DIY board and batten wall: How to complete this simple project with major impact

A DIY board and batten wall is actually quite simple! Here's a step-by-step tutorial for installing this budget-friendly accent wall

board and batten entryway
(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

Trim work of any kind of one of the best ways to elevate any room. It adds visual interest, and gives a space character in a way not many other design elements can. It's no wonder then, that wall paneling, especially the board and batten wall, has become a big home design trend in the last few years.

After thinking about installing a DIY board and batten wall in my own home for over a year, and reading up on how to DIY a board and batten wall, I finally took the plunge and hung the paneling in my entryway. The verdict: I'm not sure what took me so long.

Overall, the project took my husband and I a day to complete, then a few extra hours over the course of the next week to finish caulking and painting. We did it on four small walls, and it looks incredible (if I do say so myself).

We're no DIY pros, but once we got the process down for hanging the paneling, we actually became pretty efficient at it.

If you're thinking about trying your hand at a board and batten wall, here's how we did ours. 

board and batten diy

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

DIY board and batten wall: What you'll need

diy board and batten wall materials

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

DIY board and batten wall: How to do it

Here's the step-by-step we used to create a board and batten wall. 

1. Measure the width of the wall(s)

Before you head to the hardware store, measure your walls so you know how much trim to buy. You'll need both board (the horizontal trim pieces) and batten (the vertical trim pieces) 

For your horizontal trim, measure the width of each wall you'll be paneling in inches. Note the measurements in your phone for when you go to the hardware store. 

If you will be installing trim at the bottom of your board and batten wall as well (I prefer this look whether or not your have a baseboard), you'll want to double the amount of trim you buy. 

2. Measure the length of the batten

The next measurement you'll need is for the batten, or the vertical trim piece.

First, decide how high you want the board and batten to go up the wall (we did ours about 2/3 of the way up). Use a level and a pencil to mark the spot with a line.

Then, measure the distance between that line and your baseboard or floor. Note this measurement in your phone or on a piece of paper. This is the length of your vertical trim pieces, or batten. (Tip: If it's a tricky measurement, like 42 3/8" long, round down or up to a nice even number to make cuts a little easier, and adjust the height of your horizontal pieces accordingly.) 

Once you have the height of your vertical trim, you'll want to determine how many trim pieces you'll need for the wall. A good rule of thumb is to space them roughly 18" apart, give or take a few inches depending on the dimensions of your wall and the look you're going for. (Experts recommend anywhere from 12"-24".) 

Note: Don't forget corner pieces! We added a piece of trim in each corner of our wall to make it look more finished, which meant accounting for two extra pieces of trim per wall. 

3. Buy your trim

diy board and batten wall materials

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

With measurements in hand, head to the local hardware store. I bought 2.25" wide flat, unfinished trim for both the horizontal and vertical pieces, and then bought an additional decorative molding piece to go around the top of the wall. It was a lot thinner than the other trim, about .75". This part is optional but I love how it turned out in our house, and recommend it for homes with more traditional architecture.

Trim is sold in 8-12' lengths, so you'll need to cut if to fit in your car. Sometimes, you'll be able to find someone at the hardware store to make all of your cuts for you. I was not that lucky on the day I went, so I used a hand saw to trim them to a length that would fit in my car. 

4. Add top and bottom pieces

DIY wall paneling

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

Next, it's time to install the horizonal trim pieces. 

If you're doing a whole room, you'll want to use a miter saw to cut the ends of the trim pieces to a 45 degree angle so they fit together nicely at the corners. If you're only doing an accent wall, you can make a straight cut.

wall trim

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

Then, add a squiggly line of liquid nails to the back of the trim, and stick it on the wall, using a level to make sure the trim is even. Once it's level, use a brad nailer to secure it to the wall, adding a nail every 3-4". Repeat for the rest of the walls and/or the bottom trim piece. 

4. Add batten pieces/vertical trim

diy board and batten

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

Once the top and bottom trim is in place, it's time to cut the vertical pieces. Measure the distance between the top and bottom pieces of trim (or your baseboard/floor) so you know how long your pieces should be.

Start by installing a piece of vertical trim at each of the far edges (or in the corners) of the wall (see image below).

From there, you'll want to mark and measure where each vertical length will go. To make sure your trim pieces are evenly spaced:

  • Measure the width of the wall between the two corner trim pieces you just installed
  • Measure the width of your trim piece
  • Multiply the trim width by the number of pieces of trim you have left for the wall. In my case, we were using 3 pieces of trim in the middle of the wall. So I multiplied 3 x 2.25 (the width of our trim), to get 6.75
  • Subtract this number from the width of the wall.
  • Then, divide by the number of trim pieces you're installing (in our case, again, this was 3). The resulting number is how far apart you'll space your trim pieces from edge to edge. 

Again, in our case, we started with a 58" wall, and added two, 2.25" trim pieces in the corners, so:

58 - (2.25x2) = 53.5

2.25 x 3 = 6.75

53.5 - 6.75 = 46.75

46.73 ÷ 3 = 15.58" of spacing between each trim piece, edge to edge. 

wall paneling in an entry

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

Once you have your spacing measurement, cut the rest of the trim pieces to fit.

Then, install each vertical trim piece using liquid nails and a brad nailer. 

5. Fill nail holes and gaps between trim and sand

caulking trim

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

Once your trim is up, it's time to go back and fill in any nail holes and gaps between your wood pieces. Use painter's caulk and a caulk gun to seal cracks, wiping away any excess caulk with a paper towel or cloth. 

Let the caulk dry, then sand the caulked spots smooth.

6. Prime and paint

DIY board and batten wall being painted

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)

Finally, you're ready to paint! If you're using bare wood like I did, you'll want to prime your wood first. If you're using pre-primed MDF, you can skip this step and go straight to the paint. 

Paint your wall, and you're done! 

board and batten diy

(Image credit: Kaitlin Madden)
Kaitlin Madden
Kaitlin Madden

Kaitlin Madden Armon is a writer and editor covering all things home. In addition to Real Homes, she's written for Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Living, Refinery29, Modern Luxury Interiors, Wayfair, The Design Network, and lots more. She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons, and black lab.