If you wanna start a fight with a designer or preservationist just ask this one simple question. “Is it wainscoting or wainscoating?”
People seem to be very passionate about this answer and saying one side is wrong is like insulting your Italian grandmother’s sauce. Them’s fighting words!
I’m not one to split the baby in most cases, but after some serious erase arch I have found some definitive answers on the topic. Technically, both spellings are correct.
The spelling “wainscoating” (pronounced wayne’s-coat-ing) is less common and is often considered to be a misspelling of “wainscoting.” The correct spelling and pronunciation is “wainscoting” (wayne’s-cot-ing) technically, but in a lot of places it depends on the region.
The one spelling that is definitely wrong is the ever-popular “Wayne’s Coating.” Of course it could be correct if you are a store that sells coats to men with only one particular name.
History of Wainscoting
Wainscoting has been used for centuries as a decorative and functional element in homes and buildings. Its origins can be traced back to the medieval times, when it was used to protect the lower portion of walls from damage caused by moisture, drafts, and rough handling. I’m assuming all the knights in their suits of armor were particularly tough on the walls.
During the Renaissance period, wainscoting became more popular as a decorative element. It was used to add visual interest and grandeur to the interiors of castles, mansions, and other grand buildings. The wealthy and powerful used wainscoting to showcase their wealth and status, and it became a symbol of elegance and refinement.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, wainscoting was embraced by the middle class and became a popular feature in homes and public buildings. It was often used in conjunction with other decorative elements, such as moldings and plasterwork, to create elaborate and ornate interiors.
Today, wainscoting is still a popular decorative element in homes and buildings around the world. It is used to add character and charm to interiors, and can be found in a variety of styles, from traditional and formal to modern and minimalistic.
There are many other styles to choose from, and the style and age of your home will often dictate what kind of wainscoting you have.
Some of the most popular styles include:
- Raised panel: This style features panels that are raised above the surface of the wainscoting. The panels are usually rectangular or square in shape and can be plain or ornately decorated.
- Flat panel: This style features flat panels that are set into the wainscoting. It is a simpler and more modern look than raised panel wainscoting.
- Beadboard This style features narrow, vertical boards that are spaced closely together to create a decorative pattern. It is often used in casual or rustic settings. Check out my post All About Beadboard to learn more
- Picture frame: This style features a series of narrow frames that are set into the wainscoting. Each frame is filled with a flat panel, and the overall effect is similar to a series of picture frames on the wall.
- Chair rail: This style features a horizontal molding that is installed about waist-height on the wall. It is often used in conjunction with other types of wainscoting, such as raised panels or beadboard.
- Lincrusta: This is a pretty unique style of wainscoting that is made from a paste of gelled linseed oil and wood flour spread onto a paper base. It is then rolled between steel rollers which have a pattern embossed upon it. It makes for very unique patterns and is usually capped with trim like a chair rail to form a wainscoting.
So, did you leave convinced or you still fighting the fight when it comes to pronouncing and spelling this flexible architectural element?
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
3 thoughts on “Is It Wainscoting or Wainscoating?”
In your description of the different styles of wainscoting, I wish you would have shown a visual of what you were describing.
Do you know where we can see samples of each style and how they are constructed?
My 1938 stone house has wainscoting under a chair rail, in the living room. I always thought it was supposed to be in the dining room because of the number of chairs usually found in that room. The style is flat, inch thick, v-groove, variable width panels.
Did you find any historic information that said which room it’s supposed to be in?