25th June 2019

How to Install Raised Panel vs Recessed Panel Wainscoting

When looking at ideas for decorating your walls and home, we think everyone can agree that wainscoting and wall panel detailing elevates the look of a home. The level of sophistication and beauty it adds to many styles of interiors has pushed the popularity of wainscoting sky high, now making it a staple design element for those who want to create something special and on trend, that will last throughout the ages.

Here we will discuss the two most common ways wainscoting can be applied to the walls. The overall end look achieved will be similar, but depending on what you have to work with, the end look you have in mind, your budget and skillset might dictate which path you wish to take.

Recessed Panel Wainscoting

Recessed panel wainscoting, also known as judges panelling, involves a few more steps in the process than its raised panel counter part. Recessed panelling is the traditional way to install wainscoting and gives a more formal look.

Photography by Carole MargandPrior to applying your inlay mould, MDF or plywood sheets are usually installed in place of gyprock or ontop of the existing wall (especially if this is part of a renovation) at the full height of your wainscoting to the chair rail. Square DAR finished timbers are then fixed to create a board and batten look.

The inlay mould is then installed around the inner edge of the batten ‘frames’ to add more detail and finish the look. Because the inlay mould sits inside the hollow and not proud of the wall, this is why it is called recessed panelling.

The chair rail is then placed on top. To ensure it sits flush atop the battens and MDF timber, a profile with a recess from the back is used.

The Chair rail is placed over the top edge of the Square DAR board/batten. The chair rail has a rebate out of the rear bottom corner to fit over the Square DAR board.

CR42 65mm Primed FJ Pine

You would not use this method above a chair rail height.

Raised Panel Wainscoting

Raised panel wainscoting is where the inlay mould is fixed directly to the wall to create a multi ‘picture frame’ across the wall look. This is relatively simple, cost effective method which is excellent for homes where you are looking to add some more subtle detailing without a heavy, traditional Hamptons or American style influence.

You can use the inlay mould with or without a chair rail, and have the flexibility to apply the ‘frame’ look to the entire wall, by creating different sized frames up the wall.

There are a number of ways you can install this panelling. If you want to use a chair rail it is best to begin by installing your skirting board and chair rail. The skirting board and chair rail will be used as a guide to determine your spacing, so ensure these are installed level.

Using a timber template piece is highly recommended for measuring out spacing. You would use this to measure an even space from the skirting and up (this would form the bottom piece of your inlay mould, from the architrave or wall across (this would form the vertical sides of your inlay mould) then from the chair rail down (which shows where the top piece would sit).

You can then preassemble the ‘frame’ using glue and nails before attaching to the wall, although we recommend attaching it piece by piece to the wall using a level to eliminate wonky lines or less than square mitred corners.

If you were to install inlay mould above the chair rail or chair rail height if you’re not using one, you would repeat this process again but instead of using the chair rail as your top guide, you would use the bottom of your cornice mould or you may like to finish them in line with the top of a doorway.

The only fluid measurement would be the horizontal width of each panel which depends on the length of your wall. The spacing around each panel does not change.

Our full raised panel wainscoting installation instructions and video can be found HERE.

This method is less expensive compared to the recessed panel method due to less material , level of skill required and significantly less time to install.

Whichever method you choose, the end result no doubt will be something beautiful and to be proud of.