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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

DIY panel moulding: a timber wall panelling tutorial 

Updated: Apr 6

How to install picture frame style wall panelling aka DIY panel moulding

DIY wall panel moulding

This post is my DIY panel moulding tutorial. A simple step-by-step guide on how to install picture frame style timber wall panelling, also known as wall panel moulding. This classic and elegant addition is a total game changer and can completely transform the look of any room in your home, from the living room to the master bedroom and even your home office or guest bedroom.


panel wall moulding installed on stairs

I recently installed this type of wall panelling on my stairs and have a couple of related blog posts that I'll link at the end in case they are useful. DIY panel moulding is a great way to add architectural details and a touch of elegance to plain walls - especially in new builds or featureless '60s houses (like mine!).


The main steps for how to install panel moulding are to plan the design, mark the walls, cut the panels, attach the panels to the wall, fill, prime and paint - easy! The best part is that I'll share my top tips and tricks along the way to save you from wasting time and money with avoidable mistakes. 


DIY tutorial 

Here are the easy-to-follow steps to create this classic look. Happily, you don't need any power tools, a simple hand saw and mitre box will see you right along with some glue and a level. 

You will need

  • Timber for the panel moulding, aka picture frame moulding - I use this one from B&Q

  • Grab adhesive aka no more nails or liquid nails

  • Paintable caulk

  • Paint in your desired colours and finishes (matte, eggshell, satin)

  • Paintbrush and foam roller

  • Tape measure

  • Laser level or spirit lever

  • Mitre box or mitre saw

  • Saw

  • Sandpaper

  • Pencil

  • Masking tape (optional - but makes visualising the panels much easier)

  • Calculator 

Step 1: Plan your design

Marking out DIY wall panel moulding layout with masking tape

The first thing you need to do is plan out your design, a lot of this is down to personal preference, but there are is so much wall moulding inspo on Pinterest and Instagram that it's worth a quick scroll if you aren't exactly sure on your panel moulding vision! 

Here are some tips for planning a panel moulding layout

  • Decide where you want the panel moulding to go – whether it's an accent wall, covering the entire room, or just a portion of the wall. 

  • You'll want to divide the wall horizontally—this doesn't have to be exactly halfway, though. Choosing a lower point for the chair rail/ dado rail can make the room feel taller. 

  • Measure the width and height of the wall to determine the number of boxes or panels needed. 

  • Consider the design style and whether you want horizontal or vertical pieces.

  • Once you've formed a plan, measure and mark out the wall panel moulding with masking tape. Then you can stand back and check you love it.

  • Consider creating a focal point with one wider central panel and narrower adjacent panels. 

  • You can adapt the widths of the panels to suit your room. They don't have to be equal widths and can vary, but ideally, they need to be symmetrical, and they definitely need to be identical in height. Design Tip: An odd number of panels often looks more aesthetically pleasing (I did this on two of the walls and then broke my own rule on the third wall and kicked myself afterwards! More on that later).

Step 2: Gather materials

Once you know the layout of the panels, you can measure the total amount of timber strip moulding that you need (calculate the perimeter of every panel plus the total length of the dado rail). Remember to allow for some extra. 

How to decide how many lengths of moulding you need to buy


lengths of wall panel moulding cut ready for install
  • Wood moulding isn't cheap, so it pays to get as many strips as possible out of each length (in the same way that we did with shaker panel strips from a sheet of mdf). 

  • All the vertical pieces for the top half of the wall will be the same length as will the side pieces for the bottom of the wall. The top and bottom lengths of the panel moulding will differ if you're installing panels of varying size or will be the same if not. 

  • Write down all the measurements of the moulding pieces and how many you need of each then play around with various combinations to ensure you can get them out of the least number of strips. 

  • Decide what type of wood moulding / trim work will look best in your room. (Larger moulding will make more of a statement but will be more expensive). Source your panel moulding. I've written a post about how to choose the wood for wall panelling if you need advice.  

  • Make sure to double-check your measurements and purchase enough moulding, materials and paint to complete the entire project.

Step 3: Prep the walls for panelling


Claire Douglas skimming a wall

Before starting the DIY panel moulding installation, it's a good idea to make sure your walls are clean and smooth, as any imperfections will affect the final look. 

Fill any nail holes or imperfections with filler and sand them down for a smooth finish. I have a tutorial on how to repair plasterboard and how to skim walls in case they are useful.

If your walls don't need repairing, it's still worth giving them a clean to ensure the grab adhesive sticks with maximum adhesion. 


Step 4: Measure and cut the Panels


You should have a plan of how you need to cut the strip moulding to get the panel sides out of the least number of strips from when you calculated how many to buy. Use this to work through the cuts paying attention to the following points

mitre box and hard-backed tenon saw cutting DIY wall panel moulding
  • The length of each panel side is measured from the very tip after the mitred angle has been cut, so take this into consideration when calculating as you'll need to square the end off to start the measurement for the next piece.

  • Once you have a piece of each of the required lengths cut, you can use them as a template to measure the next one against.

  • All the angles for the corner joins will be 45 degrees for square or rectangular wall panels. The angles on stairs panelling are different so read the separate tutorial I wrote for that process if you are installing on stairs.

  • Use a mitre box to cut the angles for the joins.

  

I find it saves time to cut all the panel strips in one go so they are all to hand and can be checked against each other for consistency. I found it helpful to line up the cut panels on the floor to check all the angles fit neatly together.


Mitre joins on a corner of DIY panel moulding

Top Tip: Sand the ends of the panel moulding once cut, to ensure a smooth finish which will help the corner of the moulding fit neatly together. 


Some people like to dry fit the panels and trim pieces on the wall by sticking them on with masking tape to ensure they fit properly and align with your design plan. I find that the floor test is sufficient for me, but try both and decide which method works best for you. 




Step 5: Install the wall panel moulding


DIY wall panel moulding being attached to the wall
DIY wall panel moulding being attached to the wall



Using a laser level to achieve straight lines, begin installing the panel moulding. If you don't have a laser level you can use a spirit level instead and keep checking it against every piece you install.



  • Apply grab adhesive to the back of each piece and press it firmly onto the wall. 

  • Wipe away any excess adhesive with a damp cloth

DIY wall panel moulding being attached to the wall
DIY wall panel moulding being attached to the wall









Some DIYers like to secure the moulding in place with a Brad nailer, but I find non-solvent grab adhesive is fine on its own as long as you take time to fully secure the strips against the wall and hold them in place for a while.


Step 6: Fill the gaps in the moulding


DIY wall panel moulding installed in a living room
Fill in the gaps between wall panelling and the wall

Once all the moulding is installed, it's time to fill any gaps for a seamless look.

  • Look for gaps at the corner joins and where the sides of the panel moulding meet the wall. 

  • Use paintable decorators caulk with a caulking gun. 

  • Wipe away any excess caulk with a damp cloth and allow to dry.


Step 7: Paint the panel moulding


DIY wall panel moulding

Depending on your choice of paint, you might need to prime the panel moulding first. If you are using a scrubbable emulsion, it's a good idea to apply a wood primer to the timber strips. If you are using an eggshell finish paint designed for wood, you might not need a separate undercoat. Read the tin of your product of choice for guidance.


  • Use a paintbrush to paint the wood wall moulding and a mini roller for the wall to save time and paint. 

  • Allow the paint to dry completely before applying a second coat if necessary.

  • After the paint has dried, inspect the panel moulding for any imperfections. I find that the inside corners, and underneath the bottom horizontal strips of panel, moulding are often areas that get missed. 


As you'll see from the accompanying images I changed my mind on the paint colour after applying it to the wall and opted for a sumptuous chocolate brown instead which made all the difference to the space. 


Dark chocolate brown DIY wall panel moulding


Installing DIY wall panel moulding is a rewarding and relatively easy project, even for beginner DIYers. It's a game-changer in adding architectural details and character to any room in your own home. Plus, the classic look of panel moulding never goes out of style, making it a timeless addition to any design plan. So, grab your tools and get started on your own decorative wall transformation today! Once your panels are up, why not fill them with framed wallpaper or wallpaper wall murals?


Where next?

Below are links to other panelling-related posts you might enjoy…


Stairs panelling


Wall panelling







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