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DIY Board and Batten Box Molding in a Stairwell

Board and Batten can be used to create a box shape, also known as box molding, on the wall to add interest and architectural detail.  I love seeing this kind of detail in stairwells. And I am thrilled with how this turned out!

The refinished stained stairs turned out great but once I added the box molding and painted, that’s when the magic happened!  The staircase wasn’t dark and scary anymore.

Board and Batten on a stairwell wall creating Box molding pin for pinterest.

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To see how I refinished the steps check out these posts:

How to Refinish Stairs Part 1

How to Refinish Stairs Part 2

This was the first part of my stairwell makeover. Now onto the Box Molding to finish it off!

How to Add Box Molding

Adding box molding is actually pretty easy.  On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being easy and 5 being really hard I would give it a 2.  As long as you have a miter saw it’s really a piece of cake.

First, you need to decide how big you want the boxes. I decided I wanted them to be about 18-24 inches. I measured down from the top of the stairs 24 inches and used that as the bottom mark for my boards.  

The interior of my boxes is 20 inches.  If you have a very large wall you may want to make your boxes larger because if they are small it will look very busy.

I actually mapped out on the wall exactly where I wanted the boards so I could see it visually. This also really helped me to know exactly how much product I would need.  All I used was a pencil, tape measure, and a level.

Box Molding drawn up on the wall where the boards will go.
Box Molding drawn out on the stairwell wall.

What kind of wood to use:

I used 1/2 inch mdf for this project from Home Depot. They ripped the wood down a 4X8 sheet into 4-inch strips.  The guy at the store was able to get 12 boards out of it but only used 7 for this project.

You can choose to use 1×4 pieces of lumber but that is a bit more expensive. For my space, the 1×4 would stick out from the existing baseboards because it is thicker than the baseboards. So I went with MDF for practical and economic reasons.

How to attach the wood to the wall

I did the vertical boards first, measured and cut the boards with my miter saw.  The hardest part was figuring out the angle.  

I assumed it would be 45 degrees but nope.  I am sure there is a better way to figure this out but I just did trial and error and figured out what my angle was…..hey, never said I am a mathematician!

The vertical boards for my board and batten stairwell attached to the wall.

Use liquid nails and apply to the back of each board. Put it on the wall and make sure it is level. Then attached to the wall with a nail gun using 2 inch nails.

The liquid nails on the back of the board ready to go on the wall.

Then I measured the horizontal boards, cut and repeated the steps to apply to the wall.

The board and batten on the wall with wood putty and caulk.

I caulked the corners where the wood met the wall, and used wood putty where the wood met wood.  Once I sanded, and cleaned again, we are ready for paint!

The board and batten on the wall with wood putty and caulk.
The wood putty dried and caulk is on the box molding.
The edge boards of the box molding that is angled so there are no sharp edges.

You can see in this picture above that I angled the wood by 45 degrees where it met the end of the wall.  I accomplished this with my miter saw.

Time for Paint the Box Molding

Once the caulk is dry and everything is clean you need to tape off and cover these beautiful steps you just stained.  I used just plain old newspaper!

I used some primer that I had on hand and covered the wood risers and MDF with it.  

Once it was dry I used this new paint that the guy at the paint counter at Home Depot recommended.  It’s a combo of oil and latex-based paint. This product is said to level brush strokes, have a harder finish, and cleans up with soap and water.

It’s called an alkalyd paint and most paint brands sell this product.

The wood on the box molding has been primed white.

I am not sure about its leveling abilities but as far as cleanup goes, it did come off with soap and water but not very easily.  I will see how well it wears and let you know if it takes a beating better.

*Update! This paint holds up amazing! I used it on all my baseboards and window trim. It’s not totally chip proof but it holds up way better than regular paint does.

After three coats of paint, I am done and I cannot believe the change. This is such a big transformation and I couldn’t be happier with it.  From smelly brown carpet to beautifully stained wood with architectural features I would say this was a complete win!

The board and batten stairwell is getting painted.
The board and batten box molding is getting painted.

My Board and Batten Stairwell creating Box Molding

The finished product with the refinished stairs and box molding.
The finished box molding.
The finished box molding painted white.
Board and batten box molding painted white.
The finished box molding painted white.

Board and Batten Box Molding


  • MDF
  • Liquid Nails
  • Caulk
  • Wood Putty
  • Paint
  • Primer
  • Pencil


  • Miter Saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Nails
  • Caulk gun
  • Paint Brush
  • Level
  • Tape Measure


  1. Purchase your wood and have it cut to size at the hardware store.
  2. Decide how big you want your boxes and using a level and tape measure draw out the boxes on the wall.
  3. Put liquid nails on the back of the board and put it on the wall, starting with the vertical boards.
  4. Make sure the board is level and once it is nail it to the wall.
  5. Continue for all the vertical boards then measure and cut the wood for the horizontal boards.
  6. Using the same method attach the horizontal boards to the wall.
  7. Caulk all the corners where the wood meets the wall.
  8. Use wood putty on all the nail holes as well as the wood meets with wood.
  9. Sand and clean up.
  10. Prime the MDF and when it's dry start painting.
  11. Now sit back and enjoy!

Related wall treatment posts:

Farmhouse Style Laundry Room Reveal

How to Easily Install Shiplap

DIY Board and Batten in the Dining Room

Board and Batten Box Molding pin for Pinterest.

What do you think?  Quite a transformation from greige walls and ugly brown carpet to beautiful wood steps and white box molding!  Do you think you might give this a try?

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