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How High to Install Wainscoting

Not sure what height you should install your wainscoting?? We weren't either, which is why it took us an entire day to decide on the "perfect" height.

vertical shiplap, wainscoting

The standard height to install wainscoting is about 1/3 of the wall height, so if you have 9 foot ceilings that would be 36 inches. If you have 8 foot ceilings then that would be 32 inches. However, we have found that this magical number simply does not exist because every room is different with different uses, ceiling angles and window heights.

For instance, you have a 9 foot ceiling and the bottom of the window sill is at 40 inches, I would recommend installing your wainscoting to that height rather than the standard 1/3 rule of 36 inches. It will only be 4 inches taller and visually will look more seamless as the window sill will flow right into the top of the molding.

The same can be said if the window sill were at 32 inches on a 9 foot ceiling. I would still prefer the wainscoting to blend right into the bottom of the window that have an awkward disconnect of 4 inches between the bottom of the window and the top of the molding. Make sense?

Now what if you want taller wainscoting to add more visual interest to the room? Can you install higher than 1/3 of the room height? Yes!

Another common approach is installing the wainscoting 2/3 of the height of the ceiling. We have not physically installed wainscoting at this level before, but our home did come with board and batten in our entry hallway which guessed it, 2/3 of the ceiling height.

board and batten, hallway entry

I love a taller wainscoting in a hallway because it makes the narrow space feel taller.

Many people will also chose 1/2 of the ceiling height to install wainscoting because it feels like a natural dividing line of the room. The moral of the story is that there are so many different heights to choose from and it does not have to be exact. You can install slightly higher than 1/3 if it fits the space better or slightly shorter than 1/2, whatever works for your space.

Now, on to the question you all have asked. What height did we choose to install our vertical shiplap in the nursery? Did we follow any of these hard rules on appropriate height?

The answer is kind of.

vertical shiplap, wainscoting

First we placed a line of tape at 1/3 of the ceiling height and I quickly realized that this would not make enough of an impact for my vision of the design. We have plans to paint the wainscoting a muted pink and leave the rest of the wall and ceiling white (check out our mood board here), so I wanted there to be more color than just 1/3 of the wall. Plus, I wanted the wainscoting to be seen over the edge of the dresser and crib which would not have been the case if we had picked 1/3.

We tried 1/2 of the wall next. I liked this height because it gave us more color and visual interest. I knew I did not want 2/3 of the wall because I did not want the entire room to be too pink. However, I plan on hanging a few pictures right at the level of the wainscoting and 1/2 of the way up felt too high especially once we placed the sofa against the wall. The pictures felt far too high above the sofa.

Where we ended up is somewhere between 1/3 (36in) and 1/2 (54in) of our 9 foot ceiling at around 45 inches. We chose this height because it was tall enough to cover the full height of the dresser and crib, and when we rested our heads against the wall while sitting on the sofa our heads did not hit the chair rail (which was a concern of Casey's).

So, the moral of the story is there is not just ONE perfect height to install wainscoting, but there are several starting points from which you can adjust the height based on the specific circumstances of the room, furniture and design. This is the approach we took and we could not be happier with our choice.

We love the vertical shiplap we are installing in the nursery for our wainscoting, so hopefully y'all do too! Today we have plans to install the chair rail, fill the nail holes with spackle and maybe get to caulking...maybe. Make sure to follow along with us on Instagram!


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