DIY Square Board and Batten Wall Treatment-Staircase

January 6, 2022

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


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


Wood Filler


Paintable Caulk

Tools Needed:

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Miter Saw

Table Saw (optional) Home Depot will usually cut your boards to the size you need

Jigsaw (optional)

Nail Gun (Hammer and nails work too, but much faster and easier with a nail gun)

Tape Measure


Step One: Layout pattern

Using painter’s tape, etch out the pattern you desire on the wall. To get started, I measured the height of my wall and divided it by 3 (knowing I wanted 3 boxes). 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. I repeated this process all the way down 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…

Square board and batten grid with painters tape

But for those who need the mathematical formula, here it is…

Number of battens X Width of battens.

Subtract this answer from the width (or height-depending on what you’re trying to figure out) of your wall.

Take this answer and divide it by how many spaces you’ll have between battens. 

So, for my scenario: (figuring out spacing for the height of the wall)

4 battens X 3″ (width of each batten) = 12″

96″ (height of wall) – 12″ = 84″

84″ divided by 3 (number of boxes I wanted for my design) = 28″

This means I’ll have 28 inches vertically between each batten. 

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 was used to mark my vertical lines 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

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 Two: Start placing battens

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

2 MDF boards placed for square board and batten wall treatment

MDF boards placed for accent wall

Finish this process all the way down the wall.

Step Three: Finish work

Fill nail holes with wood filler. Caulk all of your seams and edges. Paint. MDF likes to soak up paint, so a couple coats will probably be needed….

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. Such an easy job! As you can see, I added carsiding to the ceiling. I recommend doing this step before the board and batten technique. Here’s a full tutorial on how I add carsiding to my ceilings. Next up: Re-attaching the railing to the wall. A little secret between you and me: I completed this project early 2021, and I still have yet to put the railing back up. 95% club, right here!!  🙂




Until next week,

Happy Building, Friend!!

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Oldie but Goodie RL Posts:

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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