Wainscoting Layout Calculator

Layout Using:

Provide the number of panels you want and we'll calculate how wide the panels should be so they can be evenly spaced on the wall and we'll layout the stiles for the calculated panel dimensions.

Provide an approximate width of a panel and we'll calculate the closest exact panel size that can be evenly spaced on the wall and we'll layout the stiles for the calculated wainscoting panel dimensions.

Layout Using Number of Panels:


Panel Width:
Stile Width:

Layout Drawing


Stile Locations

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How to Layout Wainscoting or Board and Batten Panels

Wainscoting consists of rails and stiles that surround a panel and adds a beautiful look to a home. There are several styles of wainscoting, including raised panel, flat panel, overlay panel, board and batten, and bead-board.

Wainscoting panels laid out evenly on a wall with consistent panel sizes and stile locations

Let’s talk a bit about terminology for the parts that make up wainscoting. The horizontal boards at the top and bottom of the paneling are called rails, and the vertical boards that separate the panels are called stiles.

The larger boards in the middle of the rails and stiles are called panels. Panels may be installed with trim between the rails and stiles, but a flat panel or board and batten look can be achieved without installing a wood panel.

Before starting a wainscoting installation it is critical to lay out the rails, stiles, and panels. Most often, the panels are an even width, which requires some measuring to find the correct width that allows all of the panels to be consistent.

Step One: Measure Each Wall

To start laying out the panels and stiles, measure the width of each wall in inches. If measurements are in another form such as feet, convert the measurement to inches.

Illustration showing how to lay out wainscoting panels evenly using a few simple formulas to find the size of the panels and the stile locations

Step Two: Decide The Number of Panels on Each Wall

Once you have the width of each wall, consider how many panels you would like to install on each of them. It’s easiest to start with a rough idea of how big each panel should be, then layout roughly how many you will need.

You can find out how many panels you need by dividing the width of each wall by the rough panel size. You’ll probably end up with an odd number, like 3.4 panels, and that’s ok, just round to the closest whole number.

Step Three: Determine the Rail and Stile Width

The next decision to be made is what the dimensions of the rails and stiles twill be. The lower rail is often much wider than the top rail, usually around 7″-8″. The top rail and stiles are usually 2″-3″.

Step Four: Calculate the Panel Width

The next step is to find the exact width of the panels for each wall. It’s likely that the panel size will vary from wall to wall slightly, but the goal is to get them close to the same size or to a size that looks good visually.

One formula to find the panel width is to divide the wall width plus the stile width by the number of installed panels to find the width of the stile and panel together, then subtract the width of the stile to find the final width of the panel.

panel width = (wall width + stile width / number of panels) – stile width

Consider that this will be the visible width of the panel, or more specifically, the distance between each stile. For panel designs that incorporate trim between the panel and the stile the actual panel size may be smaller and for assembled panels where the panel is installed in a groove behind the stiles the panel may be larger.

The exact style of wainscoting will inform the actual panel width, but at this point it’s possible to start laying out the stiles evenly on the wall.

Step Five: Lay Out Stile Locations

To start laying out the stiles, locate the first stile, which would be from 0″ to the stile width. Then add the width of the panel to find the next stile location. Continue this process along the wall to locate the placement of each stile.

To find the height of the stiles, start by finding the desired height of the wainscoting, then subtracting the top rail width by the bottom rail width.

stile height = wainscoting height – top rail width – bottom rail width

At this point the layout is complete, the design of each wainscoting style may change the actual size of the components that need to be cut to assemble the paneling, so refer to the designs for the wainscoting you’re using to determine the final dimensions for each part.

How to Estimate Wainscoting Materials

There are a few components that need to be estimated to find the amount of material needed. Start by measuring the wall width and wainscoting height. The width of the wall will be the needed length of the top rail, bottom rail, and chair rail or cap moulding.

Estimate the Amount of Wainscoting Stile Material Needed

To find the length of stile material needed, find the height of each stile and multiply by the number of panels, then add 1. For example, if a stile is 24″ and there are three panels, there will be 96″ of stile material needed.

stile length = stile height × (number of panels + 1)

Estimate the Amount of Wainscoting Panel Material Needed

To find the amount of panel material needed, multiply the height of the panel by the width of the panel to find the size of the panel, then multiply by the number of panels needed. For example, a 24″ high by 36″ wide panel is 6 square feet, if there are three panels, then 18 square feet will be needed.

panel material square footage = panel height × panel width × number of panels

Handling Inner Corners

Illustration showing the detail of an inner corner of a waisncoting installation, detailing how to account for inner corners by adding the thickness of the panel to the stile on the edge.

It is almost inevitable that a wainscoting project will involve an inner corner. The inner corner adds a slight challenge because there is an overlap the thickness of the wainscoting where the walls meet.

This can cause the stile on the edge to appear thinner than the rest since a portion of the stile is buried behind the wainscoting on the adjacent wall. To account for this use a stile on each edge that is wider by the thickness of the stiles.

To get an even panel layout, subtract the thickness of the added stile widths from the wall width before calculating. The provided stile locations may be off if the first stile is wider, consider this when laying out the stiles.

It may be necessary to add the extra stile thickness to each still start and end location to make the layout even.

Additional Carpentry Resources

Use our trim and moulding calculator to estimate the linear footage of trim and mouldings for a room. Our board footage calculator is great for estimating the board footage of a board, which is necessary to calculate the cost of materials. Get free wainscoting installation estimates from professional trim carpenters in your area.

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