Old Wood Paneling Style - Does it have a Name?

I’m refinishing a room in a 90-year old house, and wondering about the type of paneling the builders used. The style seems to be common in buildings from the early 20th century, especially in public buildings - Court houses, schools, old wooden churches, grange halls and the like. It seems to be in 16 or 24- inch sheets, but is milled to look like narrow (about 1-1/2 inch) strips, always laid vertically. Pics here

Does anyone recognize this particular style of millwork, and does it have a name? It is so ubiquitous in old buildings that it must have been as common as sheetrock at one time, but I have never seen it used in recent construction.

I can see why it is no longer in common use… those odd little rounds in some of the grooves make it the very devil to strip and refinish.


That looks like “Bead-Board”.
Usually 3 1/2 wide with a bead milled down the center.
I’m not sure what makes you think it’s 16 - 24 wide, unless pieces are stuck together with finish or paint.
You can still buy it. Plywood and paneling is also available that is milled to look like bead board.


Yeahup…that’s it. Many thanks. I suppose the “bead” is that annoying little round in the grooves that is making me cross-eyed trying to get all the old paint off. And the stuff is very soft, which makes scraping a very delicate process. And the room is cold, which makes the chemical stripper less effective. A steel brush gouges the wood, and a sander won’t reach into the grooves…[sigh]

Anyone had experience refinishing the stuff, or know any handy dandy tricks?

P.S. the plywood version would not have been used early 20th century since it didnt exist then…

I’m trying to clean and finish it in situ so haven’t pulled any of it down to see what it’s really like. I could discern some small gaps between some of the pieces which lead me to believe it might be milled sheets made to fit 16 or 24 inch stud spacing, but I think you’re right…it probably is individual pieces with the old paint hiding most of the seams.

Is it paint or varnish? I don’t know about the US, but caustic soda is very effective at removing the varnish typically used over here in the Victorian/Edwardian times.

It’s fairly inexepensive, right? Would it be quicker and easier just to replace it?

I’m pretty sure most folks just repaint it.

That is 90 y/o vintage wainscoting and much better off being refinished. To keep the vintage feel of the house.

Yes. We’re trying to retain as much of the original construction as possible. The intent is to remove the (very) old paint and refinish the natural wood. Replacement in kind may be the final answer, but would prefer to keep what’s there, if possible.

Perhaps you should consult indygirrl in the Ask The Stripper thread.:wink:

I thought that was called wainscoting. But this is far from my area of expertise.:wink:

Try using a wire brush made with brass bristles instead of steel, or a really stiff nylon brush. Think oversized tooth brush. Look in the dollar store for scrub brushes in the section with cleaning supplies. Cheaper than a hardware store, get several, they die fast.

Your fingers will hate it but abrasive pads are another idea for stubborn spots.

One thing about chemical strippers I’ve found is let them soak in. And several applications.

Lots of time and inch by inch it will look great when you’re done.

Last ditch and not for the feint of heart is a torch to soften the finish and a stiff brush. I did a 150 year old door like this, the details in the moulding and carvings are jaw dropping. Again inch by inch. Stinks like hell, could take years off your life if it’s lead paint and the obvious danger of replacing it anyways after you burned the house to the ground.

The really old, Anglo-Saxon era stuff is called Venerable Beadboard.

OP: two words: Dremel tool.

Wainscoting is a style of panelling that goes halfway up the wall. Bead-board is the material used to create the wainscoting.


There are specialized scrapers for beadboard or you can make one. Well worth the time and money.

:D. Funnily enough, my hometown is named after Bede and he was reputedly buried here.

Lovely tools but, in my experience, they tend to overheat to quickly for something of this size… just IMHO.

Depending on how old the paint is, you may want to test it for lead. Or treat it like it contains lead, dust masks, containment of the dust, etch.