How to install Board and Batten trim ($100 room challenge hallway progress)

Board and Batten trim is an easy and inexpensive way to spruce up a hallway, dining room, or really any room in your home and add a lot of character for very little money!  I’ll share a simple tutorial on how to do this trim anywhere in your home. 



The first thing you’ll want to figure out is what kind of wood you are going to use.  There are several options available some are more budget friendly than others but some have other benefits (like pre-primed or no knots) and will have to consider what tools you have available.  

You will need:

  • 1×3 boards for your vertical battens (these typically come in 8 foot long so if doing a half wall like this you can cut in half to 4 feet and get 2 battens out of one piece)   – also the store calls these 1×3 nominal width but the actual size is 3/4 inches thick and is 2.5 inches wide
  • 1×4 boards for your top board – how many will determine how long your walls – you may have to use more than one board and join together if you have a really long wall
  • 1×2 boards for the top ledge  – again will need length of your walls (I opted not to do this ledge but traditional board and batten does have this top ledge)

You can use MDF boards – cheapest option would probably be to buy a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of 1/4 inch MDF ($29 at Home Depot) and cut it into strips yourself which would require a truck to transport home (you could get Home Depot to cut in half making a 2 foot by 8 foot strip or buy this 2 foot by 4 foot panel) and then a table saw at home to cut.  You would want to be careful using MDF in a bathroom or around water since it could swell if water was ever able to get in by a seam and make contact with the boards.  But if caulked and painted well this should not be an issue.

Out of one 4 foot by 8 foot board you could cut 10 – 2.5 inch x 8 foot strips to give you 20 battens, also cut 4 – 3.5 inch strips, and 5 1.5 inch x 8 foot strips which is probably going to be close to enough to do an entire room with board and batten half way up the wall depending on measurements. 

You could also buy pre-cut and pre-primed MDF strips.

You can also use pre-primed and sanded pine boards – these pre-primed pine boards are the smoothest/best option but they are definitely pricier. 

But the cheapest option if you don’t want to use MDF will be to use regular pine boards.  But these can have knots and imperfections which will require careful selection and possible additional prep work and sanding. 

So for my project I used a combination of the above Smile  Since I was trying to do a complete makeover on this hallway including buying picture frames for less than $100 I used some 2.5 inch MDF strips that we had cut from a full 4×8 foot sheet of MDF that I had leftover from doing an accent wall in my guest bedroom (you can see that room here).  I had just enough strips for all the battens that I needed with 1 leftover!  Then I did purchase a 1x4x8 and a 1x4x6 square edge pine board for the top ledge.

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Then you will want to decide how high up you want your battens (the vertical boards) to be.  Since I was using standard 8 foot long boards it was easy to just cut in half to be 4 foot high.  With the baseboards and the top board attached this brings my board and batten to 57 inches high on the wall and I have standard 8 foot ceilings in this hallway.  If you wanted to be exactly halfway up the wall you will need to cut your vertical battens shorter to account for the baseboards and top board.

Here’s a before and after picture for you to see the height and spacing of the boards. 

$100 room makeover hallway before-3

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Now let’s talk about spacing of the boards which is going to require a bit of math but if you break it down it’s not hard!  You will probably have one wall that will determine the width that you want your battens to be apart whether that be because it is a small wall or maybe you are trying to work around vents, light switches, doors, windows.   I had 3 separate walls to work with in this hallway and knew that smallest wall between the 2 doors was going to determine my width. That wall is 29.5 inches long and I really needed to have 1 batten on each end and then 1 batten in middle to make it look right.  29.5 inches –2.5 inch end board – 2.5 inch end board = leaves me with 24.5 inches.  24.5 inches – 2.5 inch batten in middle = 22 inches which divided in half on each side of each batten is 11 inches of space. 

board and batten spacing

So then I needed my other walls to have close to 11 inches of spacing between each batten.  I think this wall has 11.5 inches and the other wall has 11.25 inches between which is close enough  – even if you needed to do 10 inches between on one wall and 12 inches between on another that would be fine. 

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You can use adhesive or liquid nails plus nail your boards but I opt to just use nails and haven’t had any issues.  This is my absolute favorite nailgun – cordless/battery operated so no loud compressor needed yet it is powerful! 

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By the way this is what it would look if you installed a top 1×2 inch ledge.  That is the traditional look of board and batten but I was just wanting a simplier more craftsman look so I opted to leave it off.  If I had been installing this in an entryway or bathroom and then going to be installing hooks into the top board I would definitely have done the ledge. 

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After you have all the boards installed it’s time to caulk and sand – you’ll want to caulk any seams and along where boards meet walls along with any nail holes.  I forget how long this step takes – not hard but very tedious!  But necessary for a finished, clean look.  And it also makes such a mess! 

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I ended up doing 3 coats of white paint –  just using ultra pure white by Behr in satin in a 1/2 of can I had leftover.  I typically use Polar Behr by Behr for all my trim but was out of that and no budget to buy paint for this. 

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For the top of the walls I used some more leftover paint I had from painting my laundry room and master bedroom – I had 1/2 can left of Statuesque by Behr Marquee – it is the lightest gray/off white color and just a great neutral light paint.    I only used about 1/2 can for the top part and since it was the Marquee line only required 1 coat!

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So here’s where my hallway progress is now! Such a huge improvement already!  Installing board and batten is such an easy way to dress up a hallway, entrway, or really any room. 

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In my previous house, I installed board and batten in my guest bathroom – I went even higher up on the walls and did a wider board on the top to use for an actual ledge. 



But back to this hallway and the $100 room makeover.  I wish I had money in my $100 budget to replace this yellowed smoke detector but that may have to wait for another day. 

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But here’s a few before/after pictures of my progress so far!

$100 room makeover hallway before-2

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$100 room makeover hallway before-5

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Since I was able to use leftover MDF strips for the battens (not much else I can use those for so I was glad to be able to use those up and get them out of the garage!)  and leftover paint I already had here is where I am at with my budget:

  • 1x4x8- $6.00
  • 1x4x6 – $4.49

$10.49 spent so far! 

If you had no paint or boards, I would estimate about $30 each for 2 gallons of paint or $20 each for 2 quarts of paint, plus if I would have bought boards for this entire project I would have needed 7- 1x3x8 boards and 2 – 1x4x8 boards and probably would have opted for the primed MDF option above making this cost about $35 in board – still putting a project like this under $100!

Make sure to check out the progress of everyone else doing a $100 makeover this month!

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  1. This looks SO GOOD!!! I just love how board and batten refreshes a space. I think we are going to do this in our hallway as well… maybe for the $100 Room Challenge? Thanks for sharing all your tips on boards and things to think through. Excited to see your reveal!

  2. Looks amazing! Thank you for your thorough tutorial. It gets dizzying trying to read others take on board and batten and they don’t even tell you what kind of boards to use. I will give it a try now. On another note, where did you get your semi-flush ceiling light? I’m getting rid of my boob lights and this looks great.

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