What is Beadboard?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Beadboard is a type of paneling that is covered in a series of distinctive grooves. Classically, it is installed so that the grooves run vertically, creating a striped or paneled effect, although people can also put in beadboard along a horizontal axis. This paneling style first started appearing in the 1800s, and it has become very popular.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Many people think of beadboard when they hear "wainscoting." The paneling's distinctive grooves make it highly visually interesting, and creates a very unique appearance. It also creates a very distinct look and feel that many people associate with farmhouses and more casual design schemes. Traditionally, beadboard is only run partway up the wall as wainscoting, and it may also be run along a ceiling.

There are two different styles of beadboard. The traditional style is comprised of tongue and groove boards that fit together. Tongue and groove tends to be very solid, with gaps that will expand and contract slightly in response to the weather. Beadboard paneling is a solid sheet of wood that has been tooled with the grooves associated with the style. It is cheaper and easier to install than traditional tongue and groove panels, but some people think that it does not look as nice.

Depending on the design scheme and the wood, beadboard may be left unfinished or lightly stained, allowing people to see the natural grain of the wood, or it may be painted. Pale woods left with a natural finish can make a room feel more interesting and warm, although dark woods tend to darken up a room. Painted panels have a very clean, classic look which some people like.

Trim molding is usually run along the top of an installation of beadboard, creating a crisp dividing line between the wainscoting and the painted or papered wall above. Floor trim is also traditional, in part to conceal the bottom of the boards, which can become uneven and unsightly over time.

People who want to install beadboard can buy new tongue and groove or paneling from a home supply store, or seek out recycled materials from a company that specializes in reclaiming construction materials from demolished homes. In either case, it is critical to be careful during installation, as the beadboard needs to be perfectly level, or the room will feel off. It is also important to remember that the panels will need to be cut to make room for outlets, switches, and thermostats.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@lmorales - Beadboard panelling has be used in a number of different applications. The most traditional application is, of course, on the lower half of walls with a chair rail to frame out the top. I have also seen it used in bathrooms, in kitchens as a back splash, and even beadboard on the ceiling.


Beadboard panels are relatively cheap at the Home Improvement stores, but I'm not sure what else you would be able to do with it other than beadboard wainscoating. Does anyone have any interesting beadboard ideas?


@BoatHugger - I think you might be a little confused about the subject of this article. It's actually based off of Beadboard as used in Interior Design and Home Remodeling purposes, not in jewelry or crafting.


A few years ago, my husband and I became vendors. We travel to many different arts and crafts shows around the southeast. I became very interested in bead jewelry. I bought hundreds of different kinds of beads and a bead board. I absolutely loved making jewelry with it.

We have since gotten out of the business, but my kids still enjoy the bead board and the beads. They make all kinds of jewelry for their friends as gifts. With the bead board, it is possible for someone who knows nothing about jewelry making to create very beautiful pieces.

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