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100 year old wainscoting

7204 Views 6 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  JCC

I have a colonial house built in 1894. I'm trying to work with the original wainscoting in the kitchen. It's been covered by paneling for many years. It has been painted a couple/few times, and is in pretty rough shape. I pried off a section where there was a crack in it and the backside, is as you can imagine, never been touched and perfect condition. Doesn't have any finish on it either. There are only two and a half walls that are about 12 feet long so there isn't that much there. One wall has two windows on it and being an outside wall, no insulation. I'd like to take it all off and turn it around so the icky side is on the inside of the walls and the nice on the interior of the kitchen, and of course insulate that wall with the windows. I don't know what kind of wood it is. Looks like oak but is medium in color, has the striations of oak though. Anyone think this is a good idea or maybe I'm going too far? If I do this, what kind of polyurethane should I use? Any advice would be helpful.
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A pic would help us, but I see no reason why you couldn't turn it around. It is almost surely better wood than you would be able to buy today, so I would definitely reuse it. As to poly, I am partial to oil based. Some don't like that it darkens the wood and often yellows, but that is exactly what I like about it.
wainscoting followup

Thanks Bill,

I took a few pics last night. You can see the one I turned around left next to the original painted one. I have a broken piece of it and that's the color all the way through. I think it would look nice and like you say, this kind of wood you'll never be able to replicate. Any ideas on what kind of wood it is?


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- Do a little reading about reclaiming wood flooring. Removing all that T&G without damaging it will be challenging - doable, but you will have to be careful.

- When you pick your finish, keep in mind, that kitchen walls will gather grease and must stand up to at least occasional washing.

I have the same sort of wainscoting in my 1880s bathroom. I dug it out from under some 1940s formica. It took me a full week to scrape off all the old adhesive, sand, caulk, and prime. All my hard work was WORTH IT!

PSST - Look around your house for places they might have used the same material - you could scavenge extra boards. I have a closet they paneled with the same T&G. I'm considering tearing it out of the closet to do my other bathroom to match.

Good luck with your project.
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Tis pine/fir. Most likely SYP southern yella pine
Thanks everyone for your advice! I'm going to tackle this project this weekend (or at least begin) and see what lies beneath! I'll show some pics when I'm done.

Thanks again!
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