I realized these were off, I should have stopped and bought shims, sliding them in between the board and the wall. This was the second critical mistake that doubled the time of my project.
My last mistake in this section was having too much fun with the nail gun/not using the right type of nail gun. I should have used a Brad Nailer, a bump guard, or maybe just not 100 nails in each board. The pneumatic nail gun recoils with every shot and makes a mark bigger than the nail head. Again every single imperfection on board an batten needs to be fixed to get that clean sleek look.
Step 5: Add a Top Ledge
The last boards to add are on the top ledge. Using the 1x2x12s I placed them on the top to add a little dimension. These little boards added so much character. I considered other detail trim but decided to leave that for another day.
Step 6: Caulk and Fill
Oh how I underestimated this step! Because of all the short cuts I took, this step was a doozy. Filling the spaces between the boards and the walls was so fun and relaxing!! I used this tool and had a good time.
The part that stunk was trying to fill the nail gun holes and patch ALL the seams and board intersections. I started with caulk and then moved to a plastic wood filler. EVERY time it dried, it shrank and was no longer perfect. I actually finished priming the walls after using the wood filler, only to realize that too shrank and I had to start over. Because I was painting this white, I decided to use joint compound after crowd souring some ideas from my friends. Time savings tip number 3, had I used the joint compound to fill the seams and nail holes the first time, I’d have saved HOURS.
Once I primed, I realized how important making all the board flush really was. Those little ledges stuck out like a sore thumb and I hated it. I finally figured out a method that helped me achieve that seamless look I wanted. I had to fill the gaps in with joint compound very carefully. Using the tube, I’d layer a bead of compound in the gap, and then use a metal puddy knife to square it off on the front and each side (plastic puddy knife will not work, trust me, I tried). Be more liberal than what you might need, you’ll sand it down to achieve the fine, smooth finish.
After finally perfecting that technique, I started to get that seamless result I wanted which could have been accomplished 2 weeks prior had I taken my time in the cutting, measuring, and nailing phase.
Step 6: Paint
After all that, I was so happy to we done with caulk, wood filler, and joint compound. You might have realized I decided to omit the “board” backer in my rendition because I thought my walls were relatively smooth. They aren’t as smooth as I thought (they still have a tiny texture) and they absorbed the paint differently than the wood. I’m not sure if the board backer could’ve helped with the wavy wall issue or not, but it maybe could have made things easier (I’ll never know).
I debated for a while on painting the bottoms darker and having the tops light and/or wall paper. I really wanted to use Trout Gray by Benjamin Moore. After all the hassle with the bottoms, I decided to play it safe with the white. I figured I can always switch it up later to dark when I’m ready for a change.
I was undecided on two blues for the tops. I was considering Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore and Blue Metal by Behr.
I ultimately decided on Blue Steel. It was my favorite from the start and I really only considered Hale Navy because pinterest said it was all the rage.
What I would have done differently
- Buy 12 ft boards for my horizontal boards on longer walls
- Use a fine saw blade from the beginning
- Be PERFECT and precise with my cuts and measurements
- Use a calculator to help with precise spacing of vertical boards
- Use wood shims to ensure all wood is flush with each other
- Use a Brad Nailer or bought a nail gun bumper
- Started with spackle instead of wood filler to patch seams and fill nail holes
- Installed actual “board” instead of just using my wall
- Trimmed the edges off boards that faced outward
This project took me 2 months start to finish. Since I’m a working mom to 4 year old twins, I didn’t have a whole uninterrupted weekend or two to throw at this project. I just did a little day by day (weekends only) and did what I could achieve without neglecting my other priorities. Correcting my mistakes really prolonged this project, but I’m so glad that I stopped and found ways to fix them, because it made all the difference in this looking like a crappy DIY job instead of the clean and professional finish I was hoping for.
Next up I’ll show you the new light and dining room table!
*Update: Click here for a current dining room tour.