Tips for Painting Beadboard Wainscoting

Tips for Painting Beadboard Wainscoting

Maybe it’s that I have painted nearly every room in my little townhouse, or maybe it’s because I’ve never painted beadboard before, but I’ve really been putting off this project.  We laid and nailed the beadboard the first weekend of October, and now I am finally getting around to painting.  It does feel good to finally cross this project off my to-do list, but boy was I dreading it!

The second coat is literally drying as I type.  Here are a few tips I learned as I painted beadboard for the first time!

Prep is key

This is really true for any painting project.   The times I have really taken a lot of time to prep and tape and to all those important things have yielded the least amount of work after the fact.  I can tell you, I already know I will be scraping paint off the floor because I didn’t cover it well.  I thought I had learned from past mistakes in this area, but apparently not.  I’m not a detail-oriented person, so taking time in the beginning is really important for avoiding mistakes.

For example.  I ran out of painter’s tape.  I thought to myself, I’ll just be “extra careful” when painting this area.  Yeah, right.  This is the result:

Being "extra careful"


Yup, that means it’s not as pretty as it could be and it’s more work for me after the fact.

I don’t know what it is about having a wet paintbrush in my hand that makes me lose all motor control, but at one point I actually stepped on a wet paintbrush.  Maddening.  The second coat went much smoother, because I took more time to lay down more newspaper, consciously took my time, and didn’t take shortcuts.

Fortunately, I have learned to designate crappy clothes just for painting.  I’ve been using the “be extra careful” method (unsuccessfully), long enough to know that I will always get paint on my clothes, however careful I may be.

Keep Animals and Kids at Bay and Minimize Distractions

Have I ever showed you what happened when my dog tried to “help” me paint my kitchen cabinets?

Elliot helped

Yep, he brushed against them with his ears.  It’s hard to see in this photo but since he was only about 6-8 months old at the time, it was difficult to get him to sit still for a picture.  It was adorable and made for a funny story.  But again more work for me:  fix the cabinet paint and give the pup a bath.  All the whining in the world wouldn’t make me let him in the bathroom this time. (And yes, there is something wrong with his eyes in this picture.  It’s called cherry eye, common in certain breeds.  He has had surgery for it and is now as handsome as ever!)

I also don’t like to paint before I have to be somewhere.  If I rush because I don’t want to do the task, that’s one thing.  But if I rush because I have to be somewhere or do something else, that is something I can prevent.


Between coats one and two, I walked around as I normally would in the bathroom, and saw a lot of areas that could use more finishing.  I did most of my painting sitting on the floor, and since that is not how a bathroom is typically used I missed a lot of spots and details that would be visible once the paint is dry.

At the beginning of coat 2, I started by addressing these areas.  At the end of coat two, I stood up again to take another view, and found several other spots to be addressed.  This time I took a fresh brush (one that wasn’t all goopy from painting) to address the areas, as they were small.

Use Natural Light

Using natural light when you’re painting is always a good idea, if you can. Coat one was completed last evening, and at the end I had to turn on the light to finish. Coat two was done today, late morning/early afternoon, and I noticed a lot more detail with the natural sunlight streaming in through the window.  Not only did I have a peaceful place in which to paint, the sunlight revealed more than artificial light did.

Alrighty folks, we’ve addressed some of the environmental things to consider; now down to brass tacks.

Here are some tips for precision when painting beadboard:

  • Use beadboard that is pre-primed.

I planned to paint my beadboard white, so I bought it pre-primed in white.  Thank goodness I did; there were some areas behind the toilet I had difficulty reaching, but because the beadboard was already white I don’t think it would be noticeable if I missed a small area here and there.  The whites were extremely close in color (by chance, fortunately).

  • Caulk is your friend

Between putting up the beadboard and painting it, I used paintable, white caulk to fill in gaps and to make it look more finished.   This was the first time I had ever used caulk, and I found it to be extremely easy to work with. It can be a little goopy, but it really helps to fill in areas to make them look more finished. I had seen some pictures on Pinterest where caulk was used and where it wasn’t, and the difference was obvious.

Here, we have before caulk:

without caulk

…and after caulk.  (This one also has one coat of paint.)  See the difference?

guest bath corner

  • Cover the Ridges

The thing that seemed to make the most difference in appearance was covering the ridges where the pieces of beadboard met, to create a seamless appearance. I did this with caulk but also with paint. It makes the beadboard look as though it’s supposed to be there, not like you’ve slapped a bunch of pieces on a wall and called it a day. Like I said, I’m not detail oriented but this detail seemed important to attend to.  It’s obvious to see with the pictures above!

  • Use a smaller, angled brush

During coat one, I used a 1 ½ inch standard brush for the molding and a bigger 2 inch standard brush for the rest.

During coat two, I used a 1 ½ inch angled brush for the whole thing.

Was it more tedious? Yes.

Did the angle give me more precision? Yes.

Did the precision allow me to make fewer mistakes? Yes.

Switching to a smaller brush was definitely a good decision. Note to self for the future.

Just for reference, here is a “before” picture of this bathroom.  As you can see, I have already started to remove some of the wallpaper.  Yikes!!!

guest bath before

Sometime soon I hope to reveal the  “after” pics of this project!   In the meantime, I’m so relieved to get this part crossed off my to-do list so I can look forward to other exciting things that are coming up in my life!  :-)

How were you productive this weekend?

About bridget

I was born and raised in upstate New York, where my parents still live, before escaping the cold weather to settle in North Carolina in 2008.
I am a Gemini, a middle child, a dreamer, a lover, an optimist, and a Social Worker. I have a cheesy sense of humor, a belief that all people are basically good, and a desire to improve the world around me.
I live in NC with my husband and our dog.

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