Advice to rip out or cover my beadboard

linsteMay 19, 2011

I think this place is my beadboard's last chance! We live in a small 1908 house. We are finally getting to remodel the kitchen. I pulled out some metal/plastic kind of boarding to find the original beadboard that goes around my kitchen. It goes from floor to window height. I love it and would like to keep it as a backsplash and backdrop for the cabinets.

I've had a cabinet guy come and measure for cabs and he said it would be too much work to get it in good shape. He said to rip it out and replace it with new stuff if I want. That defeats the whole purpose to me. I had planned on smoothing it and painting it white. The glue stuff chips off easily.

My father (who is a masonry contractor) came to give some advice/take measurements and he looked at me like I was crazy when I said I wanted to keep it.

I think they feel since we're spending all this money on a new kitchen, we shouldn't keep something in not-great shape. I think my father is trying to help me keep the remodel simple and reasonably priced. I didn't even tell him I wanted it behind the sink.

Wondering what your thoughts are- am I placing too much value on it? What makes me hesitate is that they know a lot more abour remodeling kitchens than me.

I'll attach a couple of pics. Thanks!

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Fori is not pleased

What style kitchen are you going for? How much if this beadboard is there? Is "distressed" going to work?

Have you checked with the kitchen forum? There is some beadboard love and old house respect there and you might at least be able to get some tips on how to progress.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 11:38AM
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I'd like a somewhat vintage/coutry/rustic look to the kitchen, nothing contemporary. I'm hindered by budget and the fact that white cabinets would probably be a poor choice with my children and dog.

The beadboard goes around the entire kitchen but would only show from the counters up to the windows except by the doorway in the below pic where it would be seen going to the floor (which will hopefully be the original hardwood)

I don't mind a little distress, I think my whole house fits that :) I have posted on other subjects in the kitchen forum, I could check there too, thanks.

(Everything looks crooked in this pic for some reason, but that isn't an issue luckily)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 11:51AM
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In my experience, contractors like new (fast, easy & cheap) materials. If you want to save the beadboard, you'll probably be the one who fixes it - & fights to keep it. Remember, the contractor works for you & not the other way around!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 12:25PM
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Fori is not pleased

I'd sure try to save it. The new stuff isn't the same. Will you paint it? Plop a chair rail on top where it needs it? It looks really thick which means you can use powertools. You're gonna need them.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 2:08PM
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Are you kidding me? I'd save it in a heartbeat and no question. However, it is going to take a lot of time and work on your part to get it cleaned, and prepped for paint or whatever finish you decide to use. The original beadboard in my 1913 home was long gone by the time we remodeled our kitchen. I bought some new beadboard (individual tongue and groove) for the kitchen from vintage woodworks and it was not cheap! You've already got a quality product there - beneath the glue and gunk - what's not to love? :-) Good luck, and if you need advice about stripping or cleaning it, let us know! -Kim

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 6:55PM
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OMG you have my beadboard :-) Just kidding, I still have mine. At least, some of it. We kept it in the dining room, but in the kitchen we stupidly replaced it with new pine beadboard, which I hate. And yes, I guess technically this isn't beadboard, but tongue-in-groove panelling.

So yes, I would keep it. Any way you can rejig the kitchen so it shows more? Or move it somewhere else? That's tough to do without breaking off some tongues and grooves, mind you.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 9:03PM
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Alright, thanks for making me feel like I'm not crazy afterall. I'm def going to try to keep it. If you click on the pics you can get to my photobucket album where there are more close up shots of the brown glue. It chips off pretty easily, but any suggestions on how to proceed from there?

We may be doing cherry cabinets so I thought the beadboard painted white would be a nice contrast. Would I have to strip the varnish off first? I clearly don't know what I'm doing but I'm willing to work. Thanks for your responses.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 10:50AM
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I have the same beadboard wainscoting in my 1889 house's kitchen and "butler's pantry" bathroom. it's painted in the water closet (it's a funny little bathroom with a toilet room that's maybe 4x4 and then a big room that's 4x10 or so, that has a marble sink with beadboard cabinet.

In the basement, I found a pile of the same beadboard that had been painted Pepto-bismol pink. I wanted to use it for something, so I incorporated it into our laundry room remodel (also off the kitchen). I painted it jadeite green and it's beautiful, even though I didn't strip the paint and there's some parts where it's not even because the paint underneath was chippy. To me, it makes the laundry room/pantry shelves that we built look more like they had always been there (I used beadboard paneling in the back, what a cheater I am!!)

Your contractor was right--it's not worth his time to get it back up to snuff. But it's certainly worth your time (unless you're Donald Trump or someone who sneezes and makes a bajillion dollars). We do what we do for love, and maybe also to restore a diamond in the rough. That beadboard is an antique--it's up to you whether you junk it and replace it with something you can get at a big box store or whether YOU take the time to strip it (or sand it) and make it beautiful--once you do, it will last the rest of your life.

The black stuff looks like Liquid Nails or something similar. I've always just sanded it down (walls). Since you're painting that might be your best bet. You will want to prime with an awesome primer and maybe seal with a shellac based sealer first. You don't want to deal with chippies.

Your alternative would be to find a solvent for the adhesive but it might eat the finish on the beadboard too (making more work for you).

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 12:38PM
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We kept a small section of beadboard in a kitchen remodel of our 1915 house. It was in an old laundry porch and had been hidden behind cabinetry since 1939, so it wasn't perfect by any means. But we kept it for a) character and b) cost---in our case, we have lathe and plaster walls, but there was no plaster behind the beadboard---it was directly attached to the studs. So the cost of leveling the wall and finishing it was quite high. Instead, we put in flat moulding along the top edge to give it a finished look and then just painted it. It's not as pretty as new beadboard would be (and it still has the caps for the old water hookups since we couldn't free them to get the pipes out!) but it adds a nice vintage look to the room. I did fill the really rough spots with wood filler before priming, and we had to give it several coats, but it worked fine in the end.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 1:36PM
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"I had planned on smoothing it..."

What do you mean by smoothing?

Filing in the grooves?

A light sanding and then painting/finishing?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 2:54PM
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"too much work"?? In what universe. It's too much work for HIM perhaps because its outside the box (for him). He basically doesn't want to do it because he'd have to charge you far more than it was really worth, not because its "too much work".

But its something you the homeowner could easily do with a scraper (maybe heat gun) to remove the blobs of whatever that is - glue? Use refinisher (not paint stripper) to remove the shellac. Then sand - do you have a nice palm sander? You could have that done in an afternoon and from what I can tell its nice old fir with a beautiful grain. Once you get all the crud off it will not look "distressed" but like nice old richly colored wood.

The thing these guys may not be aware of is that the wood that is in old houses came from the old growth forests that used to cover North America and is as HARD AS NAILS. Totally unlike the soft lousy splintery farmed wood you get in lumber yards today. It's sad that so many people are so eager to throw it all in the landfill when all it needs is some TLC.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 3:45PM
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Linste, never, ever listen to someone who says 'throw it out' when it comes to old houses. You can't replace any materials without spending TONS more money for something not as good as that you have already.

Here's what I would do: remove it and refinish it yourself, then put an inexpensive plywood INSIDE the cabinets, rather than the nice old beadboard--why hide something you love, and this will give you more of it to put as a backsplash between upper and lower cabinets; put the rest back in as the original was, where it will show full length. Any left over you could use as a backing for open shelving either in the kitchen or a pantry.

By the way, if you are thinking cherry cabinets, why not leave the board a natural wood finish--it will stand up to moisture with no problem.

As a further note, period cabinets did NOT have toe-kicks, so try to find cabinets without one. Nothing will detract from the look of an 'old' new kitchen than an anachronism like that.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 11:04PM
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I'm loving everyone's beadboard stories. It's fun getting a glipse at what a room looked like decades ago.

Hi brickeyee- I meant I was thinking I could chip off the glue, sand it smooth, prime and paint. I'm open to suggestions.

Columbusguy1- Thanks for the ideas. Most of it is being wasted hidden behind the lower cabs. I may just try salvaging some of that! When you say without toe-kicks, do you mean a furniture looking base? That may be out of my price range but I'd love it.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 8:08AM
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The problem is all the hand work required to clean the old stuff (especially in the grooves).

If you are willing to do the work yourself it is not expensive, just time consuming.

Some of the newer sanders can speed up the detail work, but you may need to learn how to make custom 'shoes' to match the bead profile (it is not hard).

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 10:42AM
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Linste, you could go for a furniture-type base, but my original pantry cabinets go all the way down to the floor, where shoe molding finishes the transition between the cabinet face and the floor. I found my original kitchen cabinet doors in the garage, and built my own frames for them in my kitchen--I modelled them after the pantry ones--no toe kick at all, and just molding at the bottom to hide the transition line.

You'd be surprised how actually worthless a toe kick is--you do NOT really get closer to the countertop--and one or two inches isn't a help at just makes sweeping and mopping harder to do.

One final note: cabinet doors were usually inset, that is flush with the frame, rather than overlapping like most modern was surprisingly easy to build my own cabinets, and a heck of a lot cheaper than custom ones. :) It was my first project of a major sort, and I wasn't equipped with more than basic skills at the time.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 8:58PM
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"You'd be surprised how actually worthless a toe kick is"

Better tell that to the folks that have to stand and cut at counters all day long.

Toe kicks have come up more than once as issues with OSHA and repetitive stress injuries.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 4:19PM
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Fori is not pleased

If you have that stuff behind the cabinets and don't mind removing and replacing and sanding outdoors, etc., you might just maybe have beadboard in pretty good condition safely tucked away that would be much less work than the stuff that has been glued up.

Or not. You can't tell until you start ripping things out!

That's a cute 50s kitchen, but I think the new/old one with beadboard is going to be better.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 4:31PM
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I'm going to keep track of this thread, because we are saving our kitchen redo for next winter, and beadboard will be a handsome part of it. Please keep the pictures of your progress coming? Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 2:29PM
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moccasinlanding- sure will!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 6:00PM
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Some months back I saw an idea for old beadboard that I loved. Don't know if it would work for you, but I'll pass it along anyway. There was an article in a decorating magazine about someone who actually went out and bought old salvaged beadboard to use in a kid's bathroom. But instead of stripping and painting, he/she sanded and smoothed, but left a lot of the old imperfections in place, including bits of old paint jobs. Then, he put a protective coat of polyurethane right over the old stuff. The result was this beautiful, weathered, aged looking wood that had real character and was practically bulletproof in terms of abuse. Because it already had a beaten up look, new scratches, dings, water spots, etc. didn't bother the owner, but the polyurethane protected it from real damage.

If you are thinking of a rustic, vintage-y look, it might be something to consider. In the right house, right kitchen I think it would look fabulous.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 12:22PM
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