Beadboard Types and Styles

Category: Materials

Adding a beadboard accent to a room can be accomplished in several ways.

Our Review

On the advice of Paul, we trekked over to Lee Lumber this weekend to check out their selection of beadboard materials. They were able to provide both good advice and samples of each material we're considering.

They went so far as to pull down several pallets so we could get a look at each type...

(Note from JM: I do not look THAT big from behind, do I? Wah! I really hope that's the down coat. And I must be wearing 2-3 sweaters...right? Right. Sorry. Had a little "ohmigosh, my backside is on the 'net and I'm J-Lo'in, aren't I?" moment there. Carry on. )

We found plenty of options. Style, labor, and cost requirements are the major considerations when deciding. Here's what we learned, what we've decided to use, and why:

Fundamentally, the approach to beadboard comes down to a choice betwen 8 foot long sheets (available in a 4 foot length) versus 3 inch wide tongue-and-groove boards (available in varying lengths). Each has its merits.

There are three basic "looks" for a beadboard finish:

  • 1 1/2" Beaded - This can be accomplished with either the sheets or tongue-and-groove material. The only difference between the two will be the depth: tongue-and-groove boards come in a 5/8" depth while sheets come in a 3/8" depth.
  • 3" Beaded - This is commonly available in sheet format. The wider bead is better suited for larger surfaces than the 1 1/2" version because of the visual scale.
  • 1 1/2" Notched - The notched version is a 1 1/2" style like the first, but provides a simplified look. This version is only available in tongue-and-groove boards, which are milled to offer the beaded version on one side and the notched version on the other.

The following photos shows both sides of a tongue-and-groove board--the top is the beaded side and the bottom is notched.

It goes without saying that installing numerous tongue-and-groove boards is more time-intensive than installing larger sheets. It's also notable that tongue-and-groove installations require additional framing members. A beadboard wainscoat made of boards, for example, would also require horizontal framing members between each joist along the wall to provide backing to nail boards into.

Tongue-and-groove material costs more than beadboard sheets--about twice as much. It is clearly the high end alternative. That said, waste material can close the cost gap somewhat--beadboard sheets only come in 4'x8' units while tongue-and-groove boards are available in a variety of lengths. Thus, a 3' high wainscoat will result in 25% waste material if you use the sheets. It doesn't make up the full cost difference but it is worth considering.

Of course, unless you do the work yourself, the extra labor cost of having tongue-and-groove boards installed should be considered into the final cost as well.

Our Own Decision
After looking at the materials up close, we've decided to go with sheets. Though we prefer the notched look of the tongue-and-groove boards. But we've also decided the difference isn't significant enough to justify the extra cost since the beadboard won't be focal point of the room.

We'll be installing beadboard in several locations around the house--upstairs we're planning a beadboard wainscoat in the bathroom and a beadboard ceiling in our bedroom. Beadboard will also trim out a small built-in cabinet next to the sink.

Downstairs, we're also considering it for a temporary cosmetic makeover for the kitchen. A full kitchen renovation is so far off into the future for us that we're thinking a surface-level treatment could be worth the effort until we save the money to completely "unmuddle" the kitchen.

More to come of course...we hope to install the beadboard upstairs some time soon.

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Wow, what a timely post - we are set to finish our bathroom within the next month, and the beadboard wainscoat will be one of the finishing touches. Thankyou so much for doing the research so I don't have to! : ) I had a feeling that what you said about price difference would be true, so I think we've opted for the sheets as well (we have a tiny little budget). Fortunately, the height for our wainscoat will be exactly 4', so we can cut the boards right in half and should not have much waste at all. And since it will be replacing the UGLY sheet of fake tile in my bathroom, I am really in love with wainscoat. Ain't it great?

Great post! I've been wanting to put beadboard in my bathroom and maybe even one bedroom. I would really appreciate it if you could post some details on the installation when you get to it.

We also used beadboard sheets instead of tongue and groove in our kitchen. Our contractor pointed out that since we would be painting them, it was definitely not worth the added expense.

(Long time reader, first time poster!)

Another pro for the beadboard sheets ... they don't leave gaps in between over time as the wood expands and contracts. We have the real, original stuff in our hall and stairwell, and it has big gaps between some of the boards.

When we get around to ripping the vinyl off our porch ceiling we're going to put in beadboard sheets. My mom's a snob about such things and doesn't consider the sheets real, but I say the cost and the much faster installation more than make up for any lack of realism.

We've also talked about using beadboard in the bathrooms, when we redo those, but that not going to be happening without a lot more saving and planning.

Call me a snob, but I prefer the real beadboard, as opposed to the sheets. I grew up in a 1910 farmhouse, and the beadboard in the stairwell was installed horizontally (rather than vertically), and the gaps have never bothered me. I look at it as just part of the charm!

But hey, to each his own.

We installed the tongue and groove beadboard in our kitchen and have continued it into our bathroom. We used the less expensive pine rather than oak since we were going to paint it not stain. Along the top we put in a chair rail with another trim piece added to that and along the base we put in the old-fashioned type of Victorian style baseboard and no quarter round. However, we made one glaring error that will not be repeated in the bathroom. We only installed the beadboard to the top of the baseboard. For the bath we installed the beadboard to the floor, with the baseboard over it. A small thing, but it makes a difference. Also, we used nails where the studs are, but glued the boards where we just had wallboard.

Beth~ have you thought of pulling the baseboard off in your kitchen, blocking out behind it to the level of the beadboard, then re-applying your baseboard trim? A very simple shoe moulding (say 1/2" quarter-round) set underneath the baseboard should boost it high enough to cover the seam between beadboard and blocking. Just an idea.

On T&G versus sheets... I don't think I'm a snob, but I am an ideological purist. If you want beadboard, that product (and technique) is tongue and groove, so I really think you should get T&G. If you want wainscotting, who says it has to look like beadboard anyway?
If you're going to do the sheet, a more honest thing would be to simply apply sheets of regular staingrade plywood and trim the top and seams. I know it wouldn't LOOK true to history, but it would BE more true to the spirit of the craftsman approach that you (and I) are so fond of. The core of that spirit was honest use of available materials assembled in the simplest and most direct way. Their reasons were more than purely aesthetic.

I know I've used words like "honest" several times by now, and that's for a reason. I think (and I've no doubt that Wright, Morris, Stickleys all, etc. would agree) that what we interact with in the world colors how we ourselves react in the world. These great designers and many others (including those of radically different easthetic sensibilities, like Walter Gropius or Corbusier)strove to bring not just delight to the world, but honest and meaningful delight. They were all rabidly against misrepresentation and each articulated in his own way a belief that it led to false living. In a brief contemporary phrase, "garbage in, garbage out" applies no less to the human mind and spirit than it does to your HTML script. Each individual effect may be subtle, but subtleties have a way of adding up into something more profound. John Ruskin wrote a fantastic essay on all this that I think is in "The Seven Lamps of Architecture".

How about if we just call the sheets "plywood with lines carved in it" instead of "beadboard"? Would that make you happy, and us more honest? What if I like the look of beadboard, but can't afford T&G, and don't want my bathroom to look silly by putting a plain sheet of plywood on the wall? Considering that my house was ordered through a catalog and built by hand to save money, I don't think it would offend the original owners too much. I don't think anything in life (including the Craftsman spirit) follows such rigid rules - otherwise it wouldn't be fun.

Ooh, I like it. I'm getting ready to finish off my second son's room. It's small, but one of the advantages of small is that I can spend a bit more money on details.

A bit about the "honesty" meme here.

As we became an industrial society, handbuilt items became rarer and more expensive.

People who had not previously been able to afford factory-produced goods wanted them, because they signified climbing into the middle class from the working class.

People who could afford factory produced goods wanted "one of a kind, handmade" items, because these symbolized climbing out of the middle class they were in into the upper class.

Neither factory produced or hand produced items are more or less "honest." Desire for one or the other has less to do with honesty and more to do with class longing.

the sheets.

i think the lines should go the other way on the sheet to allow for less seams. cest la vie.

regular plywood cut to 1/2 in shorter than your base and top board will save alot of material and give the same effect. i usually do this so i can cut 8' into 3 32" pieces giving 50% more liniar footage. or just rabit the top of the base 1/4" for the sheets.

A small word about the sheets. We came to a compromise after spending three AWFUL days trying to get bbsheets up on the ceiling of the porch.. It was AWFUL( can I say that again.. AWFUL!).. the porch while quite firm in it's setting is out of square.. in MANY ways.. not noticable to the eye but unyeilding to a very true piece of sheet goods. After nearly breaking down to tears we decided to get some of the board type just to "try".. dear lord they were easier to put up. and we were able to easily adjust to the "character" in our walls. So.. the compromise came with using the sheet goods on the walls and the boards on the ceilings to maintain our mental well being.

There's a third alternative for the bathroom. Hastings makes a tile that looks like bead board. It's in the Hastings Tile and II Bango Collection. Their website is I think the tiles would be easy to keep clean. I love the look but am afraid to price them.

I don't mind the gaps between my beadboard either. Just thought it would be a point for consideration.

We're going to put beadboard in our kitchen, between the upper and lower cabinets. I saw some really unattractive beadboard sheets last night at a restaurant, but maybe they'd look better painted, which is what we plan to do.

Does anyone know where to find vinyl beadboard sheets?

I want to place beadboard inserts in the fronts of our old kitchen cabinets and then paint them to spruce them up. This seemed like a simple idea at first -- just cut inserts out of beadboard panel, glue them on the flat panel of the cabinet door and paint away. It turns out the beadboard is thicker than the edge of the moulding that would surround it on the cabinet doors. Any ideas on how to address this? My husband (who is a gifted woodworker) thinks perhaps we should try to plane down the back and/or edge of the beadboard insert to make it thinner.

If there was such a thing as vinyl beadboard sheets, that would be great, as I imagine that they would be thinner and easier to cut to size. Does anyone know of a product like that?


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