6 Tips on Shopping for Beadboard


Beadboard in bathroom.
Julian Wass

Nothing adds character to a room faster than beadboard. Here’s how to choose the right material for your space.

Old-fashioned beadboard went up stick by stick, yielding a tough surface with a lot of character. But humidity is hard on wood, causing boards to pop and paint to crack. Quick-install plywood panels solved that problem but can’t take a deep bead.

What is beadboard paneling made of?

This brings us to panels made of medium-density fiberboard, or MDF—wood fiber and resin, in various proportions, melded under pressure. These sturdy, ready-to-paint sheets, typically 4 feet high and 8 feet wide, can be milled to look like the real thing.

Before you gather your tools and order beadboard, here are six things to consider.

1. Choose a Style

Three styles of beadboard. Andrew McCaul

For a traditional farmhouse look, try 2½-inch V-bead (far left) or 1⅝-inch V-bead (top). Wider “boards” tend to look less busy in a large space. There are also custom styles, like casual, random-width V-bead (near left).

2. Check Out The Profile

For the most convincing look and best durability, choose panels at least ¼ inch thick with deep, clean cuts and beads. Get samples before you commit.

3. Consider The Application

Beadboard panels in a bathroom should be specially formulated for moisture resistance; for porches and other outdoor areas, you’ll need exterior-grade fiberboard or PVC.

4. DIY Tips

If you’re starting from scratch, ½-inch panels can go right onto the framing, reducing the need to build up window and door trim to accommodate beadboard installed over drywall; ½-inch is also easier to miter—at an outside corner, say—than ¼-inch.

5. Repair It Right

MDF is about as tough as oak, but, like wood, it can scratch. Sand small blemishes, and fix larger ones with a polyester auto-body filler such as Bondo, which adheres well and sands smooth.

6. Get an Authentic Look

High-quality panels are carefully milled to create crisp profiles that mimic individual boards.

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