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Know Your Wall Paneling

Wood paneling can add architectural detail to almost any area of your house, providing contrast and interest, which in turn can give some character to your home. Wood paneling is also a relatively inexpensive way to update a space. Plus, it can be painted any color under the sun. There are several different types of wood paneling to consider, including shiplap, beadboard, and board and batten. Our team of experts explains each one.

Raised Panels

The beveled style of raised panels makes them easily identifiable. According to Natalie Rebuck, principal designer at Re: Design Architects in Brooklyn, New York, they’ve been used for a long time and are often found in historic homes. “Initially, raised panels would be built and installed by a craftsman, but now the technology has advanced to where they can come in a packaged kit that allows owners to install a raised panel with ease.”

Carol Kurth, principal of Carol Kurth Architecture + Interiors in Bedford, New York, agrees that, historically, traditional design utilized raised paneling. “Many species of wood can be used to achieve a raised panel aesthetic, and wood can be stained in a range of finishes from natural to a colored stain to achieve the desired tone.”

Grade and wood type can also vary, and she says raised panels can be painted if you want a more modern look. “There are myriad details that can be added to the raised paneling to create elaborate paneling designs, and the proportions of the stiles and rails of the paneling impact the overall effect of the raised panel.”

For example, you can create a simple chair rail height wainscot, or go for a full wall-to-wall effect, or incorporate with bookcases or built-in cabinetry. “The ceiling can also have raised paneling, a version of a coffered ceiling,” Kurth says.

3D Wood Panels

You can definitely add interest with 3D wood panels. There are several types, and Kurth says they’re designed to create a textured wall surface, generally an accent wall. “These are often created on a C&C machine, generated by CAD drawings and ‘carved’ out of MDF panels to create a 3D effect.” Kurth notes that the panels are usually painted.

“Another way to achieve 3D wood paneling is to use either pre-finished panels or custom panels, arranged on backing at different levels to create a 3D effect,” she reveals. In addition, you can use 3D pre-made panels out of pre-stained wood, and Kurth says they can be arranged like a puzzle on a wall.

Pallet Wood

I know someone who purchased pallet wood from a lumber yard, and used it to create a beautiful rustic headboard. This comes as no surprise to Rebuck. “Pallet wood became popular from a DIY perspective as an inexpensive material that was easy to come by and allowed people to create something interesting on a budget,” she explains.

Pallet wood is also referred to as reclaimed wood. According to Kurth, it can be used to create a casual impact statement wall, surround an entire room, or even as a fun ceiling treatment. “Pallet wood can be run vertically, horizontally, diagonally, or even in a pattern such as herringbone.” And while some people break down wood packing pallets or crates, she says you can also use a product like peel and stick Stikwood.”

Vertical Wood Panels

Vertical wood paneling may conjure images of your grandparents’ very-outdated basement, but it also has more modern and attractive applications. “Vertical wall paneling, often known as fluted wall paneling, is a great way to add visual interest to a space without much cost,” says Rebuck. In fact, she says it is easy and inexpensive to purchase and install 1-by-1 or 2-by-1 wood trim and paint or stain it in a way that fits your room. “One tip is to make sure to use a level to make sure it’s installed straight.”

Vertical wood panels are also available in a range of materials. According to Kurth, they can be made of strips of wood (like flooring or vertical barn siding) in a vertical interior application. “Positions of the vertical boards can be random or full length—or even arranged in a pattern if there are length limitations.”  And they’re not limited to use on your walls. Kurth says they’re ideal for interior door panels as well.


Beadboard is one of my favorite types of wood paneling—especially to provide texture in bathrooms. According to Stephanie Halfen, founder and principal architect at SDH Studio Architecture + Design in Miami, Florida, beadboard provides a beautiful background and adds warmth to a space. “Beadboard is primarily done with vertical line designs, and I would suggest using this in transitional design homes, small rooms like bathrooms, and other small areas to give warmth and some beautiful detailing.”

Board and Batten

Halfen tells us that she would use board and batten in a more rustic house to achieve a farmhouse feel. “It’s also vertical, but it’s much more separated, so it adds a little bit of a country feel.” As with other types of wood paneling, it provides some texture to the background, but she says board and batten tends to be more informal and rustic.


Shiplap is a popular choice, and that’s no surprise to Halfen. “Shiplap is a horizontal design, and it gives a horizontal pattern.” She says you may see shiplap on the home’s exterior or interior. “It’s more nautical, and I would use it in small areas that you want to add character in, and maybe give some nautical aspect to the space.” She notes that shiplap can be used on different scales. “So, depending on the width of the shiplap, you can use them for different spaces—the larger the scale, the larger the space; the smaller the scale, the smaller the space.”


Some people use the terms “beadboard” and “wainscoting” interchangeably. Beadboard is a type of wood paneling that can be used in wainscoting. Wainscoting includes wood panels, as well as molding and chair railing. “It’s more delicate, more elegant, and squarish, and I would use it in a more European or French-style design to give warmth and character to the space,” Halfen explains. She says it can be used in larger areas like a living room or dining room as well. “It’s not as tight in regard to the different lines.”

Tongue and Groove

So, what is tongue and groove? “I would say that the style of beadboard, the style of board and batten, the style of shiplap—they all can be done in tongue and groove,” Halfen says. Instead of larger boards, tongue and groove is installed in narrower planks that connect to each other. “When you install it vertically, it has a very similar feel to beadboard, and when you install it horizontally, it has a very similar feel to shiplap, and so on.”

Know Your Wall Paneling
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