How High Should You Wainscot a Bathroom Wall?

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated September 23, 2021
Green painted bathroom with white wainscoting
irina88w / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

The ideal wainscoting height is about one-third of the wall

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Wainscoting is an architectural wall design that can add visual interest and a touch of elegance to any room. In the bathroom, wainscoting can add a chic alternative to tile or wallpaper. For a bathroom wall, aim to keep wainscoting height to one-third of the entire wall height.

What Is Wainscoting?

Wainscoting is a type of decorative wall molding made up of wood panels. Originally, wainscoting was more than just for an aesthetic. It started in the 18th century as a way to insulate a room, but in time, it was used to only cover a portion of the wall instead of the entire wall.

Now, it’s more decorative than functional, but it can make any room look upscale and traditional. It looks great with many colors of paint or even patterned wallpaper. If you are replacing older trim, wainscoting may boost a home’s value.

What Is the Best Wainscoting Height?

You want to work with the rule of thirds for wainscoting. Typically, wainscoting works best on the lower portion of the wall, so plan to install it on the lowest one-third section.

Depending on the room, you can also make a statement by installing wainscoting on a majority of the wall. Working with the rule of thirds, this would be two-thirds of the entire wall. In a smaller space, like a bathroom, it’s best to stick to the shorter wainscoting on one-third of the wall to keep the space from looking cramped.

For shorter walls, stick to the rule of thirds or keep wainscoting to at least 32 inches high.

How to Measure Wainscoting

When measuring for a third of the wall, you should include the baseboards and crown molding. So if your wall is 12 feet from floor to ceiling, you’ll install wainscoting from the top of the baseboard to the four-foot mark.

How to Install Wainscoting

Bathroom with wainscoting around lower walls
IPGGutenbergUKLtd / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Ima

Installing wainscoting is possible to do yourself, although you can ensure it is aligned evenly and applied quickly with the help of a professional. If you decide to install it yourself, you would save $2 to $4 per square foot for labor, but it might not look as nice if you aren’t experienced.

Note that this project will take several days to DIY. For a professional, it may take 10 to 15 hours to install wainscoting in a bathroom.

Remove Trim, Baseboards, and Outlet Covers

Start by removing the trim around the windows and doors of the room, if you are replacing them to match the wainscoting, as well as the outlet covers. Be sure to switch off the electrical circuit in the room before touching the outlets.

Make Marks For Wainscoting Height and Studs

First, measure the wall, then measure to the height you’d like for the wainscoting. Use a pencil to mark the wainscoting height for each wall.

Use a stud finder to find the studs, which you’ll need for nailing in the wainscoting. Mark the studs with a pencil.

Install New Trim and Baseboards

Start by installing the new door trim and baseboards around the room with a nail gun. You don’t have to replace the trim and baseboards if they already match the wainscoting.

Add Wall Panels

Now, it’s time to glue and nail in the wainscoting panels. The common method is to move left to right. Start in a left corner, and line the panel up with the baseboard and the line you made for the wainscoting height.

You’ll glue the wall panels until you reach a stud, where you’ll nail in the wainscoting with the nail gun.

When you come across an outlet, you’ll need to cut notches into the panels to make room for the outlet.

Install Corner Panels

Depending on the size of your panels and length of your walls, you might not have the perfect amount of paneling to reach from corner to corner. You’ll need to cut panels to fit the corners.

Cost of Wainscoting

The cost to add wainscoting to your bathroom walls depends on the wainscoting material and labor. This molding and trim style was traditionally made from wood panels, and that material is still used today. For humid or wet rooms, like bathrooms, you can also opt for ceramic tile wainscoting, which can withstand moisture better than wood.


There are several types of wainscoting materials available. Different types of wood are popular for living or dining spaces, but stick to something moisture-proof like ceramic tile or plastic for bathrooms.

  • Plywood: About $1 per square foot

  • Plastic: $5 to $10 per square foot

  • Regular Hardwood: $10 to $20 per square foot

  • Ceramic tile: $10 to $30 per square foot

  • High-End or Intricate Hardwood: Up to $40 per square foot


If you are hiring a local professional to install wainscoting, you’ll spend about $2 to $4 per square foot or around $90 per hour for labor.

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