All of my bathroom inspiration pics on Pinterest involved traditional country style half-clad walls with ornate skirting boards, and I knew I wanted to replicate this in our bathroom (not least because it would hide the fact the floor level no longer met the bottom of the plastering we had done, thanks to the palaver with replacing the floor!).
I was worried it would be difficult to do and very time-consuming, but in fact it turned out to be the easiest part of the project. I was very happy to work with the Skirting Board Shop on this, who kindly provided us with the skirting boards, architrave and window sill as well as lots of glue and caulk.
We are far from finished in the bathroom, but as you can see from these photos, it is really coming together (though note I’m not showing the other side of the room!) and I think the cladding really makes it, so I am really pleased we went with it. I especially love the little shelf on the top. It helped hide the fact that our walls are a bit wonky, and it provides somewhere to put bath products and pictures, but it was more effort than just finishing the top with a single piece of capped moulding which is the easier option, which you might want to consider instead. You would fit that just as you do the skirting at the bottom, except on the top of course!
Another tip to save time, and to achieve a smoother finish, is to use pre-primed mdf. I have always been a bit snooty about this in the past, preferring real wood, but having used both on this project (everything supplied by the Skirting Board Shop was mdf, though they also have real wood options in several types of wood, and the panelling and shelf were raw wood) I can tell you that the finish is much better with the mdf, as it contains no imperfections and takes paint beautifully, and doesn’t require sanding, so in future I will choose to use it over raw wood.
So, here’s a step by step to creating this look yourself. I didn’t get pictures of every stage, it all happened so fast once we started, that I don’t think my pictures will help too much, but this diagram from HomeTips shows exactly how our wall is constructed. You can find detailed instructions on how to install skirting board and architrave on the Skirting Board Shop website too, so if you need some extra help, have a look at their blog.
How to Install Cladding and Skirting Boards
What You Need:
- Tongue and groove panelling (we used this from B&Q)
- Thin battens (we used this)
- Chop saw (you can use a handsaw, but you will lose the will to live. Beg or borrow a power saw for this project)
- Spirit level
- Tape measure
- Skirting board
- Shelf board
- Strong glue
- Nail gun and nails
- Rawl plugs and screws
- Power drill and screwdriver (again, can be done by hand, but best not!)
- Wood filler
Decide on the height you would like your cladding to go to. This is usually dado rail height but can be anything you like. We went a little higher than usual to ensure that enough of the cladding was above the sink backsplash to look good, so think about the height of your fixtures and fittings. Cut several pieces of your tongue and groove to this height.
Using the tape measure, mark your top line on the wall with a pencil, using the spirit level to get it straight. Then cut a batten to the length of the section of wall, and drill pilot holes through the batten at equal spacing. Because our wall was short, we drilled three holes, one at either end and one in the middle, but if you have an expanse of wall more than a few metres, add extra anchor points. With the help of a friend, line the batten up with the pencil line and mark through the holes onto the wall. Remove the batten and drill a hole large enough for your rawl plugs to be inserted. Once you have done this for all holes, replace the batten and then add screws into the holes, securing the batten to the wall. Repeat this process at the bottom of the wall, and half way between the two, so you have three battens to support your cladding and to fix it into.
Now it’s time to start cladding. This process goes very quickly with a nail gun. We were lazy and nailed straight through the panels because I wanted it to be very secure, but you can also nail to the side of each piece of panelling at an angle, fixing it in place without any nails being visible. This is slightly more time consuming, but you end up with a more polished look, though now I have filled all the nail holes they are invisible anyway. Align your first piece of panelling with the end of your wall. Holding it in place against wall and floor, nail twice into each batten, top, middle and bottom. Then slot the next piece of panelling onto that one, and pulling it tight against the first, repeat the nailing, on the edge furthest from the previous panel first, to hold it in place. Repeat until you run out of wall!
This has all been very straightforward so far, as we are just dealing with one wall. If you are doing all the way around a room, it gets a bit more complicated. If not, then skip straight to the skirting board and architrave step below! If you are cladding multiple walls, repeat steps 1 to 3 on your next wall. You will need to butt the first panelling board up very tightly to the existing panelling to give a neat corner. Continue on around your room until you have clad it all.
Now for the skirting board. If just doing one wall, simply cut the skirting to the desired length, and then apply strong glue to the back of it in a thick wiggly line to ensure good coverage. Hold the skirting in place, and nail it at regular intervals to secure it while the glue dries. If you are going all the way around the room, you will need to cut the ends of your skirting board at 45º angles, so that the corners can fit together seamlessly. I would advise that you cut the boards for all the walls first and ensure they fit together nicely before fixing any in place, as described above.
If adding capped moulding, this stage is exactly the same as for the skirting. Cut straight if just doing one wall, or angled if going around the room. Glue and nail in place snugly along the top of the cladding. Then skip to the step about sanding and filling.
If adding a shelf on top, like I have done, then instead you do this step with architrave, aligning it carefully with the top of the cladding – a spirit level may assist here.
Cut your shelf board to length. Then with your router, round off the top and bottom edges of the front of the board only. If angling the corners to go around the room, make sure you round the right edge – the shorter one! Sand the edges, and then fix the board in place, again with glue and nails, ensuring it is pushed right up against the wall. Do this all the way around the room.
Using a hammer, ensure all your nails are fully flush. Then with wood filler, push a small amount into each hole if they are visible, and wait for it to dry. With a palm sander (or sandpaper, but it will be a long job!) thoroughly sand your cladding and anywhere you have filled. If you have used pre-primed mdf skirting and architrave, as I did, there is no need to sand. Then using caulk, fill all the gaps along the top of your skirting, down the corners of the panelling where the room turns a corner, along under your architrave and shelf, and on top of the shelf where it meets the wall, to ensure a seamless look. You may also need to fill the corners where your skirting and architrave was cut at an angle to ensure no gaps.
Once the caulk is dry, prime any raw wood with an all in one primer. The pre-primed mdf didn’t need this which was a great time-saver.
Finally, in your chosen paint, paint two coats over the entire thing, ensuring you mask the floor and walls for a neat finish. Then step back and admire your beautiful walls!
And voila! It sounds really difficult, but as long as you have the right tools (and I really recommend the power option for everything on this job, there are a lot of cuts and screws and nails!) it will be a breeze! I think it really adds to the cosiness of our bathroom and makes a feature in the room so much better (and more cheaply and easily) than tiling to half height. I can’t wait to show the rest of the room to you….eventually!
(Oh and excuse the bath taps – we are trying to get the company to replace these because the taps are on the wrong way round – they are off when they should be on and vice versa. They function fine, but they look kind of ridiculous as you can see, unless the water is on!)