Thursday, January 10, 2013

At Last! Board and Batten, or: Where the Caulk Was: Sort of a Tutorial

I will get to that part--where the mysteriously missing caulk was hiding--later on.

I had this idea in my head that putting up board and batten would take up most of a leisurely Saturday, and then we'd be all finished and move on to other exciting nursery tasks like making a whale. I guess all the tutorials I read entitled things like, "Board and Batten: A Tutorial in Seventeen Parts" should have clued me in.

It's not that any one step in putting up board and batten is particularly onerous; it's just that there are so many steps, and each one could be done in any one of fourteen different ways, so there are...whatever fourteen times so many is decisions to make before you can even really get started. And the overabundance of tutorials online that should make the whole thing easier kind of....doesn't, because everyone has done their board and batten a little bit differently, and yet they all look pretty similar (and good) in the's like picking between eight different shades of white paint, which is maybe why I never paint things white.

So we spent a few weeks reading tutorials and procrastinating before finally jumping in. Let me summarize a few of the decisions we had to make before we could get started:

1. How high should the board and batten go? I've seen people go all different ways with this. Some people keep it low, often because they're working with an existing chair rail. Some people go all the way up to the ceiling. We opted for roughly 2/3 of the way up, or around 5 1/2 feet (with 8 foot ceilings).

2. How wide should all the boards be? Again, huge variations abound! Our vertical boards are 2  inches, and our horizontal boards on top are 4 inches.

3. What about the spacing between the vertical boards? It seemed like the ones I liked best online were between, say, 12 and 14 inches apart. Or so. This is an area where you kind of have to play around with how it looks in your particular room and also with what works best with whatever outlets, doors, etc. you have to work around. I think it's pretty rare that you'll be able to space them exactly evenly when you work around everything, so be prepared to move a board an inch here and another one an inch there. We ended up with our spaced as close to 13 1/2 inches as we could get them.

4. What kind of material should you use? You can use real wood, but MDF seems to be the most popular choice. And then you have to decide whether to buy pre-primed and pre-cut planks or to buy sheets  (Lowes carries 5 by 8 foot, so Dave did some fancy figuring to decide how to get the boards we needed out of those) and have them cut at the store (or cut them at home yourself, if you don't like yourself very much). Buying sheets will save you a lot of money but cost you more time in painting/priming (which is the most time consuming part of the project). But it's so much cheaper that it's really hard not to go that route, unless it's a very small project. Our wall was 29 feet long, minus one door, so we went with sheets, cut into planks. The guy at Lowes did not seemed thrilled about making so many cuts. Too bad, dude--it's your JOB. He's just lucky no one made him prime and paint all the damn things.

5. What kind of paint to use? See above for how choosing white paint flusters me more than it should. First we bought the super cheap, pre-mixed Olympic white paint at Lowes. This was a mistake. It was like water. I believe I've heard somewhere that some people say you get what you pay for. So we ended up using this more or less as a primer, because after we'd slapped a whole bunch of coats of paint on the wall and the boards with it, it still needed more. So we returned to Lowes and bought the still pre-mixed, but considerably more expensive fancy Valspar white paint. And this was much better. But it took a LOT of coats of paint to cover everything still.

6. When should you paint, anyway? I read over and over again that painting the wall and the boards before you put them on the wall will save you a ton of time. So I was surprised at how many people didn't do that. And then I wasn't surprised that in most of those descriptions, the people were like, "and we're STILL finishing up the paint, 11 months later!" Or something like that. So we painted first. Wall with a roller and boards with a smaller foam roller. Then all you have to do after is touch up where you've put nails and caulked and all that.

7. And what to do about that part where the vertical board hits the baseboard? I saw a bunch of different ideas here, too (because most of the time, your baseboard comes in at an angle at the top, so that the vertical boards would hang out over the top of them). Some people take the existing baseboard off and put flat boards there instead (so it matches the horizontal board on top). One blogger went along and cut off the slanting in part of her baseboard so that what was left behind would be flat along the top. We decided to cut the bottoms of the vertical boards off at a 45 degree angle, so they'd slope in to meet the baseboard. Apparently this is fairly easy and straightforward if you have a circular saw. I wouldn't know. Dave did it.

8. What about attaching it to the wall? Funny you should ask that. Remember my promise to tell you where the caulk was hiding? Okay, so we decided to use finishing nails plus liquid nails to attach all the boards. This seemed to go swimmingly...we slathered the liquid nails on, then I held it up while Dave put three nails per board in. Then a few days later I spent all day looking around for the caulk....and we finally found the caulk gun that we used to put the "liquid nails" up. Oops. So it turns out we used caulk plus nails to put the boards up. I hope that works. So far, so good.

Okay, so I'll try to speed up from here, because, really, once you've decided all that stuff, things get fairly straightforward. Except for the part where you have to find 400 extra hours for all the painting.

A bunch of boards in our basement, where they all got painted:

Here they are with their 45 degree angles:

Starting to put the horizontal boards up. This involved lots of measuring and checking things with a level.

The first vertical board is up!

Making progress. Once the painting was done, things went pretty fast.

So this is what the boards look like at the bottom where they hit the baseboard. I'm pretty pleased with it.

Finished except for caulking the seams and touching up the paint. Please excuse that dresser, acting like it's all "styled" because it has 3 things on it. It was messy, and I threw a bunch of stuff on the bed to take the picture. It will be prettier when we get to that side of the room...soon!

So in that picture, you can sort of see where the cracks are where we put the boards together. So then, when I finally found it, I went back through and filled in the cracks with caulk. If you'll recall, I fretted about this a good bit, but it wound up taking all of ten minutes and was super easy. I just squirted the caulk in, then wiped the excess off with my finger. Then a couple of hours later, I went back through and painted over all the caulk and nail holes (another ten minutes. And don't forget to get paintable caulk).

And now it's officially all finished!

Couple of things I thought of and am editing to add:

*Cost: Dave says he only bought one of the 5 by 8 boards, and it cost about $25 + around $7 for all the cuts. Nails were $3, then a few bucks for caulk and liquid nails (umm, although we didn't actually use the liquid nails). The biggest expense was actually the paint, since we used nearly a full 2 gallons. One can of cheap paint and one can of expensive: around $40 all together.

*I also forgot to mention that Dave sanded down all the MDF before it went up on the wall.

*And I forgot to say that the MDF was 1/2 inch thick.

Shared with:
Under the Table and Dreaming's Sunday Showcase Party
Tuesday's Treasures at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Home Stories A to Z Tutorials and Tips
Hookin' Up With House of Hepworths
Tater Tots and Jello Weekend Wrap Up party
Classy Clutter's Spotlight Saturday
Funky Junk Interior's Saturday Nite Special


  1. I'm kind of obsessed with your nursery.

  2. It looks so so so beautiful! I love it! It is so sophisticated. And you are right, there are SOOOO many ways to do board and batten. The board and batten in our dining room was the first real DIY project we did in our house... and... I want to redo it. I want it taller. I LOVE the 2/3 look. I hope you're doing well. The baby is coming SO SOON!

  3. Yay! Baby Davtchen has somewhere to live!!! How exciting!

    1. How come Dave gets to come first? I'm doing all the work here! ;)

    2. Because Gretchave doesn't have the same ring.

  4. It looks really hard. I am impressed with your dedication & skills!

    1. I think I made it sound too hard. It's more tedious than hard, I think. Also, most of the time when I say "we," I really mean "Dave." Because, you know, I'm pregnant and can't paint things. The fumes! Or so I like to claim.

  5. WOW that looks spectacular and I love your tutorial. It feels so much more real than a lot of the ones that try to only focus on how quick and easy it is. It does require some work but boy did that pay off. LOVE love love that room!

    I have to go back and see what blue paint you used on the wall. Or is it dark gray? Love it with the white!!

    1. Thanks! According to Benjamin Moore, it's actually green. It's called Newburg Green, but, really, it's a navyish blue with a little gray and a little teal in it. Or that's how I describe it anyway :)

  6. I looove board and batten! This turned out so good and I love the dark green color with the white. Such a precious nursery! I'm a new follower!

  7. I love the dark colors contrasting with the board and batten!!! It turned out fabulous!!!

  8. it looks amazing! i also am smitten with the dark color, and love the bedding!!!

  9. This looks great!! I look forward to seeing you at My Dream Canvas. I am visiting you from Tuesday Treasures. Thanks Anu!

  10. Thanks for the info!! I painted mine after, what a pain. I'll be doing your way next time!

  11. Looks great! You have a great start to an amazing nursery. I can't wait to see the finished room!

  12. Hello Gretchen, it is beautiful. Since this is the first time I have read about this type of project would you take just one minute to explain why the painting before instead of after is better? I thought I wanted to use beadboard but I like this much better.

    Thanks. "pa"

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I had a hard time understanding it before we started, too. I think the main issue is that if you paint first, you can do the whole wall (behind the vertical strips) with a roller--once the boards are up, you'd need to get all the edges with a brush. And given how many coats we needed to do, that could take a long time. Hth!


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