Wainscoting versus Paneling

The topic of panel molding (also frequently called “wood paneling”) is sometimes confusing to our clients, therefore we have decided to provide more in-depth information.


WAINSCOTING is a TYPE of panel molding and it signifies a decorative wooden treatment that is usually at chair rail height (approximately 32″ above the floor) or below. Wainscoting is usually a complete piece of paneling (usually wood).

PANEL MOLDING reaches above the chair rail (typical chair rail height is approximately 32″ above the floor) and sometimes covers the entire wall. Panel molding can even be applied on the ceiling. Panel molding can either be in the form of panels or simply trim pieces put together to create different patterns.

Here are some visuals on the different kinds of wainscoting and panel molding styles:

Raised Panel:

image 1

Raised Panel drawing:

image 2

Flat Panel:

image 3
image 4

Flat Panel drawing:

image 5

Overlay Panel:

image 6

Overlay Panel drawing:

image 7

Board and Batten:

image 8
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Board and Batten drawing:

image 10

Combination Paneling:

image 12

Combination drawing:

image 11

These drawings and more information on this subject are at ThisOldHouse.com, it’s a great, consumer-friendly website for sorting out technical details.

Next lesson: Tongue & Groove and shiplap!

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Tower Custom Homes
Kevin Wylie