Beadboard and wainscoting are two kinds of paneling used on the inside of homes. Appearing around the 1800s, these styles of paneling became popular because they were decorative but also served a second function. They also prevented or covered up wicking — damage to walls due to the evaporation of water. Though a few differences exist between the two types of paneling, they serve the same overall function.
Wainscoting is a type of paneling used to cover approximately the lower third of an interior wall. Though installed on the inside of houses for decorative purposes, it also serves the function of preventing or covering up wicking. The installer pieces the paneling adjacent to each other on the wall using tongue-and-groove joints, which minimize the need for nails. Because the panels must be installed one at a time, the process is time consuming and labor intensive.
The term "beadboard" is sometimes used interchangeably with wainscoting, mostly because beadboard is a common type of wainscoting and so has many of the same features. Both add style to a home, prevent or cover the wicking effect on walls and employ tongue-and-groove joining. Unlike most other forms of wainscoting, beadboard can come in individual panels or a larger sheet to apply over a wall. Additionally, you can use beadboard on other items such as furniture and cabinets. Beadboard is also useful as insulation.
Other Types of Wainscoting
You can also choose from other types of wainscoting when deciding how to design a room's interior. One option, raised-panel wainscoting, features individual panels pushed out farther than usual, normally with a beveled edge in the molding of the wainscoting. Another option, flat-panel wainscoting, is the opposite of raised panel wainscoting in that the panel edges appear to go into the wall.
Wainscoting panels can incorporate several possible materials, the most common of which is wood. Plastic is an inexpensive option, though it does not give the same texture as wood. Fiberboard, another material used for wainscoting paneling, comes in varying densities.