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Is There a Difference Between Wainscoting and Bead Board?  

Looking for some wainscoting decoration ideas? Do the terms wainscoting and bead board sound confusing? It’s natural! After all, they belong to the same wall décor family. They are both wall panels used for ages.

IMG 1Actually, the history of wall paneling goes back many decades. When homes were still made of stone, people used wood panels to enhance inner warmth. Later on, these same panels were used for the protection of walls. And here is where the meaning of chair rails is explained. It served as the upper board of wainscots to protect the wall from the chairs.

These days, paneling is an interior design trick to cover drywall imperfections or enhance the looks of a room. And we kind of use both wainscoting and bead board interchangeably. So it’s natural to get confused. Our job here is to shed some light on their differences (if any).

What is wainscoting?

Wall panel wainscoting is made of wood, plastic, and other materials. It is used to cover the entire or part of the wall as an interior design idea or wall protection. The first paneling style dating back to the early 18th century covered the wall from floor to ceiling. Such wainscots still exist today and are called raised panels. Later on, the wainscoting style changed. It occupied about 1/3 of the wall and had a baseboard at its lowest part and the chair rail at the upper end. Most common wainscots are tongue-and-groove boards although there are whole sheets and different techniques to install them.

IMG 2What’s special about wainscoting?

The special thing about modern wainscoting is that there are different types of paneling, including:

Flat panel wainscoting, which is the simplest type of paneling. Regardless of their height/size, they have a clean cut line with baseboards, chair rails, and stiles. Raised panels usually range between 30 to 40 inches. The baseboard might be constructed by different moldings. Its main characteristic is the beveled edge which often starts about 5” over the floor. Beaded raised panels resemble the raised panels but have a smaller beveled edge and the panel is more detailed.

Beaded recessed panels resemble the flat panels but they have a beaded edge. Recessed panels are like the beaded recessed ones but without the special edges.

IMG 3The shaker panels are like the flat panels but they are narrower and much taller. Overlay panels are like their raised counterparts with the difference that they have a distinct design style with a board right in the middle. As you can see there are many wainscoting types and bead boards are one of them as well. So let’s see what makes this type distinguishable.


What’s so special about bead boards?

A beadboard panel brings a cottage style interior design look to your house. Its distinctive feature is the vertical beaded lines. They are still tongue-and-groove boards and the most popular widths of the boards are 2 ½ ” and 1 5/8 ”. They can be installed with baseboard and chair rails and although they commonly cover 1/3 of the wall, you can also cover half or the entire wall.

It’s hard to imagine it now, but once upon a time bead boards were installed piece by piece. Today, they are sold either as individual boards or whole sheets. Some interior designers have abandoned the vertical striped paneling and started installing them horizontally to give a whole new perspective to home walls.

IMG 4So where do these observations lead us? Are there no differences between beaded panel boards and wainscoting? The fact is that bead boards are wainscotings. If we assume that wainscoting is wall paneling, bead boards are one type of wainscots. Just like flat, raised, and other types of wainscotings, bead boards have their distinctive features and very unique looks. And that’s their main difference. Other than that, there is nothing to be confused about. It’s only about choosing the right wainscoting decoration ideas and styles to accent your home walls. And if you like the striped panels, bead boards are for you!

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