Wainscoting – decorative wall paneling lining the lower portion of walls – brings high-end style to rooms. Traditionally crafted from hardwoods, modern PVC vinyl wainscoting imitates the elegance without ongoing upkeep. This easy-install paneling beautifully transforms bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens and more.
This guide covers the benefits of PVC wainscoting, types of panels available, costs, calculation, preparation, installation steps and finishing techniques to professionally finish your space with decorative trim.
Why Choose PVC Vinyl Over Wood Wainscoting?
PVC wainscoting provides advantages over solid wood:
- Never needs painting or staining – color molded through
- Resists moisture damage in damp rooms
- Easier cleaner – just wipes down with soap and water
- Consistent sizing – no warping or knots
- Lower cost than wood wainscoting
- Lightweight PVC installs over existing walls easily
- Modules speed installation versus individual wood boards
While unable to match the richness of real hardwoods, vinyl PVC wainscoting offers the look with outstanding durability and easy maintenance – ideal for families and busy homeowners.
Types of PVC Wainscoting Styles
PVC wainscot panels come in styles from traditional to modern:
Raised Panels – Routed with beveled edges, creating dimensional shadow lines. Timeless elegance.
Recessed Panels – Center panel indented for clean, understated look. Available in smooth or textured.
Beadboard – Narrow boards with vertical grooved lines. Classic country style popular in porches.
Planks – Look of wide horizontal or vertical solid wood boards. Modern, coastal vibe.
Dutch Lap – Horizontal boards with staggered butted seams. Interesting texture.
MDF Composite – Molded panels combining PVC and MDF. Enhanced durability at value price.
Mix and match paneling styles by room or home area based on the mood you want to create.
How Much Does PVC Vinyl Wainscoting Cost?
Like most home materials, cost depends on the quality, pattern, and accessories chosen.
- Entry-level PVC wainscoting panels – $1 – $3 per square foot
- Mid-grade panels – $4 – $8 per square foot
- High-end wood-composite panels – $8 – $10 per square foot
Then factor trim pieces like base molding and inside/outside corner guards plus adhesive costs. DIY installation savings lower the overall investment.
Calculating Materials Needed
Measure each wall’s square footage going from baseboard to desired height. Calculate:
- Number of full wainscoting panels needed for each wall based on manufacturer panel sizes. Round up.
- Lineal feet of any trim pieces like base shoe molding, joint trim, and inside/outside corners needed. Include window and door trim.
- Amount of wall adhesive based on label recommended square footage coverage.
Order 5-10% extra to allow for potential cuts, damage, and wastage. Gather all materials before starting.
Preparing Walls for Wainscoting Installation
Proper planning prevents problems down the road:
- Inspect surfaces for loose paint, damage, high/low spots, or moisture issues. Repair imperfections which could telegraph through panels.
- Clean walls thoroughly to remove grease and soap residue. Degrease any areas around stoves or counters.
- Remove existing outlet covers and switch plates. Mark their location for easy re-installation after.
- Plan the layout so seams between panels don’t align with sinks, toilet bases, etc. Avoid aligning horizontal seams with outlets.
Step-by-Step Vinyl Wainscoting Installation Guide
Follow manufacturer directions for optimal results:
- Acclimate panels on-site 48 hours before installing to adjust to indoor temperature/humidity.
- Apply painter’s tape to the floor along installation area to protect from drips.
- Dry fit panels before using adhesive to confirm fit. Make any cuts using a power miter saw with fine finish blade.
- Apply adhesive using recommended trowel notch size, covering the entire back surface evenly.
- Press panel to wall from top down to avoid trapping air bubbles. Tamp surface to ensure full contact.
- Use painters’ caulk, sealant strips, or J-trim to cover any seams between panels. Avoid silicone caulk which prevents paint adhesion.
- Attach corner trim and molding using finish nails. Fill nail holes with filler before painting.
- Reinstall outlet covers, switch plates, and plumbing fixtures like towel bars as needed.
Allow adhesive to fully cure before painting or exposing panels to moisture.
Painting and Distressing PVC Wainscoting
Follow prep and application tips for paining PVC:
- Lightly sand panels using fine 400 grit sandpaper to improve paint adhesion. Wipe away dust.
- Prime panels before painting, using a bonding primer formulated for plastics. This allows any paint color.
- Apply two finish coats of high quality latex, allowing full drying between coats. Enamel paint also works well.
- Distress wainscoting using ragged edge painting techniques, glazing wipes, or drybrushing to create an aged, timeworn look if desired.
Finish paint provides protection for PVC panels and allows custom color schemes. Properly prepped vinyl wainscoting paints beautifully.
Maintenance Needed for Vinyl Wainscoting
Unlike wood, PVC wainscoting requires very minimal maintenance:
- Use non-abrasive cleaners – soap and water, Formula 409, Fantastik, etc. Avoid harsh chemicals which could yellow or etch surface.
- Touch up paint nicks or damage promptly to avoid moisture entering the PVC substrate.
- Re-caulk joints if gaps appear. Check corners and edges of trim.
- Avoid excessive moisture buildup and wipe down after showers. Control bathroom humidity.
- Clean using soft sponge or microfiber. Avoid abrasive pads or scrubbing heavily.
With periodic cleaning, repainting every decade approximately, and re-caulking as needed, quality vinyl wainscoting will retain its like-new sheen and color for many years before considering replacement.
Achieve Bathroom Sophistication with PVC Wainscoting
Durable, easy-install PVC wainscoting panels create upscale style in any room while minimizing maintenance requirements. Follow proper design, preparation, installation and painting techniques to take your space from drab and boring to elegant and timeless using this decorative wall covering solution. Soon your bathroom will have a custom designer feel minus the designer price tag!
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