Fitting Tongue & Groove Panelling


The use of tongue and groove panelling is an extremely effective way of transforming a wall surface and making a room feel warm and inviting. The panelling can be applied across entire walls or just up to dado level. Applying panelling is a two part process  – first you need to build a framework onto which the boards will be applied, then you must cut the boards to fit the space and fix them in place.

Safety advice
Always check for hidden cables or supply pipes with a pipe and cable detector before drilling into walls to fix the battens and panelling in place.

Tools for the job

  • pencil
  • take measure
  • spirit level
  • panel saw
  • cordless drill
  • hammer
  • nail punch
  • mitre saw
  • Building the framework


Building The Framework

Tongue and groove panelling should be attached to a batten framework. Although 5 x 2.5cm battens are often ideal, it could be advantageous to use slightly larger battens such as 5 × 5cm so that a shelf can be formed across the top of the panelling for extra storage. Another advantage is that they produce deep panelling, which means that pipes attached to the wall can often run beneath the framework.

  1.  A good height for dado panelling is approximately 1m above floor level. For these dimensions, three horizontal battens should be fixed to the wall surface, one at floor level, one at the required height for the top of the panelling and one about halfway between the two. Draw guidelines for these battens using a spirit level to make sure that they are horizontal.
  2. Fixed the battens to the wall surface using the guidelines for positioning. In this case, concrete anchors are inserted directly through the battens into the masonry wall below. For hollow walls, use the correct wall plugs and screw the fixings to hold the battens in place.
  3. To deal with any pipes, cut battens lengths so that a gap is left to allow the pipe to run down through the framework.


Attaching The Panels

The structure of tongue and groove panelling allows it to be fitted in place so that the actual fixing points are hidden from view. in simple terms, small nails of panel pins (depending on the thickness of the panelling) are inserted at 45° angles through the tongue of a board to hold in place. The groove of the next board covers the tongue and, therefore, the fixing. When applying boards, it is best to start at an internal, and have some boards cut to size before you begin so that progress is swift. However be aware of the fact that small undulations or slopes on the floor may mean that you need different heights of boards if the top of the panel is to be neat and level.

  1. Position the first board using a spirit level to check that it is completely vertical
  2. Fix the first board to the battens through the top, middle and bottom of its face. Only hidden fixings should be necessary with all subsequent boards.
  3. Knock nails through the tongue of the board and use a nail punch to make sure that the head disappears below the wood surface level.
  4. Keep adding boards, slipping the groove of the new length over the tongue of the previous one, and inserting nails along the tongue of the new board.
  5. You will need to add a decorative moulding at external corners to cover the joint. This can be glued or nails in position.
  6. To finish the top of the panelling, cut some 7.5×2.5 cm batten, mitring the joints neatly at the corners. This produces a much more attractive and professional finish than butting the straight edges.
  7. Fix the 7.5×2.5 cm batten in place by inserting screws or nails through the Batten into the 5×5 cm batten below to secure it in position.
  8. Add a decorative moulding around the underside of the 7.5×2.5 batten for a more attractive result


tips of the trade

tongue-and-groove-panelling-electricalRemember to make access hatches in the panelling for any stopcocks or shut-off valves, so that the water supply can be turned off of easily in an emergency

tips of the trade

Selective panelling – On walls that have some kitchen or bathroom fittings, building a framework and panelling can be a complicated procedure. It is often worth panelling only those walls that are relatively free from obstacles.

Decoration – Tongue and groove panelling can be finished with paint or coated with natural wood stain or varnish to complement the existing decoration in the room.


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