add wainscot to stairs

Any home needs beautification of interiors to keep up the ambiance. The home looks fresh and neat due to the regular updating of interiors. Wainscoting is an important aspect of maintenance and updating of the interiors.  It gives a warm look and feel.

The technique of adding wainscoting does not change, its the same as it is done on a straight wall. The only challenge is to cut the wainscoting panels as per the angle of the stairs.

Wainscoting is done with DIY methods that can save you considerable money. Wainscoting one’s stairs are very important to keep the ambiance fresh and neat. One can do wainscoting in their weekends.   

Adding wainscotings to stairs not only enhances the aesthetics but also warmth and feel.  No more the functional aspect of stairs, wainscoting makes it look pleasing to the eye. Wainscoting stairs is a simple process. Anyone can do it himself or herself.

The process is easy and simple. Wainscoting is generally done down the wall side along the staircase. This makes the stairs look aesthetic.  Wainscoting is usually done on a straight wall. The method for stairs is similar but one has to cut the panel at an angle matching the stairs.

If you are doing for the first time, then it is easier for you to use beadboard wainscoting. This guide will walk you through simple steps of fixing wainscoting to your stairs.

Please have a look at the tools and implements you need for adding wainscoting to your stairs. Keep these ready before you start working, as these are handy and important.

Here’s the list of things you need to keep ready:

  • Wainscoting
  • Level
  • T-Bevel Square
  • Measuring Tape
  • Miter Saw
  • Hammer
  • Stud Finder
  • Finish Nails
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Molding
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Paint or stain
  • Paint Roller or Brush
  • Caulking/ liquid nails
  • Sand paper

Dot It Yourself Wainscoting

There are ten simple steps for DIY Wainscoting Installation. Follow them carefully:

Step 1

The first thing is to determine the quantity of wainscoting you need. Begin measuring the stairs. Start from the top step to the ending point of the bottom step, horizontally.  

Do not measure straight down the slope of the stairs. This method of measurement will help you in knowing the exact wainscoting you need for stairs.

Step 2

Place the level on the top of the wainscoting board between the stairs and the wall. The bubble in the level should be vertical when placed on the board. 

The corner of the level should rest on the angle of the board.

Step 3

The Sliding T-Bevel Square should be placed against the level. Moreover, its handle should be on the slope of the wainscoting board.

Here, the Level should be straight so that an angle is determined on the T-bevel Square.

Step 4

Adjustment of the miter angle of the blade exactly to the angle of the T-bevel Square should be done.  Then test cut some scrap plywood. Assess the exactness of angle that should match the baseboard.  

This will enable you cut the wainscoting board to perfection. It ensures that you do not make any mistakes while cutting the board.

Step 5

One of the most important steps is to find wall studs. To locate the wall studs one has to use the stud finder. The wall studs are eventually covered by wainscoting.

One has to measure every sixteen inches along the wainscoting area to find the wall studs. To mark the installation area, use a painter’s tape.

Stick the tape above the installation area or mark it with a pencil.

Step 6

Make a straight line along the tread area using the Level. Place a painter’s tape and mark it on the stair tread.

This will enhance the look where the stud is located vertically in the wall.

Step 7

Now, cut the wainscoting in such a way that the two pieces of wainscoting end when joined together should match each other.

Repeat this until all the wainscoting that is required to be installed is cut in a similar way and are matching.  

Each wainscoting unit looks like a parallelogram that is matched along with the stair tread.

Step 8

Use liquid nails backside of wainscoting in a zigzag way. Use this wainscoting by placing it from the bottom of the stairs.

Completely fix this wainscoting with finish nails. Continue this way by placing another wainscoting beside the first fixed one. 

Continue until you completely fix the wainscoting until the top tread end of the stairs. Fix one piece at a time and one after the other for continuity.

Step 9

Now, one can pound the wainscoting with a rubber mallet. This way it ensures that wainscoting adheres to the wall perfectly.  

By doing this, the liquids’ nails are spread evenly.  One can also apply pressure with the hands and press the wainscoting.

This also ensures that the liquid nails are spread evenly and firmly grip the wall.

Step 10

Nail molding on the edges at the top of wainscoting gives a finished look. You can customize wainscoting to give different looks like crown molding, chair-rail, and half-round.

Now, the finishing of wainscoting is complete either by staining or by painting.

It is important to use painters tape to prevent paint or stain on the wall.  This gives an immense aesthetic look to the stairs.

Points to remember while staining or painting the wainscoting

Always use painters tape to prevent staining or painting to spread over to the walls.

Cover the treads of the stairs with thick construction while you are at staining or painting the wainscoting. This will ensure that the stair treads are not spoilt by spillage or by accident.


Use always-deep penetrating stain on the wood. After drying, apply one coat of polyurethane that acts as a protective coating.

Then use wood putty that matches the stain color, to seal all the nail holes. Do colored caulking that matches the stainer color.

After drying overnight, sanding is done with sandpaper. The entire surface is wiped with mineral spirits. Now you can apply a finish coat of polyurethane. This gives a smooth glass-like finish.


Use pre-primed wainscoting to save time and better finish.

Apply two coats of paint. Ensure that the first coat of the paint is completely dried, and then a second coat of paint is applied to give a fresh and warm look.

For painting the wainscoting, one needs to do with a paint roller. This paint roller ensures that the paint is spread evenly. It gives a better finish.

Hence, the use of a paint roller is necessary. Painting with a paint roller gives the best paint finish.

You can go through my other post which talks about the installation cost of wainscoting to your walls here.

Wrapping it Up

You have read how wainscoting is added to the stairs. Moreover, you have learnt how to add wainscoting to the stairs. 

Now, you can start installing wainscoting to your stairs. Remember to follow the guidelines given here. All the best to you!

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