DIY Square Board and Batten Wall Treatment-Staircase

April 12, 2023

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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Ready to take a boring stairwell and give it some pizazz? This square board and batten wall treatment technique was exactly what our stairwell to the basement was in need of. Board and batten is such an easy way to change up any space; adding character and dimension.

Stairwell with black railing

How To DIY a Square Board and Batten Wall Treatment

Materials Needed:

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  • 4×8 Sheet of MDF Board (Amount and thickness is based upon space and preference; I prefer 1/2″ thickness)
  • Nails for Nail Gun (Size depends on thickness of MDF board; for a 1/2″ thickness, you’ll want 3/4″ or longer nails)
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Paint
  • Wood Filler
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintable Caulk

Tools Needed:

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Header image of a square board and batten accent wall treatment

Step One: Remove existing baseboards

But wait! If you already have a thick craftsman style baseboard, there is no need to remove it. I have been switching out all of my builder’s grade baseboards for thicker, more substantial baseboards. It’s amazing the difference this simple change makes!! (Here’s a post where I share how to upgrade your trim).

“The beauty of square board and batten accent walls is in their simplicity. They’re a classic architectural element that adds interest and depth to any room.” – Emily Henderson, interior designer.

If you do need to replace your baseboards, you’ll want to use a 1×6 pine board in place of your existing builder’s grade baseboard. (Check out this post to see how I do this).

Step Two: Layout pattern for square board and batten

Being the visual person that I am, it helps me to see the design plan before I dive in. Therefore, I used painter’s tape to etch out the grid board, I desired, on the entire wall.

The very first thing I needed to determine was the number of squares I wanted.

“A square board and batten accent wall is a great way to create a focal point in a room. It adds visual interest and makes the space feel more designed.” – Sarah Sherman Samuel, interior designer.

To get started, I measured the height of my wall and divided it by 3 (knowing I wanted 3 boxes). This gave me the placing for each of my horizontal boards.

As you can see, in the picture below, the horizontal tape divides my wall into three sections from floor to ceiling.

Square board and batten grid with painters tape

I then divided up my 3 boxes evenly on the wall and used painter’s tape to mark where I wanted each of my 3″ wide MDF boards to go horizontally. I repeated this process all the way across the wall.

It truly is a matter of trial and error. Math is not my strong suit, so I really just played with it til I got it to the look I wanted…

How to calculate square board and batten…

  • Number of battens X Width of battens.
  • Subtract this answer from the width of your wall. (Or height of your wall–dependent on what you’re trying to figure out)
  • Take this answer and divide it by how many spaces you’ll have between battens.

This is how I figured out the vertical spacing for my square board and batten wall:

  • 4 battens X 3″ (width of each batten) = 12″
  • 91″ (height of wall not including the baseboard) – 12″ = 79″
  • 79″ divided by 3 (number of boxes I wanted vertically for my design) = 26″
  • This means I’ll have 26 inches vertically between each batten.

Diagram for vertically spacing a square board and batten accent wall

Once, I figured out the ideal spacing between each box, I cut two guides to help make It go faster. You can see my two MDF boards in the picture below.

One spacer board was used to mark my vertical lines (shorter board) and the other was used to mark my horizontal lines. This made the entire process go much faster.

Painters tape used to mark the grid for mdf boards placememt

“A square board and batten accent wall is a simple way to make a big impact in a room. It’s an easy DIY project that adds tons of personality and style.” – Rachel Parcell, fashion and lifestyle blogger.

One side down…

Square board and batten grid with blue painters tape


Another one to go…

One side of a stairwell with painters tape markings; another side with just a bare wall

Step Three: Start placing battens

I chose to rip my battens (MDF boards) 3″ wide for this project. For this step, simply cut the vertical boards to fit and attach using a nail gun. You can either take off the tape before placing your MDF strips or just cover it up with your board. Either way is fine….

2 MDF boards placed for square board and batten wall treatment

After placing the vertical boards in the first section, you’re now ready to place your horizontal pieces. Simply follow the same method you used for the vertical boards. Your DIY board and batten grid wall should now look like this…

Board and batten is a great way to break up a large wall and add architectural interest. When done in a square pattern, it creates a clean and modern look.” – Studio McGee, interior design firm.

MDF boards placed for accent wall

Continue placing your trim pieces all the way down the wall, following this batten tutorial process.

Step Four: Finish work

Are you loving this new focal point? What a difference this statement wall makes! And we haven’t even gotten to the best part! Let’s go there now….

First things first, fill all of the nail holes with wood filler.

Once the wood filler is dry, use a 220-grit sandpaper block to sand these spots down smooth.

Now you’re ready for the caulk. I love the finished look a bead of caulk gives to each of the batten pieces. Using your caulking gun, caulk all of your seams and edges.

“A square board and batten accent wall is a classic design element that works in any style of home. It adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to a space.” – Kelly Wearstler, interior designer.

Caulking is very easy. Simply, run a bead of caulk along the edge of where the board meets the wall. Dip your finger in lukewarm water and gently run your finger along the caulk line. This smooths it out and gives it that finished look.

Allow the caulk to dry and you’re ready for paint. MDF likes to soak up paint, so a second coat will probably be needed.

If you would rather not use so much paint, a couple coats of primer will help prepare the batten accent wall for paint. Painting my battens and walls all the same color, I chose White Moderne by Behr for my paint color.

Full view of staircase with finished square board and batten wall accent

I absolutely love the finished look of this square board and batten project. It turned out to be an easier DIY than I thought it would be.

I have to admit, before starting, I was very intimidated by all of the math this project LOOKED like it would require. While it does require some math, it wasn’t to the extent I thought it would be.

Such an easy job!

As you can see, I added carsiding to the ceiling. If you choose to do this, I recommend doing this step before starting on the square batten feature wall.

Here’s a full tutorial on how I add carsiding to my ceilings. 

Next up: Re-attaching the railing to the wall. 95% club, right here!!  :) So, we’ll see when that gets done! :)


“Board and batten is a timeless design element that adds character to a room. By creating a square pattern, you can take it to the next level and create a unique feature wall.” – Joanna Gaines, home renovation expert.

Square Board and Batten FAQ’s:

What if I can’t get the perfect square?

This is the first question for a reason…I’m going to save you a lot of headaches. It is very unlikely you will achieve perfect squares. Walls are usually never square and straight, so therefore, creating perfect squares is next to impossible. You will end up with rectangles. And that’s ok.

A good rule of thumb however, is to measure out your boxes to be more of a vertical rectangle rather than a horizontal rectangle. The reason for this is, it will trick the eye into believing the ceilings are taller than what they actually are. This will give the space a more open feel.

A more compressed horizontal rectangle will make the room feel closed in and shorter. Not the look we want to go for.

Does board and batten make a space look bigger or smaller?

Bigger! Creating a visual interest in the room, helps enhance the proportions of the space.

Square board and batten wall design, creates a sense of division and added structure, which in turn makes the room feel bigger.

Again, making sure your boxes are tall, rather than squished will help give the illusion the room is taller.

How long will it take to complete a square board and batten project?

The time it takes to complete a square board and batten project will depend on the size of the wall, the number of boards needed, and the experience level of the person doing the project.

On average, a small to medium-sized wall can take anywhere from a weekend to a week to complete.

This includes time for measuring, cutting, sanding, priming, painting, and installation. It is important to allocate enough time for the project and to work in stages to avoid rushing and making mistakes.

Can I install square board and batten on a textured wall?

Yes, you can install square board and batten on a textured wall. However, it may be more challenging to get the boards to lay flat and level on a textured surface versus smooth walls.

Before installation, it is recommended to smooth out any high spots on the wall and fill any gaps or cracks with spackle or joint compound. This will help create a smoother surface for the boards to adhere to.

Does the size of the boxes within the grid pattern make a difference?

Yes, for a more modern style, create a grid pattern with larger squares. This creates a more streamlined and clean look.

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Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

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Easy How to Build Floating Shelves

Easy How to Build a Bench Seat with Lockers

How to Build a Faux Wood Beam Mantel



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