Dining Room Wainscoting: A Timeless Accent For Your Eating Space

Dining room wainscoting might feel like a style from the past but it’s one you’ll regret leaving behind. A decorative wall accent with endless customization, wainscoting transforms rooms with its clean lines and character.

Dining Room Wainscoting

While its original purpose was to protect walls, its function today is for the most part an embellishment. Even so, wainscoting continues to be featured in homes centuries later and its classic look makes it easy to see why.

What is wainscoting?

What is wainscoting
RCL Development

Installed on the lower half of the wall, wainscoting is an ornamental wall paneling that consists of several types of boards. Different style molding, panels, rails, and trims combine to create designs fit for any personal aesthetic.

It offers a means for splitting up textures and hues, producing a distinct yet harmonious result. 

Wainscoting In a Dining Room?

While wainscting can be added to any room, it has a way of showing off best in dining rooms. Most dining spaces already carry an air of elegance by nature but the addition of wainscoting takes it to the next level. A classic look for a classy space, wainscoting will offer your dining room unmatched dimension with a balanced level of depth.

Wainscoting Materials

Different materials can be used to create your dining room wainscoting look, all of which affect both lifespan and project cost.

  • Wood: The original wainscoting material, the beauty of wood wainscoting is unmatched. Though it’s got major durability, it comes at a higher price than that of its competitors.
  • MDF: A composite wood, MDF is a cheaper alternative to real wood panels. It’s best used in living rooms and bedrooms as it’s not waterproof and is susceptible to warping.
  • Plastic: Ideal for part of the home most exposed to moisture, plastic wainscoting holds up well in bathrooms and kitchens alike. Easy to clean, you can count on it to be a low-maintenance option.
  • Vinyl: A type of plastic all its own, vinyl is a long-lasting and sturdy material. Water and dent resistant, it’s sure to protect your walls. Its ability to be recycled is also a plus.

Wainscoting Cost

The total cost of your dining room wainscoting project depends on the materials chosen and labor you choose, contracted or DIY.

  • The cost of labor ranges from $2 to $4 per square foot or an average of $1,325.
  • The cost of beadboard ranges from $7 to $20 per square foot.
  • The cost of flat paneling ranges from $7 to $10 per square foot.
  • The cost of board and batten ranges from $7 to $20 per square foot.
  • The cost of raised paneling ranges from $10 to $30 per square foot.
  • The cost of overlay paneling ranges from $10 to $40 per square foot.

Dining Room Wainscoting Ideas

Ranging from stand-out designs to something seamless and subtle, there’s a dining room wainscoting style for everyone. Take a look at these ideas for inspiration fitting traditional and modern tastes alike.


Louis Ashman Design

Characterized by deep, little grooves to create an intricate yet sleep finish, beadboard shines in traditional dining space.

Tall Wainscoting

Tall Wainscoting
Jessica Helgerson

Utilizing tall wainscoting highlights the home’s paneling more than that of the average size as seen in this modernized remodel.

Flat Paneling

Flat Paneling
Leedy Interiors

The flat paneling in this transitional space create depth, giving off a clean-cut finish while still adding to the room’s overall style factor.

Bold Paint

Bold Paint
Fox Interiors

Straying from the traditional white, this mid-century modern dining room is a prime example of how bold paint wainscoting is worth the risk.

Board and Batten

Board and Batten
Ling Interiors

A popular selection in recent years, board and batten provide a nice geometric display while not interrupting the flow of a formal dining room.

Raised Paneling

Raised Paneling
Annie Hall Interiors

The raised paneling style is a classic design element known for recessed grooves with a protruding center, seen in this elegant dining room in different sizes.

Cohesive Color

Cohesive Color
Samantha Stein Interiors

Giving your dining room wainscoting a cohesive color, the same color of the surrounding walls helps it to blend for a seamless and subtle look for your dining space.

Overlay Wainscoting

Overlay Wainscoting
Layton Designs

Making for an easy DIY, overlay wainscoting can be added directly on top of boards and in some cases drywall, creating a look that jumps off the walls as seen in this dining space.

Mixed Wainscoting

Mixed Wainscoting
Fine Interiors By Susan Inc.


The use of mixed wainscoting can produce a room like none other. The transitional dining space above uses flat panel and overlay for a distinct look that can’t go unnoticed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What's the average height of wainscoting?

While there’s some styles that call for higher or lower heights, you can bank on one general rule if you need a starting point. Measure a third of the way up your walls and that’s where the top of your wainscoting should land. For example, if your dining room has 9 foot walls your wainscoting should be 3 feet tall. It’s common for average height to fall between 36 and 42 inches.

Are wainscoting and paneling the same thing?

They’re not the same, though people tend to use them to mean the same thing. Paneling is an umbrella term for wall treatments that are decorative in nature and can cover surfaces from the floor to the ceiling. Wainscoting is a type of paneling that’s confined to the lower half of walls throughout the home.

What paint finish should be used on wainscoting?

This comes down to personal preference, but here’s a few tips to help guide your decision. First, keep in mind what the finish has to offer. Lower traffic areas like dining rooms can tolerate an eggshell finish whereas higher traffic requires a high-gloss selection. The second thing to consider is the room’s vibe. If it’s a more elegant, upscale space then a glossier finish would fit well. Likewise, if the space is a minimal, restrained look then try something on the eggshell side of the spectrum.

Which white paint colors are most common for wainscoting?

Although wainscoting isn’t limited to white, it’s by far the most common choice. That said, here’s some popular white paint selections sure to make your dining room wainscoting pop:

Simply White by Benjamin Moore: A warm white with yellow undertones.
Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore: A bright white with minimal undertones.
Pure White by Sherwin Williams: A soft white with neutral undertones.
Extra White by Sherwin Williams: A crips white with blue undertones.


Wainscoting has adorned walls for centuries and it seems that this timeless look is here to stay. Offering dining rooms an extra layer of refined detail, it’s an instant facelift to otherwise ordinary eating space. An affordable project with matchless impact, dining room wainscoting is an upgrade you won’t regret.