How to Install Wainscoting Over Wall Tile in a Bathroom

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Things You'll Need

  • Rag

  • Mineral spirits

  • Silicone caulk

  • Measuring tape

  • Chalk or marker

  • Level

  • Drill

  • Carbide-tipped drill bit

  • Masonry screws

  • Circular saw or sharp utlity knife

  • Railing cap

  • Sixpenny nails

  • Hammer or nail gun

Wall tile is a common choice for bathroom installations, but it may not always agree with your aesthetic or stand up to your bathroom needs. Wainscoting panels are an alternative to tile. These decorative pieces, capped with a piece of railing, cover the bottom section of your wall where it is most likely to suffer from dirt or moisture. The waterproof panels protect the wall while adding a decorative edge. You can cover your old tiles with the wainscoting to provide extra protection while adding a decorative element to your bathroom.

Step 1

Wipe down the tile walls with a rag dampened in mineral spirits to remove dirt, dust, wax, grease and any other contaminants. You must kill any mold growing on the tiles or grout, by applying bleach or a similar product.

Step 2

Seal all seams around the tile with a tube of silicone caulk. If you experienced moisture problems with the grout lines of the tile, seal these with caulk as well. The caulk will protect the wainscoting from any moisture in the tile.

Step 3

Measure the exact horizontal center of the room. Make a mark on the tile at this spot, using a marker or chalk. Draw a straight line down to the baseboard and up to the point where you will install the wainscoting cap.

Step 4

Line up your first wainscoting panel with the center line you drew. Ensure that it is completely plumb with the baseboard or the floor, using a level.

Step 5

Secure your wainscoting in place with masonry screws and a drill equipped with a carbide-tipped drill bit. The masonry screws must pass through the wainscoting and the tile, and penetrate the wall by at least 1/2 inch. Choose the proper screw length based on the thickness of your tile and the wainscoting panels. Attach a screw to each of the panel's corners.

Step 6

Install additional panels, working from the outside in, until the wall is complete. Cut panels to fit if necessary, using a circular saw or making multiple passes of a sharp utility knife.

Step 7

Set the railing cap over the panels. Nail it into the wall with sixpenny nails and a nail gun or hammer.


A manufacturer can produce wainscoting panels to your specific bathroom measurements.

If you plan to paint your wainscoting, do so before installation and cover all surfaces -- the front, back and the edges. Consider using exterior or waterproof paint.

If the heads of your screws or nails mar the appearance of your wainscoting, fill the holes with caulk and paint it to match the panels.


Samantha Volz

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.