top of page

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Wainscoting

You may not be familiar with the term wainscoting, but you’ve probably seen it. Modern wainscoting is decorative wall panels that come in various styles, but where did it originate, and what’s up with the odd name?

This post looks at the history of wainscot wall panels through the ages and gives you an option to give your home an upscale, modern look while offering superior flood protection.

The History of Wainscoting

When people hear the term wainscot paneling, they think of interior wall paneling that covers the lower half of the wall for decorative purposes and provides a visual break in the wall. Wainscoting is typically made from wood, but some homeowners create a faux wainscot with paint or wallpaper.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica,

Traditionally, British wainscot was made of oak imported from Russia, Germany, or Holland, and wainscot oak remains a term for select, quarter-sawn oak for paneling. The French equivalent of wainscot is boiserie.

The term wainscot originally referred to the fine grade oak imported for woodworking, but by the 1500s, it became synonymous with paneling. Merriam-Webster Webster says the word stems from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German wagenschot or wagon partition.

Wainscot paneling is one of the world’s oldest custom decorative interior flourishes. Its roots date back to the 1300s, when Dutch homeowners used them to protect their walls from damage sustained by chair bumps and scuffs in close quarters like hallways. Other uses for wainscot panels included covering dampness or insulation for cold stone walls. However, it wasn’t long until people saw these wall panels as a decorative addition that added warmth to a room while giving it a more stately appearance.

Wainscot paneling quickly spread, becoming popular during the 15th century, and grew from simple wall panels to ornately carved works of art that often spanned the entire wall’s height. Famous examples of ornate wainscoting can be found in the Hampton Court Palace in Richmond and Windsor Castle.

Wainscoting found its way to America via English settlers who wanted their homes to reflect their cultural heritage, and the trend caught on in American interior design, where it’s remained a staple ever since.

Types of Wainscoting

Traditional wainscot panels were made from oak, and each panel was installed via a tongue and groove system. Today, however, you can choose panels made from various materials and styles to suit your interior design. Let’s look at the most common wainscoting panels.

Raised Panels

The raised panel style came from the 17th century and was used primarily for insulation, but quickly became popular in early colonial homes. Raised panels are typically identified by their beveled edges and simple moulding, and evoke old-world charm. If you’re looking for an upscale interior, raised panels are the best choice.


Originally, wainscot panels were made from oak, but pine and spruce came into vogue as less expensive alternatives. Today, homeowners have virtually every type of wood panels available, depending on their budget and the style they’re after. When choosing wood, keep in mind the climate you’re in to prevent problems down the road. Wood is a popular choice for wainscoting because it can be painted or stained to create virtually any look you can dream up.


Vinyl wainscoting panels are relatively new on the scene and are more popular than wood for some homeowners because they’re more durable, easier to clean, and water-resistant than wood. Vinyl panels are ideal for homes with young children because they can withstand the bumps and scuffs kids dish out.


Plastic wainscoting panels are similar to vinyl, but they’re more rigid. They’re equally durable as vinyl and water-resistant, making them ideal for bathrooms or other rooms where moisture is present.

Faux Panels

Finally, homeowners can select faux wainscot panels, which can be achieved using wood molding to recreate the look and paint or wallpaper to differentiate the panel from the wall. Faux panels are ideal for homeowners who want the look of traditional wainscot panels but are on a strict budget.

Which Rooms Benefit Most From Wainscoting?

While you can install wainscot paneling anywhere in the home, there are certain rooms where it’s more traditionally appropriate than others. Here are the most common places in the house where people install wainscot paneling.

Dining Room

The dining room is the most popular room where homeowners install wainscot paneling because it creates an elegant and sophisticated appearance, which is perfect for those wanting to give their home an upscale look.


You may not think of putting wainscot panels in your foyer, but here’s why you should. One of the purposes of traditional wainscot panels was to protect the walls from scuffs and damage. The entry is a high-traffic area, prone to accidents, so it makes sense to give your walls an extra layer of protection. Furthermore, consider that the foyer is where your guests get their first look at your home’s interior, and adding wainscot paneling gives it an impressive “wow” factor that makes an excellent first impression.


Besides the dining room, the bedroom is another popular place in the house for wainscot paneling because it looks phenomenal and pairs well with various bedroom styles and decors.

Wainscoting Basement Panels With EnduraFlood™

One room, you may not think about installing wainscot paneling in the basement, but here are a few excellent reasons to consider it and why EnduraFlood is the perfect option.

Many homeowners finish their basements to give them added space for things like a man cave, hobby room, rec room, or playroom for the kids. Putting wainscot panels in the basement instantly gives it an upscale appearance and can break up the space and make it more visually appealing if you have ample space.

However, one problem many people face with their basement is moisture and flooding, and that’s where EnduraFlood comes in.

EnduraFlood panels are waterproof and can withstand total submersion during a flood for as long as it takes to pump out the water. Our patent-pending paneling system replaces drywall from the floor up to several feet, which is the portion you’d remove and replace if your basement floods. This reduces the time, cost, and hassle of flood cleanup.

Another advantage of installing waterproof EnduraFlood panels is mold protection. If your basement floods, it doesn’t take long for wet drywall to start growing mold. And once mold begins growing and spreading, it isn’t easy to get rid of completely. Because EnduraFlood is water-resistant, it provides a layer of protection for your drywall, so mold growth is one less thing you have to worry about after a flood.

The EnduraFlood Flood-Proof Basement System is:

  • A durable and convenient solution for wet drywall.

  • A modern system that enhances your interior decor while offering superior flood protection.

  • It’s easily removed when needed to access the foundation wall, insulation, etc., and is quickly reinstalled.

  • A cost-effective solution compared to flooding repairs and wet wallboard replacement.


bottom of page