DIY Board and Batten Tutorial in 6 Easy Steps

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Looking for ways to add architectural interest to your walls?

Today I want to talk about one of our favorite DIY-friendly wall treatment projects: board & batten.

Board and batten originated as a style of exterior siding you will often see in Farmhouse style homes, but it has seamlessly transitioned into interior design, adding texture and visual interest to walls. The technique for this style of wainscotting involves attaching thin strips of molding, or “battens,” over the seams between larger boards. We typically see the battens arranged vertically but this method allows for creative installation depending on the space either vertically horizontally, boxes–I’ve even seen diagonal.

Since you most often see the vertical board and batten installation in more traditional homes, if you’re wondering whether this look is dated, my answer is absolutely not!

While I do always recommend listening to your home, I think Board and Batten is a timeless and classic look.

To keep it looking modern, I’d recommend painting it in a bold color and install it slightly higher than chair rail height. I love how Simply Aligned  Home went with the boxed Board and Batten painted in grey green tone.

Typically Board and batten looks best between 1/2 to 2/3 of the wall height but I have seen awesome applications of board and batten all the way up to the ceiling especially in stairwells.  Here is an example below by JLV Creative.

We suggest using painter’s tape to visualize the best height for your space, keeping in mind the height of ceilings, doorways, and artwork. We recommend erring on the side of higher than lower, especially if going that “halfway” look. A true halfway measurement often looks too low, so consider cheating it a bit higher.

Installing Board and Batten in the secondary bath at Moon Shadow (our first home) was one of our earliest DIY projects together.  Unfortunately, I did not document the process at the time with photos for this tutorial but I did want to just share the before and after.

And now onto the after, which is a photo of this same bathroom used in the listing photo for our first home.

Isn’t it cute?  I was hesitant to even share the before and afters because they’re not great.  You can just barely see a very simple and basic board and batten treatment on the left wall when you walk in–easier to spot from the reflection of the mirror.   So there’s your proof that we tackled this project as novice DIYers and you can too…

Step 1: Planning and Preparation for Your Board and Batten Installation

Before diving into any DIY project, it’s crucial to start with thorough planning and preparation. Begin by envisioning the desired outcome for your board and batten installation. Consider factors such as the room’s dimensions and overall aesthetic goals. Take measurements of the walls where you intend to install the board and batten to ensure accurate spacing.

You will need to consider what type of wood you’d prefer to use for the board and batten look.  We like to use pre-primed pine for most projects just for the time savings.  You can also use MDF but keep in mind, MDF cannot be used in a damp location like a bathroom or kitchen as it is prone to warping.  For outdoor applications, you will need to use pressure treated wood to hold up in the elements.

If you’re wondering how much this DIY project might cost, unfortunately my answer is going to be “it depends”, anywhere from $75 to thousands depending on the type of wood, additional molding, paint, size of the room, and height of the board and batten installation on the wall.  I distinctly remember our first board and batten project at Moon Shadow cost around $200.

For this project you will need the following materials:

  • Boards (for top rail and battens)
  • Primer and paint
  • Spackle or wood filler
  • Caulk
  • Nail gun
  • Miter saw
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Spackle knife or painter’s tool
  • Sanding block
  • Painter’s tape

Once you’ve assembled your materials, it’s time to map out the placement of the board and batten on your walls.  The most important spacing things to determine are the height of your rails, the distance between your battens and of course the orientation of your battens (square, vertical, horizontal).  For projects like this I have used software in the past to create a plan, like I did here in my star jasmine trellis grid.  However, you can just as easily use blue painter’s tape to mock up different configurations to determine the ideal spacing.  To me the ideal approach (especially for more complicated projects) is some combination of the tool: initial mapping using software followed by the the old school blue tape strategy that will allow you to visualize different designs in your space and tweak as needed.

There are a couple of things you may want to consider when determining the height and design of your board and batten.  Frequently board and batten trim work is installed with wallpaper.   Wallpaper (and wall paper installation) can be costly so board and batten adds more visual interest while cutting down on the amount of wallpaper needed in a room.  Therefore, board and batten that is installed higher on the wall will require less wallpaper.  The other factor to consider is placement of windows and doors. For the most part, I prefer when the board and batten intersects below all doors and windows unless the board and batten is carried all the way to the ceiling.

After you have settled on a design, you’ll want to use your stud finder to locate the wall studs which will serve as anchor points for your battens.  You really want  your top boards to be anchored securely to a stud so make sure not to skip this step.  Use a pencil or painters tape to mark the anchor points.

Step 2: Preparing Your Walls

First off you will want to make sure the walls are clean and free of any major imperfections. This is a good time to patch any holes or cracks using spackle or wood filler, and sand the surfaces smooth once the filler has dried.

If you’re installing board and batten over existing baseboards, you may need to make adjustments to accommodate the board and batten.  Remove any decorative trim or molding from the top of the baseboards as well since these will interfere with the placement of the battens. One handy tip is to use a spackle knife to score along the top edge of the baseboards before gently prying off trim pieces.  Removing these sections of the decorative trim will now allow the battens to sit flush against the baseboards.  For the Moon Shadow project, we did not have any decorative trim above the baseboards so we just removed the baseboards entirely and reinstalled at the end prior to painting.

If you have thicker battens, you may want to consider replacing  your baseboards with a more substantial baseboard to support the battens.  I personally prefer the look of the battens lining up evenly with the baseboards.

Step 3: Installing the Board and Batten Top Rail

With the walls prepped and ready to go, it’s time to install the top rail. Again, the top rail is the horizontal element of the board and batten and provides a foundation for attaching the vertical battens.  In our Moon Shadow design, we also wanted to attach towel hooks to the top rail, so all the more reason to ensure that top rail was secured to studs.

Using a miter saw, cut your top rail boards to the appropriate length, making sure they align with the measurements and layout established during the planning phase.   You may also cut the boards by hand, but we recommend using a compound miter saw if you have access to one.

Next, use a level to ensure the top rail is installed perfectly horizontal along the length of the wall.  Alternatively, you may want to just follow the slope of your ceiling.  We learned that the ceiling was not level at Moon Shadow, which is actually not all that uncommon.  So we decided to ignore the level to avoid drawing attention to our wonky ceiling, ha!  Ultimately, you want your top rail to look parallel to the closest plane to look most level to the eye (whether it’s level or not).  I saw try the level to see if you too have a wonky ceiling and make the call.

And with that, secure the top rail to the wall studs using a nail gun, driving nails through the top rail and into the studs at regular intervals.

Step 4: Installing the Vertical Battens

With the top rail in place, you can now add the vertical battens that will create the characteristic board and batten pattern.  Our trick is to install the battens directly onto the drywall and then paint everything to match.   The typical installation would be to install boards and attach the battens (as in board and batten).  We’ve found our strategy works just as well and cuts down on a lot of time and materials, and it still looks great.  I will say, smooth walls are a premium here in Texas because more houses seem to have textured walls.  Depending on where you live and if you have textured walls, you may be happier with the results using the boards.

Next up, measure and cut your batten boards to the desired length.

Using a spacer block or measuring tape, position each batten evenly along the length of the wall, ensuring they are flush against the top rail and baseboards. Be sure to maintain consistent spacing between each batten!  Typically the space between the battens ranges from 12 to 20″.  Figuring out the right spacing/number of battens can be tricky and it all depends on the length of your wall.  Our best strategy is to place the first batten in the center of the wall and then play with spacing so that the battens don’t hit at any awkward points (or get cut off) moving closer to each adjacent wall/corner.

Secure the battens to the wall using a nail gun, driving nails through the battens and into the wall studs for stability.  You can always use wood glue to fill in the gaps later but the snugger the fit the better. Alternatively, if you’re using MDF for your battens, you can also construction adhesive and finishing nails to secure the battens.

Step 5: Filling Nail Holes and Seams

Once all the battens are installed, look for any visible nail holes and seams. Using spackle or wood filler, fill each nail hole with a small amount of filler, then use a spackle knife or putty knife to smooth the filler flush with the surface of the wood.

After filling the nail holes, inspect the seams between the battens and the wall for any gaps or inconsistencies. Apply caulk along the seams to create a seamless transition between the battens and the wall surface, smoothing the caulk with a damp finger.

Step 6: Priming and Painting

With the nail holes filled and the seams caulked, the final step before painting is to apply a coat of primer to the entire board and batten installation. Priming helps to seal the wood and create a smooth, uniform surface for painting, ensuring better adhesion and a more professional finish.

Once the primer has dried completely, apply one or more coats of paint in the color of your choice. Use a paintbrush or roller to evenly coat the entire surface of the board and batten, taking care to cover any seams or gaps thoroughly. Allow the paint to dry completely between coats, and don’t forget to paint in a well-ventilated area!

Now for the good stuff, I’ll leave you with a few favorite board and batten installations from around the internet to inspire your own DIY project.

source: unknown

source: unknown

Photo via Margaret Rajic, Design by Corey Lohmann Design,, Styling by Brandi Devers

Source: Studio Mcgee

Source: Tori Rubinson Design

Source: Marie Flanigan Interiors

Source: Hallie Henley Design


Source: our home!  This picture represents the moment in time when our house was still under construction and I had the vision for board and batten in our stairwell.  The project is still on a long docket of home DIY’s, but it’s happening guys!

P.S. I always do my best to credit sources for all images, and unfortunately, several of these are unknown. Please comment below if you are aware of the designer and/or photographer that I can credit for any of the unknown images.

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