Board and batten detailing a charming aesthetic on the walls. It has been used in interior and exterior designs for many years, adding timeless appeal and interesting architectural elements to otherwise ho-hum walls.
DIY Board and Batten Wall
If you love the look of board and batten but are uncertain on its installation ins and outs, this DIY tutorial will walk you through the process, step by step.
Clean your walls thoroughly.
Remove any outlet covers.
Prime and paint the walls.
The batten in this example will stretch from baseboard to batten molding installed just below the ceiling, so paint was only required up to an inch or two below the ceiling. Optional: Sand, prime and paint your boards and battens now. (Weather and circumstances didn’t permit my doing that at this point, although it is the highly recommended order of operation. Saves you time and effort in the long run.)
When walls are thoroughly primed and painted, it’s time to install the board, which is the horizontally running board. (The up-and-down ones are the battens.)This tutorial uses 1/2″ thick 1×4 boards for this part. Choose a wall to start, and measure the distance for your board length.
Measure and mark your board.
Tip: When marking a board to cut, avoid marking just a line or a dot. Instead, make a “V” mark, where the point of the V hits at your cutting line. This improves accuracy, as you know exactly where the cut intersection should be. (Sometimes with pencil lines marking measurements, you’re not sure which side of the pencil line is the most accurate.)
Chop your board.
Use a level or, in this case, the ceiling, to keep the board lying perfectly horizontal across the face of your wall. Dry fit it to your space to make sure it fits.
Before you attach the board to the wall, use a stud finder to determine where your studs are. It’s a good idea to, when possible, attach your boards to the studs.
Hold the board up with one hand (or get a helper to do it for you), then mark the stud spaces with the other. If you’re flying solo like I was, first mark the studs on the wall with an X, then hold up the board in place and mark the studs on the side of the board itself. Since you’ve painted your walls already, and all.
Use a brad nailerto attach the board to the wall on the studs. I sunk about three nails at each stud area.
Repeat board installation on all walls around your room. If you’re not installing your boards at ceiling height, continue using a level and vertical measurements on all walls to ensure that you’re not creeping upward or downward as you go.
With the boards installed at whatever level you’ve attached them (mine are at the ceiling), it’s time to install the first batten. Measure your vertical distance, from the floor or the top of your baseboard (wherever the batten is touching the floor) up to the bottom edge of your board.
Cut your batten accordingly. In this bathroom, the batten next to the tile are pieces of 1/2” alder that are thicker but the same width (1-3/8”) as the rest of the battens. This is due to the fact that the tile sticks out so far, and I wanted the batten to serve as a sort of visual border to the tile. A 1/4″ batten, which is what was used everywhere else, would’ve exposed too much of the tile and looked a bit odd.
Install the batten with a brad nailer. It’s important to note that the vertical battens may or may not fall on stud lines…but probably they won’t. Simply nail them into place wherever they fall, using brad nails that are long enough for the drywall. This example uses 1-1/4” brad nails.
See how nicely the thicker first batten sort of frames out the tile? It provides a nice transition into the rest of the bathroom (or vice versa).
And because it’s the same width as the other battens, this discrepancy is hardly noticeable.
With your boards installed and your first batten in place, it’s time to start installing the rest of the battens. If you haven’t already decided how far apart you want them, now is the time to do it.
You can simply measure the width of your wall and make a mathematical decision based on that measurement. Or you can use a couple of spare bits and move them around until you get a distance that you like, that works proportionately in your space. This is a small room, so I wanted the distance between the battens to reflect that. I also love the look of original exterior battens, which tend to be thinner and closer together than cottage-style battens in many interior designs.
After playing around with the distances, 10” was determined as the perfect distance. Make a mark at the bottom of your wall at this distance. Note: Make sure, as you’re marking, that you are measuring your space consistently. As in, don’t measure a 10” gap in one section and then 10” spaces from the two battens’ right or left sides in another. Be consistent.
Also measure the distance along the top of your batten, just under the board.
With your two 10” (or whatever distance) spaces marked, it’s time to measure the vertical length for your batten. Measure this now, directly at the markings you just made to ensure true vertical.
For the majority of the battens (other than the two battens abutting the tub surround tiles), I used 1/4″ deep 1-3/8” wide strips. I chose 1/4″ because I wanted a less intrusive (more visually subtle) batten look, and I also didn’t want to reinstall my baseboards, the top of which are about 1/4” deep.
Cut your batten according to your measurement, then align it to your marking. If the dry fit is sound, brad nail the bottom into place.
Align the batten at the top, and brad nail it into place.
You should now have your second batten attached at just the top and bottom. You’ll need to attach along the center of your batten, too, but it’s a waste of time to measure every few inches to do this. However, you can’t rely on the batten to lie perfectly straight, either.
To work efficiently and accurately, you’ll want to create a width template for between your battens. You can use this for every batten you place from this point on. Carefully measure and mark a scrap piece of wood equaling the precise distance between the bottom part of your battens. (Measure at the bottom part, because you measured this outright so will get a more accurate reading.)
Cut this scrap wood and run a dry fit test. It should fit snugly and perfectly between your two battens. If it doesn’t, cut it again until it does. The success of your entire room’s batten beauty lies largely in the accuracy of this template guide.
Move your template up between the battens, and brad nail the new batten into place. You might find yourself pushing the new batten in to the right, or pulling it out to the left slightly in order to make it fit. That’s the whole point of the template – ensuring a perfect space between the two battens.
This photo shows a point I had to push in the batten and nail it in.
You will end up with two perfectly spaced battens. (Photo angle of this spacing makes them look a little bowed, but they are perfect in real life.)
Continue on in this way – nailing the bottom, top, then centers – for each batten all along this wall.
It’s coming along! Nice work.
Continue on other walls as you can.
Not every wall will be perfectly straightforward. You might run into some obstacles, such as outlets or light switches. That was the case for this half-wall by the bathroom door. Your switch plates will probably still be removed from when you painted; loosely put them back on. (You don’t have to screw them on, though.)
At the place where the batten will fall (in this case, directly above the right light switch), mark with a pencil the top and bottom of your plate.
Remove the cover.
Measure the distance of the two batten parts – from the lower edge of your board to the top marking, and from the lower marking down to the ending point of your batten (in this case, a countertop).
Cut those batten lengths carefully. Then spin your chop saw 45”, lay your batten piece sideways, and cut off part of one end.
This will result in part of the end being angled. You want to leave enough of the batten end flat, though, so as to match up more closely with the outlet or switch plate surface. This is just a little detail that will create a more professional-looking end product.
Place the batten pieces according to your measurements, and nail them into place.
Here’s a side view of what silhouette you’re after. See how nicely the edges will come together with the switch plate, when it’s reinstalled?
With all boards and battens installed, it’s time to fill the brad nail holes. Grab some quick-drying, no-sanding-required spackling.
Use tiny bits on your finger to fill the brad nail holes.
If you add a little too much spackling on accident, wipe away the excess with your thumb. Remember, since you’re not sanding (which is a huge time-saver!), you want the finish to be perfectly smooth on this step.
After all the brad nail holes are filled with spackling, it’s time to caulk. You need to caulk anywhere that board or batten meets another surface – ceiling, wall, baseboard, countertop, you get the idea. Run a thin bead of caulk in your joints.
Moisten your finger a bit with some plain old tap water.
Run your finger over the caulk bead, smoothing it into a nice grooved line.
The idea is not to cover the wall and batten with caulk; rather, the idea is to connect only the seam between the two so there’s no gap. The less caulk you use while achieving this, the better.
You can see the subtle finishing touch that the caulk provides for the entire board and batten design.
Once your spackling and caulk have dried completely, it’s time to paint. If you were able to paint your boards and battens before installing them, this is a relatively simple business of brushing paint over those spots. Otherwise, you’ll be left to paint everything you just installed. I recommend using a brush for all seams then a foam roller over the smooth surfaces to remove the brush strokes.
Note: Despite the lighting discrepancies of these before and after photos, the boarded and battened walls are clearly a winner in the design department. No boring, blah walls, these. They are visually interesting while remaining understated, and they emphasize verticality in this very small bathroom. A winning wall design.