What Is Bathroom Wainscoting?

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So after a bit of a heavy article last week, I thought I would write about a less weighty subject. Wainscoting! I can’t think of a lighter subject. When I was being trained as an appraiser, I was taught (at least I think I was taught) that the bathroom’s wainscot was the material on the walls of a shower. In the appraisal report for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other residential forms, it asks for a description of what the bathroom wainscot is.

Interior MaterialsFor many years, I describe it as what the shower walls were composed of. Usually ceramic, vinyl, fiberglass or marble. If you thought the same thing, don’t feel bad. You are in good company.

Interestingly, no one has ever asked me to correct this in my report. I believe that this is because many appraisers think that it is what I thought it was. And really, is it a big deal? Probably not. However, I thought that I would share some information with you that will make it a little more clear. At least I think.


I think there are many reasons for the confusion. For one, in most residential appraisal reports it states “Bath Wainscot”, which makes it appear like it has something to do with the bath.  However, just above it, most reports also ask for the “Bath Flooring”. Obviously, it is not asking for what the bathtub floor is composed of. It’s referring to the flooring in the room itself. Likewise, the wainscoting is not referring to the shower. It’s referring to what is on the bathroom walls in terms of some kind of paneling or material on the lower portion of the wall.

Often times I hear wainscot described as “wainscoating“. Sadly, there is no such word or thing.

Notice the screen shot below from





The term is wainscot. It is not pronounced wains-coat. It is pronounced wains-cot. See another definition below.  I think that the common mispronunciation might lead some to think that what wainscoting refers to is some kind of coating. I laughed when I ran a search for the definition of wainscot and low and behold, a picture of a shower shows up in the middle of the definition, as a pop-up advertisement. (See below) Don’t let that confuse you. The picture of the shower is not wainscoting, as evident by the very definition it pop-ups in. Good grief! No wonder there is so much confusion.

It should be noted that in ERC (Employee Relocation) appraisals, in the bathroom  description under Wainscot, it gives three options. Tile, Fiberglass or Other. So in this form, it appears to be talking about the materials that the shower walls are made of. In my humble opinion, a different word or words would have made more sense in this form. Like Shower wall materials or shower surround materials.

Definition of wainscot.



Wainscoting is a partial-wall paneling that can be seen in many areas of a home, including bathrooms. It is most commonly made out of wood paneling. However, it can be made of many different types of materials. According to, it originated in England in the 17th century to “help add a stylish layer of warmth to drafty English stone homes.” Today, it is generally not used for functionality. Instead it is used for ornamentation.

Wainscot can be seen in any room in a house. It’s not limited to the bathroom. And while traditional wainscot is made of wood paneling, other materials can be considered as wainscoting as well.  Like the picture below.  Here are some pictures of wainscoting in my home. The first one is from one of our bathrooms. I like feeling like I am at Chipotle whilst in my bathroom. I was going for more of a rustic wainscot in this bathroom. The second picture is a picture of wainscot in the foyer of my home.

Metal Wainscot 2

Wood Wainscot 2


Please enjoy this video showcasing examples of wainscoting:


Like the other materials described in this section of the appraisal, the kind of wainscoting, or lack thereof, is related more to demonstrating the quality of construction and detail of interior ornamentation in a home. The same is true of the other materials that an appraisal report reflects in this section like the walls, flooring and trim.

Would an average quality home (or less) have wainscoting in a bathroom or elsewhere? In my experience, not that often. Although, it is becoming more commonplace due to building materials being less expensive these days, and due to the advent of do-it-yourself shows. (Thus the metal in our bathroom) However, homes with a higher quality of construction do often have wainscoting. And the quality of wainscoting on a home with very good or excellent quality of construction is likely to be superior to what you would see in a bathroom, or other rooms in a home with average quality of construction.

While these individual materials are not typically adjusted for in an appraisal report, clearly they can be indicative of the quality of construction of a home. And that is something that appraisers can make an adjustments for.


So what happens if an appraiser get’s it wrong and says that the wainscoting is made up of fiberglass, when in fact there is no wainscoting at all? Probably nothing. As already commented on, these are things that appraisers typically don’t adjust for anyway.

However, it is still good to be as accurate as possible in what is being reported on in an appraisal. Imagine an appraiser who is an expert witness. They are cross-examined by the opposing side. The lawyer asks the appraiser, “I see in your appraisal report that you described the bathroom wainscoting as being ceramic. However, the appraisal completed for the opposing side states that there is no wainscoting. Can you explain what you were describing?” So the appraiser goes on to explain that they were describing the shower walls.

Awkward! I can just hear the lawyer saying, “Since you clearly don’t have a grasp of what something as simple as wainscoting is, how can we rely on the more complex analysis in your report?”

Obviously, this is hyperbole. This would probably never happen. But it’s the kind of thing that I worry about as an appraiser. While describing wainscoting incorrectly will probably never big a big deal, we are all striving to better ourselves. This is one small area in which we can do so. And to be honest, I think at this point whether the appraiser chooses to describe what the walls of the shower are made of or the materials on the lower portion of the bathroom walls, I think that both ways are supportable at this point in time.

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed this article! Thanks for being here. And if you have a different view of what wainscoting is, and can provide some rock solid evidence for your findings, please leave a comment on this article. And if you are like me, and had it wrong for many years, don’t feel bad. It’s not really that big of a deal! At least I hope.



Here are some other articles and videos I enjoyed this week! I hope you will also…

After the Black Friday Freight Train, It’s All Housing Tryptophan – Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller

Get rid of appraisers while nobody’s looking – Sacramento Appraisal Blog

What is Functional Obsolescence? – Birmingham Appraisal Blog

Why the contract? – Ann Arbor Appraisal Blog

How Do We Define Accuracy? – George Dell’s Analogue Blog

November Newsletter? – DW Slater Company Appraisal Blog



4 thoughts on “What Is Bathroom Wainscoting?”

  1. Thanks Jamie. I appreciate the post. I’ve always taken that section to mean whatever is in the tub area (tile, fiberglass, etc…), but I think you’re correct that “wainscoting” is a very weird term to use for this. Usually we use the word for exactly what you said – like a beadboard on the wall. I wonder what the origin of this term is in the form. Why would we need to look for wainscoting in only the bathroom? I’m not sure what the 1004 says, but a GPAR in front of me right now says “Bath wainscot”.

    1. Thanks Ryan! I think that you’re in the majority. It is very confusing. The GPAR and 1004 also ask to describe the “Bath floor”. I don’t think it’s talking about the bath tub. It is totally confusing. I would love to know why the designers of these reports created the forms to ask for this and what they meant. I thought it would be interesting to write about. If I were reviewing a report I would not call an appraiser out for this because it is just such a nebulous thing.😃

  2. Thanks Jamie. Add me to the list of appraisers who have this wrong. So far this hasn’t come up in cross fortunately…. 🙂

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