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The Cheapest and Easiest DIY Board and Batten (Part One)

8 simple steps to take the guess work out of building cheap board and batten to add character and timeless detail to plain walls.  

Cheapest and Easiest DIY Board and Batten - 8 simple steps to take the guess work out of building cheap board and batten to add character and timeless detail to plain walls.  

Did you ever read that book as a kid? “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”? And the whole book is about this domino effect of a little mouse who keeps discovering more things he wants?

Well, there’s a grown-up version. If you give a DIYer a table makeover, she’s going to want a shiplap wall. When you give her a plank wall, she’ll probably ask for board and batten. Or at least, that’s how the story goes around here.
Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) - foyer

UPDATE:

Want more ways to add character to your walls? These posts can help:

Yesterday, I got to show off our latest room reveal in our foyer that puts a smile on my face every time I walk in the door. Our cookie cutter house is starting to feel more and more like a home all the time. It’s finally an expression of who we are and what we like.

Robert and I have agreed for a while now that our front door needs a little help, and our wheels have been turning ever since we got the idea in our heads to beef it up.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) - foyer

Then we started thinking about our uber dark downstairs hallway. This space has no natural light, and it really feels like a cave. The dark paint I blindly chose on moving day doesn’t really help matters.

So I started sketching out plans and crunching numbers to brighten it up with some extra chunky, double tall board and batten. (Skim, hold the whipped cream.)

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) hallway

We wanted to do it cheaply but didn’t want to be ripping MDF or plywood boards to get the job done. We wanted a one and done process. So the answer for cheapest DIY board and batten? Furring strips.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) - furring strips

The Cheapest and Easiest DIY Board and Batten

A 1x4x8 furring strip costs less than $2.00 at most hardware stores. That’s 70% cheaper than MDF boards. And they’re solid and ready to put up without any ripping.

It was still quite a tedious process, since it is board and batten after all, but it eliminated some extra steps on the front end. And I love how the whole project turned out.

Supplies

Our hallway is very long, and we still ended up staying under our $100 budget (since we already own the tools). Furring strips are da bomb diggity, y’all!

The Steps

1. Place the Top Boards First

We placed the boards (the horizontal 1x4s) at 65″ on our walls using a level, with the top of the 1×4 at the 65″ mark from the top of our existing baseboard.

(I tried my best to remember to take pictures as we worked but this was definitely a two person job.)

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) setting the top board

2. Nail the Top Boards

Once level and at the height mark you want, nail each board into studs. This is where that stud finder can really come in handy. Our nail gun wouldn’t work with 2″ finishing nails so we had to resort to the good ol’ hammer method. Womp womp.

The good news: It’s proof you can handle this project with not a lot of power tools if you don’t own them already. 

It took much longer this way but we felt better that with longer nails, the boards were more secure.

We had to measure each section of wall for some of the boards and cut with a circular saw for the more narrow spaces.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) nailing the top board

Progress! And we were blissfully unaware that this was the beginning of a long 3 days. Just warning ya.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) adding the top boards

3. Measure and Cut Vertical Battens

Then, we got to measuring and cutting our battens (the vertical 1x4s). Each one was around 61.5″ long. We measured for each batten individually from the top of our existing baseboard because we wanted as snug of a fit as possible.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) measuring for battens

4. Cut Around Obstacles

We had to work around some tricky areas like our security system keypad, outlets, and light switches. For the keypad, we had to cut a board into two parts.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) cutting battens around obstacles

Robert held up a board against the keypad to mark where to cut with his circular saw.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) cutting battens around wall obstacles

For boards that were only partially intersecting light switches and outlets, we held the board in place next to it, marked, and cut the section out with our jigsaw. It’s not ideal, but sometimes there’s no other choice than to work around them. 

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) cutting battens around light switches

5. Nail Battens to Studs

The trickiest part of all though was figuring out how to stay consistent with our spacing battens. And we didn’t want to nail them to just drywall for fear that it could really cause some drama later. (Like a monkey kid who decides to yank on them…you just never know.)

Solution:  Nail your battens to studs. They should (hopefully) already be evenly spaced, and it will make the battens more secure.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) anchoring battens to studs

By the way, for 90% of the projects you see on this blog, Lola is sitting right beside us supervising our every move. The other 10%, she’s usually snoring on the couch.

One guess who put the Dallas Cowboys jersey on her (and it just might be the guy wearing the Dallas hat there). She’s the only wacko dog I’ve ever known who actually likes wearing clothes.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) nailing battens to studs

Whew! Getting there. That stud trick works!

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) diy board and batten in hallway

I sort of spaced out on taking pictures at this point because I was so ready to have this madness finished.

6. (Optional) Add A Second Board 12″ Below the Top Board

We measured each space between the battens for our second horizontal board. Most were 12″ apart, give or take a few millimeters. We left a 12″ space between the bottom of the top board and top of the second board.

7. (Optional) Add a Shelf Detail to the Top Board

To finish it off, we nailed a 1×2 board flat on top like a little shelf. That one detail made it look really complete.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) board and batten in hallway with shelf detail

8. Caulk Gaps and Wood Fill Knots and Nail Holes

Then we caulked all seams and board edges and filled wood knots and nail holes for longer than I care to remember. (Thank goodness for nearby grandparents who babysit. Thanks, Mom!)  Once it was all dry, we sanded it all until smooth.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) board and batten in hallway

I had no idea before we tackled this project ourselves just how much work it entailed. Maybe if we’d attempted a smaller space first it wouldn’t have been so overwhelming, but Robert and I are so happy with how it’s turned out. Totally worth it.

Cheapest and Easiest Board and Batten (Part One) board and batten in hallway

UPDATE:   See the final board and batten reveal here!

DIY Board and Batten for Under $100

Oh, and you know now if you give a decorator board and batten, she’s going to want a painted front door. See our DIY faux wood painted front door here. 

Have you ever attempted board and batten in your house before? Or any other architectural DIYs that worked wonders in a room? Tell me all about it!

signoff

Frequently Asked Questions

Can this board and batten method work on textured walls?

You cannot use this exact method on textured walls, but you can adapt it by using 1/8″ thin plywood paneling on the wall prior to attaching your boards to create a smooth finish.

Is board and batten a trend?

Not at all! It’s a classic architectural detail in many traditional and modern homes alike that stands the test of time. Board and batten is often seen as an added bonus to potential home buyers.

How tall should board and batten be?

There’s a lot of flexibility in how high board and batten should be. It should be at least 4′ high. But you can also install floor to ceiling board and batten wall if you prefer. Ours was approximately 6′ high (with 9′ ceilings).

What should I do so battens don’t stick out from existing baseboards?

You can rip the baseboards off completely and run a board in its place to match the thickness of the battens. Or you can cut 45 degree angles the bottom of the battens with a miter saw to meet the existing baseboards.

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70 Comments

  1. I love your tutorial, it looks fabulous!
    My question Is on the horizontal boards, where they meet in corners, did you just leave the boards straight and bud them up against each other, then of course caulk the seam line?
    Or where they come together at the corners, diff you miter them to fit like “a glove” so to speak, and then caulk your seam.
    Thank you so much for sharing, your site has helped so much in TONS of our home projects!

    1. We just left them straight because whether you miter or not, after caulk and paint, you can’t tell the difference at all. And our miter saw was acting up on us that day, so we went the easier but still effective route. 😉

  2. Looks great! Why did you chose 65″ for the height? Any rhyme or reason, or just what you preferred?

    Trying to figure out what the ideal height is for the look that’s above the typical chair-rail height.

    Thanks!

    1. That was just the height of the second hinge on all of our doors, and it accommodated for our light switches on the walls.

  3. I’m new to the whole DIY thing and I was wondering what you meant when you said you caulked all seams and board edges – I don’t know where you mean? Did you caulk where every board touches the wall? Thank you!

    1. Hi Erin! Sorry about that. Yes, we caulked every place where two boards met and where each board touched the wall.

  4. I love this so much! We have a dark hallway almost identical to yours and I would love to do this, we have plaster with a swirl–would this work since it’s not smooth? Any tips would be appreciated! I follow you on fb also! Love your style! Thank you!

  5. Hi! I am wanting to do this in our dining room. I was wondering though how you attached the smaller horizontal pieces between the battens. Did you just nail them into the drywall? Thanks so much and looove your projects!

    1. Hi, Kristie! Yes, they are nailed between the battens, but they haven’t budged since we did this project over a year ago.

  6. Love this! Where did you purchase the furring strips? I am having a really tough time finding the right size boards to line up with our baseboards. Everything I’ve found will stick out further than the baseboards. Thanks!

    1. I got the furring strips at Lowe’s. We had to be really picky choosing ones that weren’t knotty or warped. Ours overhang slightly, but you could replace your baseboards with wider boards or run a 1×1 on top of your existing baseboard or cut the bottom of your furring strips at an angle with a miter saw. 🙂

  7. I love this! I am so ready to tackle our entryway! Random question but can you tell me the color you have on your walls? Thanks!

    1. Absolutely! We have Sherwin Williams Perfect Greige on the walls and Glidden Crisp Linen on the board and batten trim.

  8. This looks absolutely great! I have been wanting to do this to my walls for years now, but because my walls are textured, I have been reluctant to do it. (Plus, I am not very handy and am afraid I would just make a mess of things.) Do you have any suggestions or blog post referrals as to how one would go about applying board and batten to textured walls? I have been tempted to just go ahead and do it the way you did it, but wonder if it would just end up looking kind of half-baked with the textured wall showing through.

    Also, our house has rounded corners (I dislike these for so many reasons) – do you think it would be best not to attempt putting B&B around the corners? Our baseboards already look wonky with the mitered cut to go around the corner – I imagine trying to put B&B around a rounded corner might get a bit complicated.

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Oh, that is tricky with the textured walls and rounded corners. Yours would be more expensive to do since you would need to put plywood in the spaces between the battens. Here’s a tutorial on how to do it on textured walls: http://www.itsoverflowing.com/2012/04/entry-room-board-and-batten-mud-room/ And here’s a tutorial for how to do it on rounded corners: http://thecontractorchronicles.com/2014/03/17/install-board-batten/ It’s still possible though!

      1. Lauren, thanks for the links! I am so eager to try this. I do have a bathroom that is not textured, and I think I’ll give it a go in there first before trying something more involved.

        Kaille

        1. Kaille,
          We installed board and batten on our textured walls and it looks awesome. We have what I would consider light texture. We didn’t cover the walls with plywood or hardboard. The texture is noticeable between the boards but I still love it. I’d say as long as your walls aren’t a heavy texture, you would be fine. Authentic, no, but for me it’s still a beautiful, economical way to add interest to a wall.

  9. Thank you for the tutorial! Your direction will be very helpful when I do a version of this in my family room. I do have a couple questions. How did you meet the baseboards with the bottom of the batten? The top of my baseboards are angled downward and I believe yours are as well. Did you leave a gap where the two meet or did you angle the bottom of your batten?

    Thanks,
    Lindsey

    1. Hi Lindsey! Glad it could help! Our original plan was to angle the bottom, but our miter saw gave up on us, so we ended up just putting them as-is up against our baseboards. You can choose whatever angle you’d like though if you want to go that route.

  10. Love the ship lap, and the board and batten.
    My question to you is can I have a ship lap wall ,close to (not touching ) board and batten? I love both. Usually,I’m pretty confident in my decor abilities,this one has me questioning myself.

    1. I had the exact same issue! And I finally just decided it’s my house and if I want shiplap and board and batten close to each other, I’m going to do it. We have shiplap in our foyer and the board and batten in our hallway right beside it, and I love how it looks. Go for it. 😉

  11. So I am looking at doing this in our nursery, my question is, what do you do at the base of the vertical boards where they meet your trim? It looks like your baseboard trim is similar to mine in where it is narrower at the top so the vertical board would hang out over the baseboard. (hope that makes sense) I want to avoid it looking goofy and having to replace all of my baseboards.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Elizabeth! You can just cut the bottom of the battens (the vertical boards) with a miter saw at an angle to meet up with your existing baseboard. I hope that makes sense.

  12. Love what you did. I’m going to do my bathroom but am wondering: is board and batten ALWAYS done in white? That seems to be the only thing I find in my searching. I’m torn between going white or perhaps a mauve if that isn’t going against “the rules”. Thanks.

    1. Not at all! I’ve seen gray, navy, and red before too. The rules are meant to be broken anyway, right? 😉

  13. How do the battens tie into the baseboard? Are your baseboards 1″ at the top? Are your battens hanging out over the top of the baseboard or did you miter them? Can you post a close up photo?

    I absolutely love this and want to do it at my house but not sure if it’s doable with my traditional baseboards. Thank you in advance.

    1. It’s totally up to you how you want to do it, but with traditional baseboards, I would miter them so that they end up the same width at the bottom as your baseboards.

  14. That is going to look great and really brighten up your hallway. We used chunky mdf in our kitchen but you are right that it can get expensive. I will have to keep this in mind if we tackle another area. Oh, and around here we prefer a large double double (I’m referring to your skim hold the whip comment in case you think I have lost my mind haha.)

    1. Haha! Yay! Someone got it! I thought, “Nobody is going to get that and will think I’m crazy.” The chunky mdf is definitely less work when it comes to sanding, filling wood knots, finding good boards to use and all of that but it does add up.

  15. We are in the process of putting board and batten in our bathroom. It is a much smaller space so we could not rely on your stud method, that and the fact our studs were not evenly spaced. I love it and am also putting bead board on the ceiling . Cannot wait until it is done!!

    1. Oh that is tricky. Ours was a challenge because we had doors, outlets, switches, weird corners, and all of that going on so studs was the answer for us. Hopefully, you have a flat wall without all of those crazy obstacles. I’m not gonna lie…I’m kind of jealous that you’re getting bead board on your ceiling. 😉 Haha

  16. Oh my word – we would be dangerous together. My hubs is already thinking I’m crazy with the amount of projects I have going in my head – this is something I have been talking about doing in nearly every part of the house. I can’t wait to get going on this. Thank you for coming up with & sharing a low cost alternative. I would have instinctively gone with the mdf & paid way too much. LOVE this!

    1. Haha! I have a feeling we would be too. DIYs definitely take a little sweet talking on the hubby but mine is usually as excited as I am about it. We both got the DIY bug lately, but this one probably made us realize it’s time for a breather from the power tools for a few..um…weeks. Haha. Glad my little tip could help. Love your blog, Gina!

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