How to Build a Wood Trim Accent Wall


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July 21, 2020
Zoe Hunt







DIY accent wall with black console table

We received supplies for this project from Woodgrain as part of their accent wall challenge. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Click here to read our full disclosure.

Are accent walls going out of style?

It’s a question I hear a lot, and my answer will always be a resounding no.

Want to DIY buy don\'t know where to start? Click here to grab your free guide!

Think about it. Every model home in the history of model homes has beautiful millwork and accent walls throughout.

Even adding simple trim can turn the most boring, builder-grade spaces into gorgeous, interesting masterpieces.

before and after accent wall

The other great thing about accent walls? They are generally pretty cost-effective.

Sure picture frame molding and wainscoting can get pricey, but a simple geometric accent wall probably won’t break the bank.

Alright, let’s start DIYing! 

Looking for more DIY accent wall ideas? You’re in luck. We *might* be obsessed with accent walls. Check out these awesome tutorials.


What You’ll Need

DIY Wood Trim Accent Wall

New to DIY? Download our free 5 Steps to Getting Start with DIY guide!

make this accent wall text overlay on image of geometric wood wall

STEP 1: Measure + Plan

The key to every great accent wall is a little planning. Start by gathering all the measurements: the height, the width, the location of any outlets or other obstacles.

If you’re not removing your baseboards, make sure that your height measurements start from the top of the baseboard to the ceiling rather than the ground to the ceiling. 

I’d also recommend measuring the width and height in a few different points along the wall. One thing we’ve quickly learned is that walls are hardly ever straight or square! 

Once you have your measurements, it’s time to plan out your design.

If you’re doing a random geometric pattern, you can just plan it out using tape like we did on our kitchen island

If you want something with a little more symmetry and structure, I’d recommend planning it out online to get more precise measurements. Our go-to programs are SketchUp and Adobe Illustrator. 

SketchUp has a free version, but definitely requires some getting used it. Illustrator is easy to use and offers a free trial, which is perfect if you’re just planning out one or two things. 

If you like our pattern, we put together a free cut list complete with our measurements and the direction of every angle. Yay for saving time and brainpower! Grab it at the bottom of this post. 

Free download wood sizing cheatsheet

Step 2: Mark your studs 

Find and mark your studs from floor to ceiling. You want to hit a stud any chance you get, so it’s important to know exactly where they are without guessing. 

I like to use the stud finder to mark a few spot along the same stud and then connect them using a spare board.

A woman marking studs

Pro tip: ignore the picture of me using a pencil and use chalk to mark your studs. It’ll show your marks while you need them and then you can easily erase it before painting. No more struggling to cover pencil marks! 

Step 3: Cut the first few pieces 

Power up your miter saw and start cutting. We like to use our Diablo 80 tooth saw blade for cutting thin wood trim like this. It’ll leave you with a nice, clean-cut and no splintering. 

I know you’re excited, but don’t try to cut all your pieces right off the bat. Like I mentioned earlier, walls tend to not be perfectly square, so you’ll probably have to make a few adjustments to your measurements. 

If your design is symmetrical, I recommend starting from the center and working your way out in each direction. 

Step 4: Install 

Double and triple-check your measurements for this first board. Put it in place and check to make sure it’s level.

making sure wood trim is level on wall

Once it is, secure it to the wall using a few nails (the longer the board, the more nails you’ll want to add). We generally add one on each end and then one every 8-16″. 

You can also use construction adhesive to secure your wood trim panels, but we don’t recommend it. If you ever change your mind and want to change your accent wall, you’re going to have to replace or heavily repair the drywall after removing the glue. 

Since these boards are so light, it’s okay if you don’t hit a stud every time. 

If they feel really loose, you can cross-nail them in. To do this, you’ll first add a nail at a slight angle. Then you’ll add another nail in the opposite direction to cross the nails. This will help prevent them from pulling right out. 

And remember, when you caulk the sides of the boards, the caulk will help to secure them into place, so it’s okay if they are a little loose. 

Step 5: Repeat 

Continue cutting and installing until your entire design is up. 

When you get to the edges of your design, cut the pieces slightly bigger than you think you need and then trim them down. It’s easier to make a board shorter than make it longer πŸ˜‰ 

If all of your wood trim is cut at 90 or 45-degree angles (our design is), you’ll want to make sure you’re checking the level on every single board. Luckily most levels have a slanted level that’s meant for 45-degree angles. 

nailing trim into stud while level at 45-degrees

P.S. we highly recommend keeping your design to 90 and 45-degree angles. Since you can use the level, you rarely have to measure to make sure your placement is right. 

If you start to put up a board and one of the trim pieces is sticking out a lot further than another, you can place a wood shim underneath the lower side to raise it up until it’s flush with the piece that was sticking out more. 

You don’t have to worry about it having more of a gap on the sides of the wood trim since we’ll be hiding those seams with caulk in the next step. 

Step 6: CAULK

The next three steps are so often overlooked, but they are what are going to take your accent wall from “that’s nice” to “wow, who did you hire to install this?!”

If you’ve never caulked before, this video will walk you through how to cut the tip off your caulk, how to load the caulk gun, and how to actually caulk. 

You’re going to add caulk to the side of every board. It’ll cover up any gaps between the wall and your trim.

What’s funny is that you might not even see a gap, but if you skip caulking, the gap will suddenly be very obvious when you paint!

caulking sides of trim on accent wall
Note: we added wood filler before caulking, but I would caulk first to help stabilize your boards

Don’t worry about the gaps between the two trim boards, we’ll get to that in a minute. 

When I’m caulking, I like to work in 2-minute increments. 

I’ll run a bead of caulk along the seam between the wall and the trim for as many pieces as I think I can smooth in under 2 minutes. 

Then I wipe my finger on a baby wipe to get it damp and run it along the caulk. You can also dip your finger in water, but I’m a fan of baby wipes since you can also use them on the wall if you accidentally get caulk somewhere it shouldn’t be. 

Step 7: Wood filler 

I like to break down where to use caulk vs. wood filler like this: if you could easily sand it, use wood filler. If it’s a spot you couldn’t get a sander (aka where the wall meets the trim), use caulk. 

Add wood filler to any place where two trim boards meet. Even if you don’t see a gap, try to press a little wood filler over the seam.

Also, add wood filler to any nail holes. Be sure to overfill because the wood filler might shrink while it dries.

adding wood filler to accent wall seams and nail holes

Step 8: Sand 

Once the wood filler dries, sand the seams until they are flush and any excess wood filler is gone. 

Step 9: Wipe the surface

Get off any dust from sanding. I like to vacuum and then run a tack cloth over the surface to make sure everything is up.

Step 10: Paint 

Tape your sides up and start painting! 

Start by cutting in and painting the sides of the trim boards, then use a roller on the flat surfaces.

Work in sections. Don’t do all the cutting in and then go back and roll. If you do this, you might end up with paint globs.

Instead, cut in on a smaller section then go back over with a roller while the paint is still wet.

painting wood trim accent wall

We ended up quickly taping the sides and then going back and touching up the wall on either side rather than spending more time taping upfront. It’s a lot of nooks and crannies!

Between coats, sand with 220-grit sandpaper or a sanding block for an extra smooth finish. Don’t forget to wipe off any dust you might have created before your second coat! 

Note: If you don’t want to spend much time taping, you might want to consider painting at least the edges of the wall and the edges of any of your wood trim that touch the wall before installing. 

A bouquet of flowers in a vase on a table

What about textured walls?

Every time we post an accent wall, we get several questions about if you could do this on a textured wall. 

It’s really a matter of personal preference. Here’s an example of someone who added trim right on top of their textured wall. 

If you don’t like that look, you can first install a smooth wall panel to quickly cover your wall texture. 

If you need more than one board, you’ll need to either plan your design to have trim cover the seams or you can smooth out the seams before starting. 

make this accent wall text pointing to geometric wood trim accent wall

There you have it! Now you know how to make a beautiful feature wall using wood trim. The great thing about this process is that is can be applied to any pattern you choose for your accent wall.Β 

Want more accent wall inspiration? Check out our roundup on the best accent wall ideas.

If you like our pattern, don’t forget to unlock the free cut list below. 

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  1. Jayne says:

    Wow! I love this, it looks stunning, what a difference it has made to this wall!

  2. Lauren says:

    I loveeee this so much! I can’t wait to do my dining room!

  3. Erin says:

    I love how this wall turned out! It makes me want to start looking around at my walls to make my own. πŸ™‚

  4. Vic says:

    What size trim did you use. Is it a 1×2 (3/4 x1 1/2)

  5. Aidalis Porras says:

    Hi, can you nail the wood trims on a cement and dry wall?

  6. joanna says:

    ok I have to ask. I see these style walls everywhere. How do you keep them clean? The dust would pile up where I live in two weeks!

    • Zoe Hunt says:

      We used semi-gloss paint to make it easier to wipe off. We haven’t noticed the dust piling up on it and wipe it down for a few minutes with a Swiffer duster every few months.

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