Looking for an unexpected way to dress up your walls? Put down the paintbrush, drop the wallpaper, and DIY your own board and batten wall, instead. Board and batten walls are accent walls lined with paneling boards and narrow strips of wood, called battens. These battens can run vertically or horizontally, fitting together to form an equally spaced pattern—often, a series of stripes or a grid.
“Board and batten adds visual interest to an otherwise boring and flat wall,” Chelsea Johnson, one of the bloggers behind Making Manzanita, says.
Meet the Expert
Though board and batten walls look luxurious, they’re not that hard to piece together. According to Johnson, you don’t need expert-level skills or tons of fancy tools to pull off a DIY board and batten wall. All you need is a free weekend (or two)—and a well-thought-out plan.
- Working time: Several hours
- Total time: A weekend
- Skill level: Intermediate
What Is a Board and Batten Wall?
A board and batten wall is a wall lined with a specific kind of decorative paneling. To make a board and batten wall, you need to cover your wall with large panels, called boards. Then, you need to seal the gaps between those boards with narrow wooden strips, called battens.
Board and batten first arrived in America in the mid-1800s. And at the time, it was a popular choice for exterior siding. (Board and batten siding was often used on early American barns, and it still lines the exteriors of many modern-day farmhouses.) Later that century, board and batten moved indoors, as people looked for ways to protect their walls and dress up their homes.
Tools and Supplies You’ll Need
Before starting, stock up on the following materials:
- Measuring tape
- Pencil or painter’s tape
- Sketch pad (optional)
- Utility knife (optional)
- Putty knife (optional)
- Pry bar (optional)
- Luan or MDF boards
- Construction adhesive
- Caulking gun
- Nail gun
- Decorative trim or molding (optional)
- Paint roller or paint sprayer
How to DIY a Board and Batten Wall
Step 1: Plan Your Board and Batten Wall
The key to crafting a great board and batten wall? Start with a plan. Figure out what you want your board and batten wall to look like. Do you want it to cover your whole wall, or only part of your wall? Do you want to incorporate your current trim and baseboards, or start from scratch? And do you want to arrange your battens in a grid, a series of stripes, or some other pattern?
Once you’ve covered those bases, it’s time to plan your layout.
“Start by measuring the width of the wall and dividing by how many battens you want,” Johnson says. The number you end up with will help you space your battens. (Use that number to figure out how much space should be between the center of one batten and the center of the next batten.)
“Next, take into account the width of the batten pieces,” Johnson says. “It looks best to have a batten installed in each corner, so mark the wall accordingly.” Once you’ve marked where your end battens will go, you can use the math you just did to figure out—and mark—where your other battens will go. And be sure to plan around built-in fixtures, like light switches and electrical outlets, Kim Emery, the designer behind Clipper City House, says.
Don’t want to draw directly on your wall? Use painter’s tape to mark where your battens will go.
If you plan to arrange your battens horizontally and vertically, repeat these steps—using the height of your wall as your core measurement, instead of the width of your wall.
If you’re having trouble planning everything out, grab a sketch pad. “It may help for you to draw it out first,” Johnson says. “Once you are confident that you have the spacing down, you can mark the wall.”
Step 2: Remove Your Baseboards and Trim (optional)
By now, you should know whether you want to incorporate your trim and baseboards into your accent wall—or whether you want to remove them and work from a blank canvas. If your trim and baseboards are staying put, skip ahead to the next step. If they need to go, it’s time to remove them.
Use a utility knife to cut through the paint sealing the top of your trim. Then, feel around to find where the nails in your trim are. Once you’ve found them, slide a putty knife behind your trim—staying close to one of the nails—and use a pry bar to pry the trim off your wall. (Staying close to the nails should help you cut down on wall damage.)
Keep working until you’ve removed all the trim that needs to go.
Step 3: Patch Your Drywall (optional)
Before attaching anything to your wall, double-check your drywall. If you spot any holes or cracks, patch them using a putty knife and some caulk or spackle. You want your wall to be smooth before installing any paneling boards or battens.
Step 4: Line Your Walls With Paneling Boards
Now that the prep work is done, it’s time to install your paneling boards. You want the boards to cover your wall from top to bottom—and from left to right—so you have a smooth canvas to work from.
When stocking up on paneling boards, you have a couple options. Emery recommends using luan, a type of plywood that’s great at hiding imperfections on your wall. But Johnson says you can use MDF board to get the job done.
Use your wall measurements to figure out how big your boards should be. Then, cut each one down to size using a saw. Remember, you want the boards to cover every inch of your wall, so be precise.
Once your boards are ready to go, fill a caulking gun with construction adhesive, and apply that adhesive to your walls like glue. Stick your paneling boards onto your wall—one at a time—and make sure to thoroughly press each board so it stays in place.
If the boards aren’t staying flat, use a few nails to secure them. Then, give your adhesive some time to dry before installing your battens.
Step 5: Install Your Battens
Once your boards are set and secure, it’s time to install your battens. Start with the battens that will line the edges of your wall—so your furthest left batten, your furthest right batten, and your top and bottom battens (if you’re installing top and bottom battens).
Then, use your saw to cut each batten down to size. (Again, be precise.) Stick each batten to your wall using your construction adhesive. And secure each one in place using nails.
Now that you have a border in place, installing the rest of your battens should be easy. Cut your battens down to size. Stick them to your wall, one by one. And lock them in place using nails.
And if you’re having trouble keeping track of your spacing, consider DIYing a spacer. “Cut a wooden spacer block to space out the vertical and horizontal battens, so you do not have to measure each [one every time],” Emery says.
Step 6: Add Any Ledges or Decorative Molding
If you want to dress up your wall with any trim or molding, now’s the time to install it. Grab your trim, and affix it to your wall—just like you did when installing your battens.
Step 7: Caulk Your Seams and Patch Any Holes
By this point, your board and batten wall is nearly done. But you’ll want to make sure it looks perfect before calling it a day. So take a good, hard look at your accent wall—do you spot any cracks, gaps, or nail holes? If you do, fill them in with caulk until your wall looks just right.
Step 8: Finish Things Off With a Coat of Paint
The only thing left to do? Finish your board and batten wall with a fresh coat of paint. Pick a paint color you’ll love looking at, and cover your walls with primer. Then, grab a paint roller or a paint sprayer, and get to work. The paint will coat your caulk, your paneling board, and your battens—making your board and batten wall look like a truly finished product.