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Bathroom Wall Paneling Ideas

bathroom wall paneling ideas banner pic - Gambrick

Bathroom Wall Paneling Ideas

So you’ve finally decided to remodel that bathroom you’ve always hated. Your moving into a new house and want to make it all your own. Or maybe your building your dream home and have a few new bathrooms to style. You’ve decided you want a bathroom wall covering instead of tile and all sheet rock is way too boring. So what other options do you have? Wall paneling is the perfect choice. There are tons of beautiful bathroom wall paneling ideas and designs to choose from that’ll really make your bathroom pop. In this article we’ll go over some of the main types of bathroom wall paneling ideas we regularly use on custom homes with some pros vs. cons, pricing info, designs, styles and builder tips.

Bathroom Wall Paneling Designs

The majority of homes, both old and new, could really use some help when it comes to bathroom design. Even most brand new homes come with finished bathrooms that are kind of boring. These could be McMansions, tract homes or even custom spec builds. Sure, they ticked some of the major boxes, the living room has big windows, the floor plan is open and the kitchen is top of the line, but when it comes to the bathrooms there’s nothing really special about any of them. No built-ins, no interesting moldings, no wainscoting and zero wow factor. Every finish is generic and they all need some architectural help beyond just decorative accessories.

Nothing’s special about most of the bathrooms we’re called to remodel. Clients who call us know that filling their bathroom full of “stuff” just to mask the fact it was poorly designed won’t really make them happy. And I know they’re not alone. All of us want unforgettable homes full of charm and character, but often we buy based on other things. Location, size, school district or budget are some of the most common reasons. Even million dollar, spacious, mass-produced tract houses generally lack the character which gives a house some innate charm.

Vintage homes have some of the most impressive moldings and finish work you’ll see, but they come at a cost. Generally older homes aren’t laid out as well as newer ones, the closet space is a joke, the windows are crap, they’re not insulated well, their drafty, creaky and the mechanical systems are sure to need major updating. While they have a lot of the charming things you really love the drawbacks are often too major to ignore. So what do you do?

Added Charm With Wall Paneling

Today we’re kick starting a new design series, ‘How to add character and charm to your “basic” home’, starting with Bathroom Wall Paneling.

Wall paneling has proven to be super impactful on both the look and feel of just about any room we use it in. We’ll cover the best wall paneling designs, with lots of example pics for your look book. We’re hoping this can be a resource to anyone, with any style of home, with any size budget, because using wall paneling can instantly transform a room without spending a fortune. As someone who’s job it is to design and build some of the finest luxury custom homes in NJ, I will tell you that if you take some time to elevate the architecture of the room, then you don’t need as much “stuff” to make it beautiful.

Looking for bathroom wall paneling ideas is a great place to start. Finding the absolute perfect home is an almost impossible task, which makes improving the one you have the logical choice. One major way to do that is with the bathrooms. Adding paneled walls to your bathroom is a fairly inexpensive home improvement that can have fantastic results.

So let’s get started looking at some of the many ways we can bring character to a home with Wall Paneling.

bathrooom wall paneling ideas dark gray box molding white free standing tub

Bathroom Box Molding

How do you make a HUGE design impact with wall paneling without any decor? You guessed it, by adding trim work called box molding, a form of wall paneling. You know what I love about decorative wall molding? There’s almost no limit to the designs. It makes a great DIY project. And if you have the skill and tools, it’s not that expensive to do by yourself. Because of how flexible the designs are you can add wall paneling to just about any style home and it’ll always look great.

This is one of the simplest and easiest of the options that we have in the bathroom wall paneling category. It consists of adding strips of wood to your already existing walls (either with glue, nails or preferably both), and then painting the entire wall to match. You can customize not only the size of the boxes, to make squares, rectangles, or a combination of each, but also the thickness of the boards to achieve just about any look.

Because your basically just adding strips of wood to the wall you won’t have to make complicated compound cuts. No ripping boards. And no building any multi layered trim pieces are required.

bathroom wall paneling ideas box molding closeup pics

Bathroom Paneled Walls

Crown molding can add elegance and style to an ordinary room. Wider door, window and baseboard moldings take a home from builder’s grade to something special. All of these trim styles are great additions to any bathroom.

But one of our favorite types of molding is a panel molding style also known as box molding. These are the square or rectangular shapes created out of simple pieces of pine applied to the walls with wood and glue. Most often box molding is used in the formal spaces of a home such as the dining room, foyer and living room but it can make a huge difference when added to a bathroom.

Pro Tip: We recommend that you paint the walls and moldings, especially the box molding, all the same color.

bathroom box board wall paneling diagram drawing - Gambrick

Design Your Wall Paneling

Before you build anything draw out your designs on paper first. It’s a big help and all the top designers do it. Imagine trying to build a home without having a blueprint. As a builder, everything we do is planned out and designed before we do any actual physical work. When we make changes as we go those items are also designed and drawn out to make sure they both look great and stick with the clients vision.

You can go through tons of variations with a simple pen and paper. If your not that great at drawing it’s no big deal, design sketches don’t have to be perfect. Your just trying to get the general design down.

Pro Tip: Design your wall paneling on paper first laying out the lengths and widths of each piece of wood. Make sure when buying lumber you get straight pieces, #1 or premium grade is best unless you want a rustic look as any knots will show through the paint.

Pro Tip: Make sure when cutting your boards you get a nice, square edge. This can be done with any saw but it’s a lot easier with a miter saw. You can rent them by the day if you don’t own one. Any gaps will need to be filled so make sure to keep all your cuts accurate and square with really tight joints.

bathroom vertical wall paneling white bathroom with marble

Bathroom Vertical Wall Paneling

When you hear the words vertical paneling it conjures up images of bad 70’s style, shiny fake wood walls and shag carpeting. But vertical paneling, when done the modern way, can bring a lot of character to a room. For this post we’re focusing on painted bathroom wall paneling.

Vertical wall paneling can be customized by selecting different sized planks, resulting in a drastically different look. Notice the wall paneling shown above. Fairly narrow 4″ planks were used with a narrow gap. Traditionally you’ll see vertical paneling around 4″ – 8″ which are a great width to add some character into your space. Much wider wall paneling is sometimes used which gives off a more modern look.

Vertical paneling is one of the easiest ways to heighten your walls and create openness in a smaller space. That’s one of the reasons why vertical wall paneling works so well in bathrooms. It’s a detail that will also create dimension and visual interest to your walls. Painting your paneling really takes your design up a notch, and makes the space feel more modern and clean.

Unlike bead board and V-groove, which are connected via tongue and groove, ship lap boards are joined with an overlapping “rabbet” joint, which usually creates a 90 degree-angled gap in between the boards. As a result, the boards can be set to a wider or lesser degree apart.

Pro Tip: Stick with a small gap unless your going for a very specific look.

vertical bathroom wall paneling designs white shiplap over a tub

Where And How To Use Vertical Bathroom Wall Paneling

Most people think of shiplap installed horizontally in a room, which itself can help carry the eye around the space, making it feel larger. But installing the shiplap vertically helps emphasize the height of the room, making it feel larger, which is great for small rooms like a bathroom.

Because vertical wall paneling creates texture in such a clean, simplistic way, it can work just as well in almost any setting. In fact, one of the things I love about shiplap is that it works great as both a horizontal and vertical wall paneling. Because it’s handcrafted, it can add warmth to what might be a more austere setting. Or, conversely, because it has a very clean line, particularly when painted, it can be used to make a traditional setting feel more contemporary.

Pro Tip: It’s hard to go wrong when installing shiplap, it’s fairly forgiving. Just be sure the first board is level, since the rest will follow suit. Once the first board is perfectly set the rest are a piece of cake. You may need to rip the last board however unless you get very lucky and end with a full board.

Pro Tip: The charm of shiplap comes from the visible gap between the boards. Paint with care to be sure the paint doesn’t fill in the gaps or that you don’t get runs.

vertical wall paneling design drawing bathroom marble vanity with double sink white shiplap

Vertical Shiplap Design

Shiplap is a refined classic and a top choice when looking for bathroom wall paneling ideas. Create a beautiful, healthy wood interior with the natural warmth of real, sustainable wood. The classic shiplap appearance has been re-imagined with superior product features. This exceptional product arrives factory coated with white primer, ready for onsite top coating in the color of your choice.

So you don’t get the warping that causes shiplap to look crooked or uneven choose a newer product made with MDF. MDF material resists moisture making it perfect for that steamy bathroom wall. And with MDF you never have to worry about filling knots since it’s not made from wood. The material is super smooth and takes paint much better than pine which gives it a superior finish. Most high end factory painted cabinets come with MDF panels for just these reasons.

MDF shiplap is basically a modern way to create a contemporary look with vintage appeal. An additional benefit of MDF is that it’s generally quite a bit cheaper than real wood shiplap.

Pro Tip: If your planning on painting your bathroom shiplap white then opt for primed MDF. It’s cheaper, resists warping due to moisture and has a smoother face which holds paint better than pine.

bathroom board and batten wall paneling white trim gray walls beautiful bathroom

Bathroom Board And Batten Wall Paneling

Board and Batten is one of the oldest and most traditional bathroom wall paneling ideas you can choose. The construction typically consists of a wide “board” and then a smaller more narrow “batten” that is installed over each of the seams creating the look. Board and batten is used both as an interior wall paneling and an exterior siding design. When used on interior walls, like the examples shown, you don’t actually need the larger “board” but can fake the look with just the small strips installed vertically over sheetrock.

The boards are usually, but not always, one-foot wide with battens about 2-3 inch wide like the photo shown above.

Board and batten wall paneling does 2 major things for a bathroom. First, it adds some architectural detail and second, it lightens up the bottom half of the wall while leaving the top half with some color.

And if your looking for great small bathroom ideas then look no further. Board and batten is a great choice. The height and vertical battens make a small bathroom feel larger while the simple design adds detail without being too busy. Other bathroom trim designs that are intricate work well in a larger bathroom but ruin a small one.

bathroom board and batten molding light green walls white trim beautiful bathroom design

Board And Batten Trim DIY

Board and Batten makes a great DIY project. A bathroom like this one could easily be completed in just a day or two if you had some skill and basic tools. Since the cuts are all square you won’t need expensive tools or the skill to make complicated angled cuts.

MDF works great for board and batten. It’s super straight material that resists moisture and doesn’t twist. The face is totally flat and smooth since it doesn’t have a grain which makes it perfect for holding paint. And MDF comes factory primed so painting is that much easier.

To create the look above all you need is 2″ lengths of MDF for the battens. 3″ MDF for the cap. And 4″ MDF for the base molding and window headers.  Cut the boards to length with any saw. Just make sure you can make a perfectly square cut and keep those joints tight. Glue and nail trim to the wall. Fill the holes with putty and sand prior to paint when dry.

A cap can be added to the top which is just a 1 or 2 inch piece turned on it’s side.

Some clients add quarter round to the base trim and some don’t. Either way is fine. Check out the pics above and see what you prefer.

board and batten wall paneling drawing diagram - beautiful bathroom white trim gray walls - Gambrick

Board And Batten Wall Paneling Design

So you’ve been searching for bathroom wall paneling ideas and have decided board and batten is the perfect look. But how do you design it? Whether your hiring a professional or doing it yourself, you still need a plan.

Designing board and batten wall paneling for you bathroom is a fairly straight forward task. Here’s how we do it. First, we design everything on paper. We don’t do any physical work or buy any materials until we have a plan signed off on by the client, or by ourselves, if the trim work is for a spec house. Once we have the perfect board and batten design we make a material list and go shopping.

To help you come up with the absolutely perfect design the best thing you can do is look at example photos. Find a picture of a finished bathroom you love and use that as a guide. Every bathroom is different so you’ll have to customize the design a little bit to match your bathrooms dimensions and layout, but the overall sizes will be pretty much the same.

Stick with a few basic board and batten design rules.

  1. The base should be the widest piece of trim.
  2. The Battens should be the thinnest.
  3. The top should be in the middle of the battens and base trim.
  4. If you want a cap don’t make it overhang too much. We generally make a 1/2″ to 1″ reveal.
  5. Quarter round base is optional.
  6. The height shouldn’t be too low or board and batten becomes wainscoting. 3/4 up the wall is a general rule.

That’s it. If you find an example picture you love and stick with these basic rules designing board and batten wall paneling is a piece of cake.

bathroom wall paneling applied molding design beautiful bathroom white and marble

Applied Molding Wall Paneling Design A.K.A. Applique

Up next we have applied molding, which generally leans a bit more formal than the other options but can be designed to fit a variety of styles. Again, you have the option to customize the size and style of the molding as well as the shapes so applied molding or applique design is quite versatile.

The Applique is a decorative Wall Treatment achieved by trimming the wall with shapes using trim pieces like chair rail. Applied molding isn’t limited to any one section of the wall, far from it, many homes have them all over the walls and even the ceilings and doors. The most common Applique shape is the rectangle. The perfect Applique occurs when all four sides are the same distance apart from the Chair Rail, Baseboard and the next applique or wall. Symmetry is a classic component of applied molding design.

With different size walls in a room you will have to get creative with the shape of each individual applique, ideally you would like all of them to be approximately the same size but in reality it is nearly impossible. Using different combinations of widths and shapes you can achieve a beautiful design. Try to keep symmetry in mind when designing.

bathroom applied molding appilque wall paneling collage - Gambrick

Top Bathroom Wall Paneling Ideas: Applied Molding

Applique is made from pieces of trim that can easily be cut down and customized to suit a variety of unique designs. With a little patience and time you can achieve a professional installation without paying a fortune for materials or labor. Bathrooms are generally small rooms so material costs won’t be much and a skilled installer will be done in a day.

As you can see in the accompanying pictures most of the appliques are uniform and symmetrical. These designs add a great deal of interest to the walls, leading the eye around the room.

The materials required to install appliques are quite inexpensive however you’ll need a saw that can do miter cuts like a chop saw.  A lot of thought that has to be put in designing the layout, shapes and sizes. The finishing also takes some time and patience since with an elaborate design comes lots of joints and nail holes to fill and sand.

There are many different ways to finish an applique installation. Many people opt for the traditional white applique on whatever solid wall color they may like while others use many different colors both in and outside the applique. You can also use wallpaper inside the squares and paint the outsides, the possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination. We recommend sticking with all one color for a bathroom as seen in the example pics. It’s best not to make walls too busy. If you want some color opt for hanging a picture or adding some flowers but keep the wall colors simple and bright.

bathroom applied molding design drawing - beautiful bathroom - Gambrick

Bathroom Applied Molding Design

When designing an applied molding bathroom design always keep in mind two thing, symmetry and uniformity. Take measurements wall by wall and break them down into equal segments, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5 or a whole wall. The way you break down the wall will dictate the width of the applique designs. Obviously the more segments the smaller the appliques.

One you break down each walls measurements side to side decide how you’ll lay the wall out top to bottom.

As with any other type of molding look at lots of example photos and create a look book. The more pics you see the better. Find the perfect one and use it as a guide. Bathroom wall paneling ideas are easy ti find when searching online so you won’t have much trouble finding great pics to model your design after.

Once you have the design down make a material list and start shopping.

teal bathroom wainscoting closeup white freestanding soaking claw foot tub

Top Bathroom Wall Paneling Ideas: Wainscoting

When it comes to bathroom wall paneling ideas it would impossible not to discuss wainscoting.

The term wainscoting refers to any type of wall treatment that goes a portion of the length of the wall. It is by far the most popular type of wall paneling used in a bathroom. So while some people think wainscoting only involves bead board or v-groove, there are actually hundreds of variations and styles. Wainscoting is a very broad term which can include combinations of some of the other styles we’ve already discussed like vertical wall paneling and board and batten.

In this article we’ll be looking at the more traditional style of wainscoting as shown in the example pics.

Now, its main use is as a decorative wall accent that typically rises to chair-rail level and helps make a room more visually appealing. While historically wainscoting was made from wood, this type of panel now includes a variety of materials with the key feature being that it’s installed only on the lower portion of the wall. Generally wainscoting is about waist high with some sort of cap although higher versions are sometimes built. Some amount of wall has to be left on top of the cap in order for it to be considered wainscoting.

beautiful bathroom wainscoting white with white cabinets - Gambrick

Bathroom Wall Covering Instead Of Tile

Today’s wainscoting designs run the gamut of building materials but because this is in a bathroom we like to use either wood MDF. One of the reasons wainscoting is always a favorite among bathroom wall paneling ideas is because of it’s versatility.

Wood is what wainscoting has classically been made of. Since most bathroom wainscoting is painted we use premium #1 grade pine without knots. Unless your going for a rustic look a smooth, knot free face holds paint the best. Knots tend to eventually show through the paint even if you prime it first. Other types of wood works just as well but if your painting it you don’t need to buy the expensive stuff. Save oak and cherry for things you’ll stain.

MDF is a fantastic product for wainscoting and for use in a bathroom. It’s super smooth finish holds paint better than wood and because MDF is moisture resistant you won’t have to worry about water issues. MDF doesn’t expand or contract like wood does so joints aren’t as big an issue as with wood.

wainscoting bathroom trim design drawing - Gambrick

Top Small Bathroom Design Ideas: Wainscoting

Wainscoting is a classic wall paneling design that work beautifully in a small bathroom. Or any size bathroom for that matter.

When it comes to wainscoting design the first thing you need to determine is the height. The general wainscoting height is about waist high, it often times much higher but I’ve never seen it lower. There wouldn’t be much sense in building wainscoting 2′ high but 5′ would look great.

As with any other type of wall paneling look at lots of example pics and find the one you love most to base your design off of.

Pro Tip: Even though you may love a design doesn’t mean it works with the style of your home. Try to coordinate your wainscoting with the style of the home. A mishmash of styles doesn’t look very good.

Once you have the height figured out and the style determined lay out the wall from left to right. Figure out how many panels you want to create and make sure to keep them all symmetrical.

After the height and general layout is designed pick your individual trim piece sizes.

Pro Tip: Making base trim the widest is generally the right choice.

Depending on the style you choose bathroom wainscoting can be hard to do as a weekend DIY project. Wainscoting tends to have multiple piece of trim with compound angle cuts glued and nailed together to create the finished product. It’s not always easy. If your doing it yourself and don’t have a miter saw and the right amount of skill, try a simple design. Simpler designs are just as nice and are much easier to build.

white bathroom shiplap white freestanding tub chrome fixtures black lighting

Bathroom Horizontal Wall Paneling A.K.A. Shiplap

Next up we take the vertical wall paneling concept and turn it horizontal. There are different types of horizontal wall paneling, which is the technical term used in construction for wall paneling installed horizontally on the wall, most commonly known as shiplap. However, even though people refer to all horizontal paneling as shiplap, it isn’t, shiplap just happens to be the most well known type because you see it on TV all the time. In this article we’ll be discussing actual shiplap.

What makes shiplap so incredibly popular these days is how great it looks and how versatile it is, which makes it a perfect material to use in a bathroom.

Many homeowners are willing to spend a small fortune for a feature wall made of authentic, reclaimed shiplap. For some people, the more weathered, the better. But in most cases it’s painted white which means you can use new material that comes primed from the factory.

Many of the shiplap clad interiors you see on TV, online or in magazines are shiplap inspired and not the real thing. Whether a wall is covered with new or old wood, if the boards don’t have that groove for overlapping, it’s technically not shiplap. But at the end of the day, who really cares as long as your walls look great?

beautiful white bathroom shiplap collage - Gambrick

Wood Paneling Makeover Ideas

If your thinking of choosing a bathroom wall covering instead of tile, you should definitely consider shiplap. It’s such a versatile material you really can’t go wrong by using it as an accent or on every wall in the bathroom. Best of all shiplaps cheap and very easy to install yourself. All you’ll need are some basic tools.

Since the edges come grooved to fit together all you do is butt then up and nail. The boards keep themselves even so you don’t have to worry about gaps being too big or too small. We glue and nail out shiplap to the wall and recommend you do too.

The hardest part of doing shiplap is the finish work. Take your time when painting because paint tends to accumulate in the gaps if your not careful which looks terrible when dry. Make sure to get all the paint out of the gaps as you go and watch out for runs.

And speaking of gaps make sure you paint them. Sometimes people forget. Buy a small brush and get a nice coat of paint in each gap the same as you do the face of the wood.

Pro Tip: Take your time setting the first board. If the first course is perfect the rest will be super easy to install. If the first course is wrong you’ll have a lot of problems.

white bathroom shiplap white freestonding soaking tub modern bathroom design - Gambrick

Bathroom Shiplap Design

Bathroom shiplap is a fairly easy thing to design since it covers the entire wall. But there are still a few questions you’ll need to answer. Will you be using shiplap on only one wall or multiple walls? Will you have a baseboard molding? Should you use crown molding? How will the shiplap flow with the windows, door trim, shower tile, etc?

Always consider the other elements in the room when designing your shiplap.

Another questions that plays into how you’ll finish the rest of the room is color. Shiplap doesn’t always have to be white.

Something a lot of people don’t realize is that dust and moisture tends to settle inside the horizontal gaps. Keep those gaps clean. Dust isn’t a huge deal, it just needs some cleaning, but moisture is. You don’t want water collecting on, and getting behind the wood. If you notice a particular area has some regular water collection after hot showers makes sure to wipe it down and keep things dry.

Tools And Supplies Needed For Bathroom Trim Work

Here’s a full list of supplies & materials that we use to install our bathroom wall paneling.

  • Blueprint
  • Pneumatic nail guns. We use different nails for different purposes
  • Air compressor
  • Materials (Wood, MDF, Nails, Glue, etc.)
  • Measuring tape
  • Laser level (optional)
  • Pencil
  • Knife
  • Level
  • Stud finder
  • Miter saw
  • Jig saw
  • Spackle, joint compound, or wood filler (for filling nail holes)
  • Paintable white caulk meant for moldings & a caulk gun
  • Sandpaper and/or palm sander
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Paint brush, roller, and other painting supplies

*Buy your wood around a week before you start the project and just let it sit in your house (this is called “acclimating” the wood) to avoid any cracks caused by expansion or contraction, which can happen if it’s not acclimated before installation.

If you have any questions for us let us know and we’ll try to get them all answered.

I have a few questions for you:

  1. What’s your favorite? Are you a more traditional wainscoting person or would you consider a more contemporary look?
  2. Lastly, we’ve designed and built hundreds of bathrooms but havn’t seen it all, so if there’s something that you can share – either advice, resources, other DIY posts, secrets, etc that you think could be helpful please let us know.

Oh and let us know if you’re into these types of articles because if so, we have a lot ideas to share. If you have any questions or comments e-mail us any time. We’d love to hear from you. 

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