Beadboard Vs. Wainscoting: Do You Know the Difference?

updated May 11, 2022
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(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

It’s one thing to paint the walls in your home, but for an added dose of charm, you might consider adding beadboard to the wall. Beadboard adds visual interest to any wall. It is relatively durable, an inexpensive alternative to tile, can be painted any color, and installed at any height. While you often see it in traditional or rustic settings, beadboard doesn’t have to impart a cutesy country feel; it can be positively sleek and cool.

 But many people get beadboard confused with wainscoting, and that makes sense, considering they’re somewhat similar. In this article, we’ll take a look at some examples of beadboard so you can decide how to use it for your DIY project. 

What is Beadboard?

According to the home improvement site,, “Beadboard is wood paneling with vertical grooves and small ridges between each plank.” Beadboard is a row of narrow wood planks lined up vertically on the wall. In between each wood plank is a little indentation or ridge—also known as a “bead.”. The vertical boards are capped off by strips of horizontal molding, which finish off the seams.

Wainscoting vs. Beadboard

Many people use wainscoting and beadboard interchangeably, so the terms can be confusing. Here’s the difference:

Wainscoting is a broader term referring to decorative paneling used for centuries as: a) a wall accent; b) insulation and; c) to prevent (and cover up) damage to walls. It typically is made of wood, and covers the lower three or four feet of an interior wall. The two key elements of any kind of wainscoting are the panel and the frame. This frame comprises four pieces: the top and bottom rails and the two side pieces (aka the stiles).

The type of panel used determines the name of the wainscoting and different styles include raised panel wainscoting, flat panel wainscoting, board and batten, and finally… beadboard.

How to Install Beadboard

These days most modern beadboard comes in long, monolithic sheets that imitate the look of narrow vertical planks and traditional tongue and groove paneling. You can install these in larger sections, with some glue and nails, instead of placing each individual board piece by piece. And it’s no longer necessarily wood: beadboard often comes in all kinds of more inexpensive and/or durable materials, from MDF to vinyl. It’s an easy DIY project that gives the illusion of fine carpentry.

Ways to Use Beadboard in Bathrooms

Beadboard can be used anywhere in the house —on the ceiling, as a kitchen backsplash — but it’s most often found in bathrooms. Check out these beadboard ideas to get inspired to install your own.

Modern zen

This lovely beadboard bathroom by @thebestnestdecor features wide-paneled beadboard in a green hue we just can’t get enough of. We love the way it combines with the black and white in this bathroom, and how it gives a serene, zen-like vibe to the space. 

Clean and minimalist

You can really see the added texture provided by the white beadboard in this bathroom. Here, @landjdesignandrenovation used it as a type of accent wall, serving as a backdrop for two modern, circular mirrors and a dramatic light fixture. 

Clear contrast

This funky bathroom by utilizes basic white beadboard, but they’ve brought it about three-quarters high and juxtaposed it with some seriously snazzy black and white wallpaper. There’s a good chance no guest will soon forget this bathroom! 

Credit: @dallasbonds

Nothing but beadboard

This cool blue bathroom features floor-to-ceiling beadboard on all four walls! @dallasbonds painted the beadboard a powder blue to serve as a calming backdrop for the industrial-chic double sink, and peppered in white accents to keep the space from appearing too busy. 

Other Rooms Using Beadboard

There’s certainly no rule that says beadboard only has a place in the bathroom. Check out some of these rooms for proof. 

Adorably youthful

This cute little kid’s room by @cozyonthehudson features white beadboard that pops against a painted blue background. For a child’s space, choose a paint in a satin finish for easy cleanup if little handprints end up making a mess. 

Modern classic

We have all the feels for this stunning bedroom by @elevatedlivingbysarah, which features hunter green beadboard combined with the classic combination of burnt orange and white. 

Want more beadboard ideas?