Drywall wainscot can be as plain or as ornate as the budget allows — either way, it doesn’t require any blocking or backing, making it a simple upgrade. Another advantage is that wainscot built with drywall and corner bead is very stable and won’t move, shrink, or crack the way traditionally built wainscot can.
To begin, I snap layout lines, then screw (where there are studs) and glue (where there aren’t) strips of 1/2-inch drywall cut to fit. I tape the seams with fiberglass mesh tape before attaching the beads with spray adhesive and staples.
I use different trim profiles and combinations to create different styles. In this example, each wall section is framed with one panel. I did it that way because the spacing of the electrical boxes and heating ducts made it impossible to divide the walls into the evenly spaced panels you’d see with a traditional wainscot design.
Depending on the complexity of the layout, I charge between $12 and $20 a lineal foot for wainscot. For the design in this 14-foot by 15-foot bedroom, I charged $15 per lineal foot (to account for the extra work required around an outside corner) for 58 lineal feet of wainscot, or $870. Materials included about 60 square feet of scrap drywall, about 88 lineal feet of decorative L-bead (Trim-Tex #681, used for the chair rail), 142 lineal feet of 1„2-inch chamfer stop bead (#9530, wrapping the inside edge of each panel), and 8 lineal feet of chamfer bead (#950, used on the outside corner), all with a total cost of about $70. It took about eight hours to build, tape, and sand the design.
Myron Ferguson is a drywall contractor in Galway, N.Y.