Easy, Budget Friendly Faux Wainscoting Tutorial


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Oh friends, today I’m sharing such an easy project! An easy project with a HUGE wow factor! Enter in: Faux wainscoting! It’s simple, inexpensive, and makes a statement.

This faux wainscoting post is part three in the three part series on how we refreshed our hallway. For the whole project, from beginning to end, make sure to check out these posts:

  1. Updating interior doors
  2. How to hang wallpaper: Get it perfect the first time

Why we did faux wainscoting

Faux wainscoting wasn’t always on our radar. Originally when planning out the hallway project we were going to do real wainscoting. The previous owners had done a simply burgundy paint job to give the look of it , and I thought going the whole way with real thing was a great option. The wall along the stairs is large and breaking it up just made the space feel cozier.

Faux Wainscoting tutorial: Wainscoting look without the cost. Our hallway refresh.

However, after some research I wasn’t willing to shell out the money needed to do real wainscoting. Discussing it with my husband and brother-in-law, who’s in construction for a living, we came up with a way to do it with much less expense involved.

Issues we had to address before beginning

Our walls have a medium texture to them. And while I don’t mind a good textured wall, just placing wood molding in the shape of wainscoting and painting the wall would show the texture, and I wanted it to be smooth, giving off the impression of the real deal.

We had another issue as well. The burgundy paint job I mentioned earlier? Well, they had painted over two layers of wallpaper. And while I was able to remove the wallpaper from the top of the wall with minimal trouble, it’s pretty much impossible to remove wallpaper that’s been painted over.

That was another reason we were originally going to use real wainscoting. To cover up the mess of painted wallpaper. Since that wasn’t in the cards anymore, we came up with a way to cover up the textured wall, wallpaper, and the seam where they met on the wall.

Mudding the wall to smooth it out | wainscoting on textured walls

First we measured how far up we’d be doing the wainscoting, and then I mudded the wall to smooth everything out. If you can skip this step, by all means do it. If you have textured walls and need to smooth them out don’t get intimidated by this step! It truly is super easy, just a little time consuming.

Faux Wainscoting tutorial: Wainscoting look without the cost. Our hallway refresh.

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I am no stranger to working with mud. I textured all the cracked plaster ceilings in our old home by taking mud, slathering it on the ceiling, and then taking crinkled newspaper and scrunching it into the mud and pulling straight down, hiding the cracks and giving it a more modern textured look you now find in newer homes.

When my brother in law mentioned mudding the walls to make them smooth, copying the look of wainscoting, I was on board. A bucket of mud is under $10. A few hours and I’d have those walls as smooth as a baby’s butt!

Mudding and sanding

What you’ll need to mud a wall:

1. Mud. (also known as joint compound)

2.Taping knife

3.Mud pan

4.Drywall sanding sponge (or any find grade sanding paper)

Shop Mudding and Sanding Products:

First off, mud, or joint compound as it’s also called, is very forgiving! It doesn’t stain, washes out of clothes, and is easy to clean up. I dropped a ton all over my carpet and just let it dry and vacuumed it up.

Start by placing a generous amount of mud into your mud pan. (I mixed just a bit of water to thin it out) and start applying it to the wall. Work in sections. Apply and then smooth as much as you can. There are so many helpful Youtube videos about mudding and I encourage you to check them out. Don’t get too worried about making it perfect. Sanding once its dried will help to smooth out all the imperfections.

You can see below how towards the molding I didn’t get it very smooth.

Faux Wainscoting tutorial: Wainscoting look without the cost. Our hallway refresh.

After just a couple swipes of sand paper (once mud was dry) it was perfect and ready to paint.

Faux Wainscoting tutorial: Wainscoting look without the cost. Our hallway refresh.

It took a solid afternoon to mud, then I waited at least 24 hours, and lightly sanded. Below is another example. It was really hard to get it smooth working between the molding and outlet. And after I was done a child came by and made the four scrape marks in the mud. Wasn’t that so sweet of them. 😉

Sanding the mud before

Sanding it truly a miracle worker, and I didn’t have to end up redoing any of it.

sanding the mud after

Also good to remember: Nothing in our home – walls, doorways, moldings, etc. are ever truly straight or flat. You’ll need more mud in some areas, less in others. You’ll see your old wall in some high spots, and all that is totally okay!

Applying the molding

We used smooth finish pine boards. The top and bottom boarder pieces are 1×4’s and the uprights are 1×3’s. You can get as creative as you want with the moldings. Again, Pinterest is an amazing resource for faux wainscoting ideas. I wanted to keep mine simple. We have five doorways in a fairly small hallway area and I was afraid to overwhelm the space. We kept it simple which was exactly what I was going for.

Spacing the uprights

For spacing the uprights, we went with each individual area. A small space between two doorways? We simply measured out the middle and placed a board there. For the stairs, we went with about 14″ between uprights.

Faux Wainscoting tutorial: Wainscoting look without the cost. Our hallway refresh.


If you’re painting or adding wallpaper to the above portion of the wall, do it before nailing on the molding. Measure it out so the paint or wallpaper ends under the top boarder piece. This makes a seamless transition into the wainscoting.

Faux Wainscoting tutorial: Wainscoting look without the cost. Our hallway refresh.

Get this hallway style:

Painting the wainscoting

This is where you should do as I say and not as I do. Paint your board trim pieces before nailing them to the wall. I did mine after and it was not fun. The reason I ended up doing it this way though, was because Travis bought the wood on his day off, and he worked the next day. I wanted it done that day and didn’t want to paint first and end up waiting another five days for him to have time to nail it up. I used a tiny paintbrush to get next to the wallpaper and it worked, but goodness, what a pain it the neck!

Mudding and painting

Also, You will need to caulk all the spaces that will randomly happen between the boards and walls. I painted one coat which easily showed all the holes I needed to address. Caulking is again, easy but messy. (you will need a caulking gun and one tube of caulk.) I caulked a string along the gap, then used my finger to push it into the empty space completely and smoothed out the part that was showing with my finger and a paper towel.

Faux Wainscoting tutorial: Wainscoting look without the cost. Our hallway refresh.

Once you allow the caulking to dry go ahead and do as many coats of paint as needed. I ended up doing about four. I wanted everything completely covered.

That’s it guys! Truly a very simple project that involved about $80 worth of wood, a gallon of $60 paint, caulking that was $2 bucks, mud that cost $8, and any supplies you don’t already have. A few days and some elbow grease and bam, a completely transformed area! And for less than a quarter of what purchasing actual wainscoting would cost!

Not into cutting the wood trim or just don’t have the tools?

Don’t want to do cut the wood and such at home? Home Depot often cuts to size to help you out a bit, and there are some amazing options off Wayfair for help making your wainscoting project easier. Check them out here!

Have questions? Drop me a comment below or send me a message via Instagram (my favorite platform) to get it touch with me! Also make sure to follow along on Instagram for what project we’re working on in real time!

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    1. Thank you! It was like a breath of fresh air had entered the house when they were complete! 🙂

  1. What a great job! My (now adult) kids and I have mudded almost everything on the planet. Floated Sheetrock and faux finished. Venetian plaster and etc. my house is stone on the exterior and looks like an English house. I want to skim my halls and install wainscoting. Yours is gorgeous

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