Beadboard is a type of paneling that is covered in a series of distinctive grooves. Classically, it is installed so that the grooves run vertically, creating a striped or paneled effect, although people can also put in beadboard along a horizontal axis. This paneling style first started appearing in the 1800s, and it has become very popular.
Many people think of beadboard when they hear "wainscoting." The paneling's distinctive grooves make it highly visually interesting, and creates a very unique appearance. It also creates a very distinct look and feel that many people associate with farmhouses and more casual design schemes. Traditionally, beadboard is only run partway up the wall as wainscoting, and it may also be run along a ceiling.
There are two different styles of beadboard. The traditional style is comprised of tongue and groove boards that fit together. Tongue and groove tends to be very solid, with gaps that will expand and contract slightly in response to the weather. Beadboard paneling is a solid sheet of wood that has been tooled with the grooves associated with the style. It is cheaper and easier to install than traditional tongue and groove panels, but some people think that it does not look as nice.
Depending on the design scheme and the wood, beadboard may be left unfinished or lightly stained, allowing people to see the natural grain of the wood, or it may be painted. Pale woods left with a natural finish can make a room feel more interesting and warm, although dark woods tend to darken up a room. Painted panels have a very clean, classic look which some people like.
Trim molding is usually run along the top of an installation of beadboard, creating a crisp dividing line between the wainscoting and the painted or papered wall above. Floor trim is also traditional, in part to conceal the bottom of the boards, which can become uneven and unsightly over time.
People who want to install beadboard can buy new tongue and groove or paneling from a home supply store, or seek out recycled materials from a company that specializes in reclaiming construction materials from demolished homes. In either case, it is critical to be careful during installation, as the beadboard needs to be perfectly level, or the room will feel off. It is also important to remember that the panels will need to be cut to make room for outlets, switches, and thermostats.