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Popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, beadboard -- wall paneling with routed, parallel vertical lines -- is making a major comeback as a decorating trend. Beadboard can be used in any room but is particularly appropriate for hallways, bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and informal dining rooms. It is frequently used as a ceiling material on porches and in sunrooms, but it is especially attractive when installed as wainscoting below a chair rail. Beadboard can also be used to cover damaged older walls and ceilings.

It can be stained or painted. If you are thinking of purchasing beadboard for your project, consider the following:

  • Original beadboard was made from wood planks, so this would be the best choice where authenticity is the goal. Beadboard planks are manufactured from a number of different woods that can be stained or painted. These planks come in thicknesses of 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 inches, and the individual boards are 3 to 5 inches wide. Solid wood planks will swell and shrink with changes in humidity, but this can be minimized by staining or painting before the boards are installed.
  • Beadboard plywood sheets are available in 4 foot widths. Usually these are inch thick. Care should be taken when working with plywood, as it can split along the grain or across bead lines.
  • Medium density fiberboard (MDF) beadboard sheets in 4 foot widths often come pre-primed. The advantage to MDF is that is very stable. It is, however, not the best choice for high moisture areas such as bathrooms. MDF planks that are manufactured two or four beads wide have the same problems with moisture. Both of these MDF products should have all cuts ends sealed.
  • Engineered lumber is often the best choice for rooms that will have their beadboard painted. It has the look of standard lumber and the stability of MDF. Its dimensional measurements stay consistent from one board to another, so it is extremely easy to work with.

Remember that the thinner the beadboard stock, the shallower the profile of the beads will be. If you paint thin beadboard, the coats of paint will fill the spaces between the beads, and you will not get as attractive a look as you would with a thicker stock.

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