half bathroom with beadboard and faux tin ceiling

How to Install Beadboard Paneling in a Half Bathroom

| |

Welcome back! If you saw our 2019 project sneak peek post, you may have guessed we’d be using beadboard wainscoting on the walls and faux tin panels on the ceiling in our half bathroom (aka the powder room).

Modern Vintage Half Bathroom Design Board

We chose these materials because they add timeless character and another dimension of texture to an otherwise nondescript room. Best of all, they’re both inexpensive and easy to install!

Today, I’ll give you a quick tutorial on how we installed the beadboard paneling and I’ll follow up in a separate post on the faux tin ceiling installation.

We encountered a few challenges with the materials we chose, so I’ll also share how we came up with some solutions. Hopefully, these tips will save you some time and frustration when doing this project on your own.

At the end of the post, I’ve shared the paint colors used in our powder bathroom.

What kind of beadboard should I buy?

Beadboard panels and planks can be purchased at your local home improvement store. Both have a tongue and a groove on the ends that fit into the next panel or plank. One factor on deciding whether to buy the 4′ X 8′ panels or the planks depends on the wall width of the room you’re putting it in. Our small half bathroom is 4.5′ X 5′ wide and we planned on putting the beadboard two-thirds up the wall. Considering that, the large panels would have left us with too much waste so we used the planks.

You also have a few choices of the type of material the beadboard is made from. There’s either pre-primed MDF or real wood that can be stained or painted. Another option is vinyl beadboard which is great for using in outdoor areas such as porch ceilings or walls. I personally love the authenticity and texture of real wood beadboard even though I planned on priming and painting it.

beadboard paneling wood vs. mdf

This is where we hit a snag in our project

I bought enough of the 3.5″ X 8′ wood beadboard planks from Lowes to do the entire room plus a little overage in case we had a mistake. I ended up buying every last bundle they had.

In the past, we’ve used the reversible 3.5″ x 8′ wooden planks from Lowes to cover a popcorn ceiling as shown in this tutorial. One side of the plank is beadboard and the other side is a flat v-groove. We’ve had good luck with that product but they didn’t have it in stock.

When we started putting up the wood planks, we discovered that about a quarter of the boards were either warped or cracked so they were essentially trash. So, we ended up heading back to Lowes and purchased enough of the MDF 7″ X 8′ pre-primed planks to finish the last wall. Honestly, once painted, I wouldn’t notice the difference unless it was pointed out to me.

Why we should have chosen the mdf planks instead of the wood planks:

  1. Even though we allowed our wooden planks to acclimate to our home’s humidity and temperature over 48 hours before installation, they’ve shrunken over time. This left hairline gaps between each 3.5″ board. I’ve had to go back and caulk and paint over these cracks. The MDF has not shrunk but it still has to acclimate the same amount of time.
  2. Real wood planks require more prep before painting. Before painting, I had to spot prime the knot holes with a shellac primer to prevent the tannins in the knots from bleeding through the paint. Then, I had to sand and use an all-purpose primer over the rest of the surface. Pre-primed MDF planks are the way to go.
tongue and groove wood beadboard paneling vs mdf pre-primed beadboard

The cons of using MDF over wood planks:

  1. The groove side of the planks are fragile and easy to dent. Fitting the planks together requires a little more finesse.
  2. The profile of the bead is not as pronounced in the MDF compared to the wood plank.
  3. If the unpainted backside or edges MDF come in direct contact with water, it will swell.
  4. As stated above, MDF doesn’t have the texture and authenticity of real wood.

If you can go with the more expensive, thicker wood beadboard, then by all means, go for it! We tend to choose the products they give us the best bang for our buck.

Materials & Tools for Installing Beadboard Planks or Paneling:

We love sharing info with people and only use affiliate links to things we have actually used and love. These links help support our blog but add no extra cost to you if you click on our unique links.

Tape measure

Stud finder (this stud finder from Amazon is the easiest to use and is our favorite)

Nail gun

18 gauge 1-1/4″ brad nails

Loctite Power Grab Molding and Paneling Construction Adhesive (we used the same product for installing the faux tin ceiling panels)


Chair rail molding (we used 2-3/4″ chair rail)

Straight edge for marking your cuts

Miter saw

Circular saw

Jigsaw for cutting around outlets

Power drill with a hole saw bit if you have plumbing pipes to cut around

Wood filler or Spackle

White paintable caulk

How to install beadboard:

Once you get started, the process of putting up beadboard goes by pretty quickly. First, if you have baseboards, gently remove those from the wall. When measuring the height of your planks, take in consideration that you need to leave about a 1/8″ gap from the floor for expansion.

Our wainscoting is two-thirds up the wall so we cut off 20-1/2″ from the 8′ planks. The total height with the chair rail in our bathroom is 76-1/2″.

TIP: Instead of cutting each plank individually, leave them in the pack and cut the whole bundle at one time with the miter saw. Also, making your cuts from the back of the planks prevents the face side from delaminating, therefore a neater cut.

Now that you know the height you want to place the paneling, make a level mark along your walls. Also, mark above the level line where your studs are located.

You want to start your planks in the corner of the room. We started on the wall behind the door. Make sure the first plank has the groove side towards the corner and the tongue side out to accept the next plank. It needs to be placed 1/8″ away from the corner to allow for expansion. Check for plumb. You may have to trim the side facing the corner if the walls aren’t perfectly square.

Apply a 1/4″ bead of construction adhesive in an “S” pattern to the back of every plank. Construction adhesive is optional, but it prevents the planks from bowing out and shifting over time. Recheck for plumb, then nail the first plank into the corner stud.

Continue adding planks to the wall by locking the groove of each plank into the tongue of the next plank. When your planks meet a stud, nail those in place.

Once you get to the end of the wall, the last plank should be cut with a circular saw or table saw. Once again, keep a 1/8″ gap from the wall and check to see if the plank needs to be cut at an angle if the walls aren’t square. It’s recommended to leave a 1/8″ gap when butting the next plank at the corner when you start the next wall. We did a little less of a gap. Either way, the corners will be filled in with caulk or a small strip of trim.

If you need a guide on how to cut around outlets, then let me know in the comments and I’ll get Jason to make a tutorial.

Now, all that’s left to do is add the chair rail, fill the nail holes with spackle, sanding, priming, and painting. If you went with the pre-primed MDF, then skip the priming. Yay!

Speaking of paint, these are the paint colors we have in our powder room:

White on the beadboard is Alabaster by Sherwin Williams in semi-gloss.

Navy paint on the upper walls is Gale Force by Sherwin Williams in eggshell.

how to install a faux tin ceiling and beadboard walls

Stay tuned on how to install a faux tin ceiling.

See the completed powder room here in the reveal post.

So, are you ready to tackle installing beadboard panels on your own? If you have any questions, please send me an email or post it in the comments section and I’d be happy to help.

Till next time…


Similar Posts


  1. How do you handle an outside corner wall that is rounded, not square? My handyman doesn’t know what to do.

    1. Thank you, Candace! We almost went floor to ceiling with the beadboard but I think this is a good compromise.

    1. Hi Nanci! Absolutely. I used Sherwin Williams Alabaster on the beadboard and Gale Force, also by Sherwin Williams on the upper walls. Thanks for reminding me to add it to the post. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.