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 wainscoting. Or at least, that’s how the story goes around here.
Want more ways to add character to your walls? These posts can help:
- 8 DIY-able Wall Molding Ideas to Add Character to Your Home
- Easy DIY Vertical Shiplap Wainscoting
- DIY Traditional Grid Molding Focal Wall
- DIY Picture Frame Molding
Why Board and Batten is a Perfect Choice to Brighten Hallways
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 foyer needs a little help, and our wheels have been turning ever since we got the idea in our heads to beef it up.
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.
If you have a dark hallway with no natural light, board batten is especially great at brightening those dark tunnel ways in the house. And it adds TONS of character for not a lot of money! It just looks expensive.
How to Install Board and Batten Cheaply and Easily
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.)
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 strip pine boards.
The Cheapest and Easiest DIY Board and Batten
A 1x4x8 furring strip costs about $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. (And at least we didn’t have to spend time ripping MDF.)
- 32 1x4x8 pine furring strips (or however many you need for your space)
- 4 1x2x8 pine furring strips
- 2 boxes of 2 inch finishing nails
- Hammer or brad nailer
- Stud finder*
- Miter saw* or circular saw*
- White trim caulk*
- Wood filler*
- Medium to fine grit sandpaper
Note: We have smooth walls, which helps make this process cheaper. If you have textured walls though, you can use this paneling between battens.
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!
1. Place the Top Boards First
We placed the boards (the horizontal 1x4s) at 65″ on our walls checking that it was perfectly 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.)
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.
Progress! And we were blissfully unaware that this was the beginning of a long 3 days. Just warning ya.
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.
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.
Robert held up vertical boards against the keypad to mark where to cut with his circular saw.
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.
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.
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.
Whew! Getting there. That stud trick works!
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.
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.
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.
UPDATE: See the final board and batten reveal here!
Oh, and you know now if you give a decorator board and batten wainscoting, 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!