Paneling For Your Bathroom Remodel

Written by bprescottJanuary 30, 2012
bathroom with tile board

Tapping the Power of Paneling

One of the most popular looks in bathrooms today is wrapping the walls or part of them in paneling. Whether finished naturally or painted, wood adds warmth and interest to any room, no matter how small or large. It’s a good coverup for less than perfect walls, and provides an attractive wall detail to an otherwise ordinary bathroom.


Traditional vertical boards called beadboard are often used as wainscoting in a room to add Old World charm and appeal. You’ll find beadboard made of wood or a composite material. The unfinished wooden panels, measuring 3/8 inch thick, 4 feet wide, and 8 feet long, cost about $25 each and have decorative grooves running the length of the panel that are designed to replicate the look of beaded boards. You can get the same look with a prefinished white composite panel for about $18.

Beadboard usually is installed one-third up the wall and capped with a chair rail molding or installed two-thirds of the way up and topped with a plate rail shelf, creating a handy storage and display space. A wooden baseboard completes the installation, concealing the floor joint. You can install the material, sold at lumberyards and home centers, directly over walls with construction adhesive or nail it to furring strips, or thin pieces of wood fastened to the wall. 

Frame-and-panel wainscoting

For a more formal or traditional look, consider frame-and-panel wainscoting, also called raised paneling. The material is sold as components and comes precut and milled to fit together. The panels, which you fasten to the walls with adhesive and nails, come unfinished and ready to paint or prefinished in different wood shades.

The materials to install raised paneling on the lower third of the walls of a 12-foot-x-17-foot room (approximately 58 linear feet), including a top rail and baseboard molding at the floor, cost about $1,500. The material is sold at building material outlets and lumberyards, where you can get help measuring and ordering the components for your room. At New England Classic’s Web site (, you can use a calculator and get a detailed design layout and bill of materials to plan your project.


Hardboard is a generic term the lumber industry uses to describe a panel that is made from specially engineered fibers that are pressed together under heat and pressure. Other materials may be added during manufacturing to improve certain properties such as stiffness, hardness, resistance to abrasion, and moisture. Hardboard is used as a base for several types of paneling suitable for the bathroom.

The basic hardboard panels are manufactured with two smooth sides rated S2S and a single smooth side rated S1S. You can install the S1S panel with the smooth side out for easy painting or place the rough side out (it has a fine texture surface) to provide a good base for wallpaper or some other covering. They come in two grades:

  • Standard hardboard: This grade is suitable for interior uses such as paneling, partitions, flush doors, garage doors, and so on.
  • Tempered hardboard: This grade is impregnated with a special oil that is polymerized by heat treatment. It is suitable in applications that need extra moisture resistance, surface hardness, rigidity, bending, and tensile strength. This product is used in the manufacture of cabinets, doors and decorative paneling. It is a good choice for custom vanity doors and side panels.

Melamine panels

Melamine panels are made from decorative papers that have been impregnated with melamine resin that are then fused to the surface of the hardboard or particleboard. The finished surface of these panels becomes very hard, scratch resistant, stain resistant, and colorfast, similar to high-pressure plastic laminate.

Melamine panels are an inexpensive wall treatment and with proper installation can be used in tub surrounds and shower areas. This panel has a rather utilitarian look but is easy to clean with a damp cloth and ordinary soap or household ammoniated liquid detergent.


Tileboard is an embossed melamine hardboard panel that has the look of ceramic tile. This material combines the look of ceramic tile at a fraction of the cost. It is approved for use in high-moisture areas, such as bathrooms, or anywhere an easily cleaned wall surface is required, such as kitchens and laundry rooms. Tileboard comes in 4-foot-x-8-foot sheets and is installed with adhesive.


From ‘Bathroom Remodeling For Dummies’
Copyright © 2003 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.



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