How to Install Board and Batten

After I had cleared out my kiddo’s room – The first thing I wanted to do was to install board and batten! I totally and completely adore the look of board and batten and want it in almost every room of my home! So today we are going to share how to install board and batten. 

Craftsman Style Boarda and Batten (3) copy

I feel like it totally adds the charm and characteristic of an old farmhouse or craftsman style house (which I am completely going for!) and couldn’t wait to get started in Quinn and Zachary’s room. I am so glad I went for it because I am so in love with the finished product!

Craftsman Style Boarda and Batten (4) copy  Craftsman Style Boarda and Batten (6) copy

Why yes, I did have to shift around the crib and the bed to take these photos! and yes… there is a big mess under my feet — just keeping it real right?

We had classic style baseboard and casing and I tore it all out and installed new craftsman style baseboard and casing. With the new base and casing nailed up, I was ready to begin the board and batten.

One of the great things about the new baseboards is that I had not caulked them to the wall yet, so the board and batten boards fit it nice and snug with not much space to have to caulk.


First: Head on over to Home Depot and pick up three sheets of 1/2” MDF. (You may need more or less depending on the size of your room so just measure accordingly)  Home Depot workers are amazing and will cut all the slats for you. I had mine cut at four inches. Ask them to cut one board in 4” pieces lengthwise and two boards in 4” pieces widthwise. If you want your board and batten to be higher than 49” you will need them all cut lengthwise.

NOTE: This room is 12×12 – I just feel like that is important to share!

Second: Decide the height you want your board and batten. Mine is 52” high. Why 52”? Because when Spencer asked me how high I wanted it, I told him “this high” as I put my hand on the wall and it was 52” – no scientific reasoning… just that is how I wanted it!

Third: With a tape measure and pencil in hand, walk around the room and measure and mark the wall how high you want it. For the sake of argument we will go with 52”. Mark from the floor. Mark 52” in 4-5 places along the wall – mark each side and then a few places in the middle. Using a level draw a line to connect the dots.

Fourth: Nail up the top rail. Make sure you hit the studs in the wall with the nails. You will also want to use construction adhesive (liquid nails) to help secure the boards.

How to Install Board and Batten (1) copy

If you have rounded corners you want to cut the top rail like you did the baseboard using 22.5” miters. You can find that tutorial here.

How to Install Board and Batten (6) copy 

Fifth: After your top rail is installed you can begin to add your boards. You need to really think and do some math at this point. How long is your wall? How far apart do you want your boards? Do you want them over the outlets? Do you want a board in each corner? How will it carry over onto the next wall?  This part is always the most stressful part for me. After measuring and doing the math I decided to glue and nail them up 13 inches apart from each other. On two of the three walls it worked out perfect but on the third wall there was only about 8 inches left before the door… but with how the room was it worked great.

Measure your wall then divide by the inches you want in between the board and the boards themselves. So if I wanted 13 inches in between and my wall was 160” long I would divide 160 by 17 (13+4).  I would try to stay around 10-14 inches apart. You could also decided how many boards you want a wall and divide that by the 160 to see how far apart you need them. 160 is pretty easy – 10 boards is 16” so each board would be 12” apart. But not every wall is simple like that. You may have measurements like 13 3/4 or 10 5/8.

You are going to be painting over your wall so don’t be afraid to mark it up and to make sure that is how you want it – if you need a better visual.

When you have your measurement, measure and mark your wall. Use a level and make a level line where the board can line up. This makes things go faster during the nailing up part.

You can see my marks and my level lines.

Sixth: Measure from baseboard to top rail and cut your slats. You will only need to cut off a few inches on each one. They should almost all be the same measurement. All of mine were 42.5” – so were a little more snug than others and some needed to be shaved off just a touch because the baseboard was warped a tiny bit but nothing bad.

Seventh: Unless you are a miracle worker (which I am not) and somehow worked out your boards to line up with all the studs in your wall you will need to use liquid nails to ensure your boards are tight to the wall.

Eight: Line up your board with the level line you drew and nail up your board. Since you have glue all over the back the line makes it less messy. I always stick one nail in the top and use my level to ensure it is still level (I always double check) and then I finish nailing the board in – at least two on the top, in the middle and the bottom.

TIP: When nailing them up, make sure they are flush with the top rail. If you have to caulk, you want the caulking to be less visible and that would be at the bottom between the board and the base.

I want you to notice two things in picture below (not the bad lighting, the dang sun was shining right in the window so sorry about that!) First: Notice the board second over from the wall. I wasn’t paying attention (in a hurry) and did not do what I just mentioned – and you can totally see the gap. That will be a bugger to caulk. Second: See the gap between the wall/corner and the board. That board is perfectly level. The wall…. not so much. If I had followed the wall, the board would look wonky and off level – because it would be. I will simply use a crap load of caulking in the gap and even it all out. When finished you won’t even see the gap, but if I didn’t level the board – you would have seen that!


Ninth: Caulk and putty the holes and all the seams.

How to Install Board and Batten (14) copy

TIP: When caulking, fill an extra bowl or plastic bowl with a few napkins or wet wipes and use that to get your fingers wet for a smooth finish.

Tenth: Sand! This step is annoying but very important!! You don’t want rough edges on your boards and you don’t want caulk or putty marks so sand, sand, sand!

Eleven: First Coat of Paint!!! Use your brush and cut in and paint every singe corner/edge – then apply one thin coat to your boards. Pay attention to this first coat as it will point out all the flaws. You will find missed nail holes, missed sanding, missed caulking – and this gives you the chance to fix it all!!

Twelve: Paint on your final coats. I add on two more coats – the MDF seems to just suck up the paint so I add an extra coat “just in case!”

And you are done!!! Hip! Hip! Hooray!!

Craftsman Style Boarda and Batten (12) copy

TIP: With projects like this I feel like there are so many different things I need for the entire project so I just grab a clothes basket and put everything I need in there and then I can drag it around the room and have everything close by.

I was going to call this: 12 steps to board and batten – but let’s face it! This is hard work – time consuming!! I have seen a few posts and blogs and I thought “sweet! This will be so easy – you just throw some boards on the wall and call it good!”

No. That is wrong. haha!

It is easy enough – it just takes time! I did this room all by myself. Spencer was gone and I wanted it done so I did it – with three little helpers! It took me all day Saturday (11-6) to cut and nail everything up (base and casing included) and a couple hours (7:30-9:30) that night to putty all the holes and use one can of caulk.

I hate to caulk – it kills my fingers and always makes them bleed – so I only do one can of caulk at a time and it took 2 cans to do the room.

On Monday I finished caulking and that night sanded and vacuumed!
On Wednesday I painted on the first coat and touched up holes and such.
On Thursday I painted the last two coats and applied a fresh new layer of gray to the top.

I had paint in my hair for three days!

Was it worth it? heck yes!
Would I do it again? Yes! (this is actually the third room I have done this too! but the other project is secretive!)

 Craftsman Style Boarda and Batten (13) copy

Tomorrow I will show you the trick to cut out the outlets!


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Hey there! We are Spencer and Amanda, a DIY husband and Wife team, sharing projects we build and create together for our home. Since buying our home in 2007 we have had the saying that Spencer builds it and makes it work and Amanda makes it look good. We hope you will stick around because we always have projects in the works!

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  1. Great tutorial! I love the contrast of WHITE and GREY! When I redo my guest room here in the next little bit, I will totally be using this BRILLIANT idea!

  2. Such a great tutorial! Thanks for taking time to include little details. I need those!

  3. Hi! What color white did you paint your board and batten?

  4. Vanae Keiser says:

    May I ask what color you used for the main wall? I love that gray. I’m looking at doing this in my bathroom.

  5. Hi! Did you frame out the window yourself before doing the boards? I’m trying to figure out a simple way to do that! Thanks!

  6. It looks like you just painted the wall between the boards, right? My walls are textured but I really want to do this – how can I pull it off without the texture showing through?

  7. lynn otto says:

    Just ran across your blog on Pinterest and LOVE what you do! This is a great tutorial and I want to do this in my future guest bedroom. My problem – old plaster walls that we will repair before doing AND wood paneling on the bottom we will have to tear off. Walls will not be smooth I fear. What would you suggest we do for the wall portion between the boards? And I am so getting that paint sprayer you mentioned on your other blog 🙂

    Thanks so much!

    • Hey Lynn –
      My walls are a “holey smooth” texture and I didn’t worry about it and just painted. If your walls are really bad – a simple fix would be to apply 1/4″ MDF to the wall in the area, using construction adhesive and then you can nail your board and batten up over the MDF.

      You will love the paint sprayer!!


  8. It is awesome that home depot will do the cuts! Once the mdf has been cut, does it need to be sanded? Or are those edges smooth enough to paint over? Thanks for this great tutorial!
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