Beadboard vs Wainscoting Cost Comparison

June 7, 2023 Author: Jamie

Chair Rails

$360 – $720

(120 linear feet of chair rail installed


$1,500 – $2,500

(100 sq.ft. wainscot installed)



  • Easy to cut and install
  • Inexpensive way to spruce up your home’s walls
  • Can be used on ceilings and walls
  • Often painted or stained to match any color scheme


  • Gathers dust in the grooves
  • Cheap material can warp in high humidity
  • Nails or nail holes can be visible
  • Considered trendy by some, so may go out of style

$3,500 to $10,500

(350 sq.ft. beadboard installed)

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  • Adds depth to your living space
  • Provides some insulation & sound control
  • Good range of style and size choices
  • Prevents wall damage
  • Can be used to cover wall damage


  • Wall imperfections can show through
  • Can stain if improperly sealed wood gets wet
  • Improper installation can lead to bulging or buckling panels

$5,250 to $8,750

(350 sq.ft. wainscoting installed)

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The beadboard vs wainscoting discussion involves two types of wall paneling that serve the same purposes – to protect the wall from damage, or to cover damage, while giving the room a touch of visual elegance.


Both cover roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the wall and are usually constructed from wood, though cheaper materials like vinyl and MDF particle board are employed in some products.

The difference between wainscoting and beadboard is style.

Wainscoting looks like wooden panels with raised or recessed squares finished with a chair rail cap.

Beadboard, while typically constructed in panels, looks like narrow vertical strips of wood with a raised edge – the bead – between them. Beadboard is also often capped with a chair rail.


Beadboard, also known commonly as tongue and groove, is made up of wooden planks that are lined up vertically on a wall or a ceiling. Individual planks can be used, or a single sheet can be milled to look like individual planks.

Beadboard gets its name from the ridge – the bead – between each of the boards. This wall covering usually goes up 30 to 54 inches up a wall, but can be found in heights up to eight feet long. There are many different kinds of wood that are used for beadboard projects, with pine and cedar being the most common. Other types of wood that are used are Douglas fir, walnut, oak, maple and cherry. MDF and vinyl beadboard are cheaper options.


Wainscoting is solid wood, plywood or PVC paneling that is installed on the lower third of walls inside a home. This wall covering is aesthetically pleasing and gives the room character. Wainscoting is mostly found in foyers, dining rooms, living rooms and master suites, but there’s no reason you can’t use it in any room in your home.

The complexity of wainscoting varies from simple flat panels to more intricate designs, such as overlay panels and board and batten. There are also panels of wainscoting that look like beadboard. The average height of wainscoting is between 30 and 54 inches high, depending on the height of the home’s ceilings. Wainscoting can also go up the entire wall in rooms, such as entryways or mudrooms.

Listed below are the most common types of wainscoting that was introduced above, starting with least expensive:

  • Flat panel
  • Beadboard – there are panels available that have the look of beadboard, but actual beadboard consists of individual planks of wood which are connected.
  • Board and batten
  • Raised panel
  • Overlay


Installing beadboard or wainscoting on an interior wall is a moderately challenging project for a skilled homeowner, though it is much more difficult to install on a ceiling. The reason that the ceiling installation of beadboard is tougher is due to the high work conditions, which causes many safety concerns. It is recommended that beadboard on a ceiling should be installed by an experienced, licensed contractor.

Putting beadboard on interior walls is easier, but comes with challenges, too. Installing it around doorways, windows, corners, and outlets requires more measuring, layout and cutting skill. The necessary tools needed for installing beadboard are a hammer or nail gun, wood glue, circular or miter saw, jigsaw, and a level.

Tip: Bring your material, beadboard or wainscoting, into your home 3-4 days before installation to let it acclimate to the indoor climate. When it is the same temperature and has the same level of humidity as the air in your home, it is less likely to warp, crack or separate after installation.

Tip: Consider priming/painting or staining the material before it is installed on the wall. The process is easier to control when the panels are horizontal, and this avoids having to tape off the walls.


Beadboard has a wider range of installed costs than wainscoting – $10 per square foot for cheap materials and up to $30 per square foot for premium wood beadboard.

The cost to install beadboard on an interior wall or ceiling depends on the material. Cheap wood beadboard that will be painted costs around $2 – $5 per square foot. When you choose higher-grade material to stain or finish clear, like oak ($$), maple ($$) or cherry ($$$), cost rises to $8 to $20+ per square foot.

A contractor generally will charge between $3 and $5 per square foot for the installation. Staining or painting beadboard adds about $5 more per square foot to the project cost, so the total cost to put beadboard in your home will be between $10 and $30 per square foot as stated in our headline price range at the top of this page.

Wainscoting runs $15-$25 installed per square foot based on material used and the design of the panels.

Price factors are similar to those with beadboard – and the material used in the wainscoting is the biggest factor.  This price includes the material and the installation costs.


Better grades of beadboard and wainscoting are made out of wood, so they require paint or staining at regular intervals over their lifespan. Paint or stain that is properly sealed protects beadboard and wainscoting from moisture and stains. If the wainscoting is constructed from PCV, then there is no need to worry about mold or rotting, but PVC can be brittle and can break or crack. And it doesn’t have the beauty of genuine wood.

Properly cared-for wood beadboard and wainscoting can last “forever” depending on how much wear and tear it experiences in the form of dents, gouges and scrapes. It is often replaced after 30 to 50+ years.


Wood is sustainable and renewable, so wood wainscoting and beadboard are considered “green” or environmentally friendly. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) options are not green, since toxic chemicals are released during the manufacturing process. Their production has a negative environmental impact.


Beadboard and wainscoting are effectively used in all types of climates throughout the United States.

However, indoor climate has an impact on wood materials.

In humid regions like the southeast US, central air conditioning helps control humidity that might otherwise discolor wood or cause warping and gapping.

Where winters are cold, a humidifier in the home will provide essential moisture that can prevent wood from cracking or glue from drying out and causing a separation in materials.


What’s your style? How about the “flavor” of your home’s design?

Wainscoting panels give the room a classic, traditional look. And there are more styles produced than you’ll find with beadboard.

Beadboard is considered by some to have a more contemporary feel.

We recommend using genuine wood material, since some PVC has a shiny, plastic appearance that doesn’t deliver the elegant appearance you want from wainscoting and beadboard.


Jamie Sandford - Owner and Lead Editor at RenoCompareJamie Sandford is the Chief Editor at RenoCompare (find out more). Jamie has been involved in construction for over 30 years. Straight out of college, Jamie worked with construction crews for the television, film and theatre industries for over 12 years. In his thirties, he turned his attention to DIY decorating and construction, working on many house renovations and remodels. During this time he started to specialize in home flooring and in 2013 he launched the Home Flooring Pros website. Two years later he launched RenoCompare.

“I’ve seen interior design, remodeling, and construction from both sides of the street, contractors on one side and homeowners on the other. My aim is to close the gap between the professionals and the consumers and make it easier for both sides to work smoothly and effectively side by side. At RenoCompare we want to save you time and money by giving you the information you need as simply and as quickly as possible!”

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