Has anyone restored old beadboard walls? HELP

drnewman6February 13, 2012

I own an old house built sometime before 1940, I think. I say that as all studs, joists, etc are oak wood, rough sawn and "real" 2X4's and 2X6's. Judging from the layers of wallpaper we've uncovered, I'd guess built before 1920 but I just don't know for sure. Anyway, the older parts of the house were completely covered in beadboard, put on horizonally, the ceilings and walls. Throughtout the years and through different owners much damage has been done to the original beadboard, no one removed it, they have put drywall over it, and paneling over the drywall, in some rooms. The ceiling was dropped from 9' to 8' foot with drywall on that.. People have cut huge holes through the ceilings and walls for plumbing, electric and central heat vents. I believe in one bedroom the beadboard was removed but it appears to be in the kitchen, another bedroom, the ceilings in all rooms and the bathroom. It was in a little room that had been a porch, converted to a laundry room, on two walls. We had to take it down there to add insulation to the walls, besides the fact that some had water damage. I saved all that I could savage from that room.

We are now remodeling our bathroom, which I didn't realize had beadboard, as the hallway beside it didn't, I thought they were added on later than they were, apparently.

What we have uncovered is three walls of beadboard. The beadboard on the outside wall, I think would have to come off because even though someone blew in insulation some years ago, it has settled, so we need to replace that and the tub is on that wall, so it needs something waterproof around it (grandkids slash!). Right now the bathroom is covered in pink tile, half way up, all the way around.... which is attached straight to sheetrock, which is over the beadboard!

We haven't uncovered it all, yet. The wall behind the bathroom sink has a lot of damage, where they cut out (busted out would be a better description) for electrical and plumbing updates at some point. I have enough to replace these damaged boards and if I run in to much damage on the opposite wall, I should have enough to replace that with what I take from the outside wall or I can tear into another room to get more, as we will be taking those rooms apart, also.

The beadboard was never painted, it was wallpapered (over and over). It cleans up pretty nice but not good enough to stain, I think it needs painted (I would never paint new beadboard, I love the wood look) but it isn't practical for these boards.

What I'm wondering is has anyone on here took on this type of project? I can't find many good pictures online of before and afters. I've cleaned and painted a small section behind the sink, just to see how it looks but I'm wondering if two whole walls of that, will look anything like one little section.. Also wondering how it will look with one wall of drywall (which I guess I could paint another color, the beadboard will be antique white), but then something different around the tub.

I would appreciate any feedback on this.

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Hi - I'm looking forward to reading what the others have to say, unfortunately all I have are questions. (Like, did you mean "Grandkids splash"? Lol - if they're slashing your walls, they're out of control! Different forum...). :-)

First, is there any way you could post a picture of the wall(s)? I'm struggling to even visualize horizontal beadboard on walls & ceiling!

You mention that it hasn't been painted... Do you mean that it hasn't had any finish at all, or that no paint has been applied? (Is there varnish, stain, shellac, etc - or literally raw wood?).

Is there plaster behind the beadboard?

Last - but not least... Is your definition of "beadboard" the same as mine? Strips of wood with a recessed line (beads) between boards?

You've got me curious! :-) I hope to see pics, & read the advice you get from knowledgable forum members.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 5:21PM
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Two things:
1. Blown-in insulation is done usually from the outside, so you don't need to remove the board for that--if it has settled, they just blow in more.
2. With proper finishing, there is no reason you can't use the beadboard on the wall behind the tub--I have it on all four walls of my bath, and have had no problems after about ten years.
Pictures of the set up would be nice.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 6:36AM
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centermatch or beadboard?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 7:37PM
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Well, you can feast your eyes on my attic; I'm thinking you might be facing something similar. I stared at these boards, which were/are painted dirty white, for nearly 20 years before I figured out what to do. Or rather, how to decide what to do.

I have two rooms upstairs. One is done in narrow boards with tons of end-to-end joints hanging in the middle of nowhere, and it's bumpy and uneven and ugly as sin. There was nothing for it but to cover it up, which I've done with panelling on one wall, and in another part of the room with wallpaper. I've also started panelling the ceiling with 1/8" maple plywood but don't have a photo of that yet. My husband is not a fan of the wallpapered part, but it works for me. I plastered (oh yes I did) all the cracks, smoothed the wall as much as I could, and papered over it. Half the room so far. For the rest, I've discovered an underpaper that may spare me the plastering. First two photos here of the original look and the panelling. Pardon the mess; after 20 years there are no empty rooms, and the house is so messy I have trouble getting presentable photos!

The other room, shown in the third photo, had wider boards, not so many joints, and was installed better, flatter. That, I decided I could paint. It is shown here partly done (and with only one coat on one wall); again, pardon the stuff. Yes, this is how I work my way around the room. I am nearly done the room now, and really liking it painted, much better than I expected. I REALLY hated it when it was white with the dark floor. Am also doing a hallway, in a creamsicle orange colour, and that is looking pretty good too.

So one question is, is the installation of your boards nice enough to paint? I have to admit I don't recommend the papering (sounds like that's been tried!). I used a satin finish paint; the old paint was flat, and yuck. If the boards are just bad, then consider removal or covering with panelling. Or with gyproc.

An unexpected pain in these rooms is the corners. How do the walls meet? Mine have huge uneven gaps and need corner moulding. It used to have a quarter round, which I hated and have replaced with a square 1x1.

I also had holes that were cut in - to get into to the attic shoulder walls - and have had to devise covers for these.

Another question you might want to consider is fire safety. It should be noted that gyproc will give you a bit more time than wood, I think. Ours is a small simple house and egress is comparatively straightforward. If yours is more complicated, and if grandkids are involved, you might want a better fire-rated wall material, and that would argue for removal and gyproc.

I am not a fan of multiple layers on walls - had trouble even doing the 1/8 inch ply. Maybe we just have so little space I hate to lose even an inch, plus there is spacing out the moulding, and it's messy to get through. So if you are going to do drywall, I would tend toward removal of the beadboard. You could preserve it and use it instead as wainscot, perhaps. Or as fencing. Or as moulding. Or give it away. But wow, unpainted old beadboard? I bet it's nice wood if you refinish it, but I'm not sure I'd feel obligated to keep it on the walls as it is, holes and all.

Wood can actually be used around a tub; it's more resilient with water than you'd think.

Karin L

1 Like    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 4:36AM
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Sorry for the late replies! I thought I would get an email if anyone replied but I didn't!

I will take pictures and post them tomorrow. First, of course I meant splashing not slashing!

It wasn't painted, stained or varnished. It would appear that they wallpapered over it, shortly after installing it. I read that beadboard was so cheap back then, that they put it on, then covered it right up, just like we would with drywall/sheetrock. I think it is pine.

Also we would replace the blown in insulation with batt insulation. They had drilled holes in the old siding to blow in the insulation but then put steel siding on the house and I'm not about to pull it down (even though I'd love to have just the old lap siding, not ready for that can of worms).

Thank you for the pictures! I read that in the south, they often put it on horizonally. I'm not sure how the corners join, I'd bet just like yours, but the boards do appear to be long and not meet in the middle of nowhere. We haven't tore out the rest of the walls in the bathroom, I got sick right after I posted this so haven't done a thing since then. I wondered what kind of trim would look good or "natural" in the corners and along the floor.

It is regular old beadboard, about 4 inches wide, tongue and groove, with a "bead" on the top and middle of each board. A little more decorative than the boards shown above. Some appear to be in bad shape where they had cut out sections, as described above but I have enough salvaged to cover it, I think.

I did clean and paint the small section we uncovered behind the sink. While I like it, it scares me to think of the whole bathroom like that but at the same time, I want do it!!! I guess the worse thing that could happen, would be that I want to cover it back up and put new sheetrock up, after I've torn the existing sheetrock off. That isn't expensive, just seems a waste.

I'll post pics as soon as I tear more of the tiles and sheetrock down.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 9:55PM
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Here's the trick with reusing old materials. Wherever you aren't keeping it, remove it carefully and use it to patch damaged places where you want to keep it.

If you have to blend old and new materials, the most important thing is the width of the boards. People will pick up on that if they don't match real fast. And put the new stuff in the out of the way places like hallways.

The classic corner is just butt jointed. One wall goes in, both ends snug to the wall, then the next one butted up against it.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 1:15PM
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When we bought this 1700 s farmhouse alot of things were bad but we liked them,so we hired 2 guys that do restoring,they can match anything,flooring even hinges etc.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:30PM
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We did this, but our beadboard was covered with lathe and plaster--talk about a mess! Ugh... We ended up having to replace some of our unusable original materials with new and once it was all painted out, it really wasn't THAT noticeable. Width IS the most important thing. Here's a picture of ours all cleaned up and painted...

The only thing that we used at the floor was 1" quarter-round and in the corners we did use some cove molding because they had separated a bit, and crown for the same reason.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 7:52AM
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When we bought this house there was alot of beadboard,we had to replace some that was damaged,We found 2 guys just does restoring great work,they made new to match,matches great.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 4:57PM
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If you go to a real lumberyard rather than a huge box store, you will be able to find genuine t&g beadboard--I bought some for a project, and although not aged with the patina of that in my basement, it is the same stuff.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:51PM
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By the way, Vivian, that's gorgeous. The surface looks great and I love the colours.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:45PM
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I guess it depends what you want we wanted it all to match,so we had it made to match.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:50PM
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Here is a blog about a couple who have done some nice restoration of their original walls. I'm not sure if you'd call it beadboard or just horizontal flat boards, but I think it looks very nice. It's funny, some of their walls have imperfections a la KarinL's "bad" room (Hi Karin, love the pictures, and I agree, those butt joints are pretty crazy, especially for a talented woodworker like you. If I knew what you do, I'd be outraged by a job like that. Guess they put the new guy on that room :-)). Anyway, in the lettered cottage dining room, like Karin, they hit their limit and covered the original ceiling with a new T&G interpretation. Not necessarily recommending, but in that room, you can see how the new ceiling looks with the old walls.

Even the background on the blog's home page is the horizontal-style boarded walls, so I thought this blog would be perfect for you. I think they have a lovely house, and maybe seeing the before and afters will help you persevere.

Here is a link that might be useful: The lettered cottage before and after

1 Like    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 8:18AM
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