How to Install Board and Batten

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 BattenView in gallery

DIY Board and Batten - before and afterView in gallery

If you love the look of board and batten but are uncertain on its installation ins and outs, this tutorial will walk you through the process, step by step.

DIY Board and Batten - final photoView in gallery

DIY Board and Batten - closer lookView in gallery

Clean your walls thoroughly.

DIY Board and Batten - remove any outlet coverView in gallery

Remove any outlet covers.

DIY Board and Batten - prime and paint the wallsView in gallery

Prime and paint the walls.

batten moulding installedView in gallery

The batten in this example will stretch from baseboard to batten moulding 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.)

DIY Board and Batten - prime and paintedView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - measure and markView in gallery

Measure and mark your board.

DIY Board and Batten - marking a board to cutView in gallery

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.)

DIY Board and Batten - chop your boardView in gallery

Chop your board.

DIY Board and Batten - ceiling levelView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - before attachingView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - hold the boardView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - nailretoView in gallery

Use a brad nailerto attach the board to the wall on the studs. I sunk about three nails at each stud area.

DIY Board and Batten - repeat the board instalationView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - installView in gallery

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 accordinglyView in gallery

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 nailerView in gallery

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.

nicely the thicker first battenView in gallery

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).

discrepancy is hardly noticeableView in gallery

And because it’s the same width as the other battens, this discrepancy is hardly noticeable.

DIY Board and Batten - projectView in gallery

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.

measure the width of your wallView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - measureView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - distance measureView in gallery

Also measure the distance along the top of your batten, just under the board.

DIY Board and Batten - space markedView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batte - materialView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - cutView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - allignView in gallery

Align the batten at the top, and brad nail it into place.

DIY Board and Batten -second battenView in gallery

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.

work efficientlyView in gallery

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 woodView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten template up between the battens,View in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten nailView in gallery

This photo shows a point I had to push in the batten and nail it in.

two perfectly spaced battensView in gallery

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.)

DIY Board and Batten - nailing the bottomView in gallery

Continue on in this way – nailing the bottom, top, then centers – for each batten all along this wall.

DIY Board and Batten -wallView in gallery

It’s coming along! Nice work.

DIY Board and Batten - continueView in gallery

Continue on other walls as you can.

Around the outletView in gallery

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.)

DIY Board and Batten - will fallView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - remove the coverView in gallery

Remove the cover.

DIY Board and Batten - measure the distanceView in gallery

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).

DIY Board and Batten - Cut those batten lengthsView in gallery

Cut those batten lengths carefully. Then spin your chop saw 45”, lay your batten piece sideways, and cut off part of one end.

DIY Board and Batten- angleView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - piecesView in gallery

Place the batten pieces according to your measurements, and nail them into place.

DIY Board and Batten - closer to outletView in gallery

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?

DIY Board and Batten- fasten finalView in gallery

With all boards and battens installed, it’s time to fill the brad nail holes. Grab some quick-drying, no-sanding-required spackling.

DIY Board and Batten- tiny bitsView in gallery

Use tiny bits on your finger to fill the brad nail holes.

DIY Board and Batten- add mixView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - corner edgesView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten -moisten fingerView in gallery

Moisten your finger a bit with some plain old tap water.

Run your finger aloneView in gallery

Run your finger over the caulk bead, smoothing it into a nice grooved line.

DIY Board and Batten not cover the wallView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten - after caulckView in gallery

You can see the subtle finishing touch that the caulk provides for the entire board and batten design.

Once your spackling and caulkView in gallery

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.

DIY Board and Batten ProjectView in gallery

Congratulations! Finished.

DIY Board and Batten before and after projectView in gallery

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.