How to Add Fluting to Your Walls

Dec 9, 2021 | DIY, Music Room

The music room is almost done! I really should’ve finished it a couple weeks ago to meet the One Room Challenge deadline, but life got in the way. And a vacation to Miami. So, I’m not mad about missing the deadline!

I’m currently waiting for a hardware piece to come in so that I can install the curtain rods. I’m going to install acrylic curtain rods like I did in the office. The tutorial is here if you want to make your own. I also need to find the perfect shade of dark gray curtains which is proving difficult. I ordered what I thought would be a good candidate from Pottery Barn, but the shade was too green so I had to return them. Alas, I’m still on the hunt.

I also need to add more artwork to my two walls that I’ve designated as gallery walls. I ordered pieces from Etsy and am just waiting for them to arrive. From there, I’ll slowly build out the walls with pieces that I come across and love.

So, with that room update, I wanted to give a quick tutorial on how to install wall fluting because I think that really pulls the whole room together and is a the WOW factor for the room.

From the outset, let me note that this project was extremely easy, but much more time consuming than I thought it would be. So, if you think you’re going to knock something like this out in a weekend, I would quadruple your estimated timeframe. You’ll be painting, cutting, and nailing for a lot longer than you initially thought!

What Type of Fluting Should I Use?

I researched all sorts of wood pieces to make the fluting. From narrow pieces, to flat pieces, to rounded pieces.

I ended up going with the Pine Half Round because they offered the most defined profile and the others just would’ve just faded into the background. I wanted something on the walls that you could clearly see was a different contour than the wall and half round was the best fit. But, of course, every aesthetic is different so you may be happy with a flatter profile.

I found that the most helpful thing to do to pick out which wood you’ll use to bring some sample pieces home and just play around with how they look in different parts of the room. Also, take into account what color you’ll be painting the wood. A darker color tends to mute the effect of the wall treatment and a lighter color brings out more of the shadows of the treatment so it looks more defined.

Lastly, if you are going to be painting these pieces, then go for pine. It’s much cheaper. But, if instead you want to stain the fluting, I’d spring for oak. It takes stain a lot more easily and will look nicer in the end.

How Much Fluting Should I Buy?

Okay, this is tricky question for me because I just eyeballed it and bought as many as I thought I would need and then went back to the store a second time and bought the rest. That worked for me.

A more mathematical approach would be to bring a sample piece home and cut it to how you want it in the room then multiply how much of the wall that one piece covered by the entire length of all your walls. Like I said… I eyeballed it and came pretty close to getting what I needed knowing that I could just run to the store if I needed more.

A note on the wood length. My pieces were 16 feet long. Do you know how hard it was to maneuver that much wood, at that length, into my minivan? All I can tell you is I know there is a video that someone took out there showing me fighting with the wood and people are laughing their asses off watching my struggle! I had to bend each piece into my van and there was a point where I tied off pieces so that the force of the bending wouldn’t cause pieces of the wood to slap me upside the head. So, tip: Have the wood delivered to you or borrow/rent a truck. Or, buy shorter pieces. I didn’t have that option at my local store.

There is genuine fear on my face in this photo. I like my brain intact…

Prep Work

I opted to paint my walls behind the fluting the same color as the fluting so that any cracks and crevices that the wood didn’t cover would be the same color as the fluting. That way, my minor mistakes and any wood imperfections would be a lot less obvious.

As you can see, I didn’t do a great job of painting and I only painted one coat. That’s really all you need since you’ll be seeing so little of this wall after all the fluting has been installed. I also didn’t tape off anything knowing that the fluting would cover the top of the baseboards and hide any stray paint marks. Also, in my photo, the chair rail is painted the same color as my fluting and of course I used 3 coats and painted carefully.

For reference, I painted my walls Black Iron by Benjamin Moore in Satin finish. I wanted the color to coordinate with the lime washing on the top of the chair rail and I think I nailed it if I do say so myself! If you want to know more about how I lime washed the walls, see this post.

Other than painting the walls the same as your wall treatment, you just need to gather all your tools. I’ll link all the tools I used at the end of this post under the heading “Sources.”

Let’s do Some Fluting!

Okay, now that you’ve painted your base coat on the walls, let’s talk about a couple different ways to approach the fluting. The first way, and the approach I opted for, is to paint all the fluting pieces BEFORE applying them to the walls. The second way is to apply the fluting to the walls before painting the wood and then to tape off and spray the pieces with a paint sprayer AFTER the entire room of fluting has been installed.

I chose to paint the pieces before applying the fluting to the walls because I had already painted the upper half of my walls and it took a LONG time to get it looking the way I wanted it to, and I didn’t want to potentially ruin that by getting overspray on those walls. If I hadn’t done that beforehand, or if I had fluting running the entire length of the walls, I probably would’ve sprayed instead of painted because painting each piece with a roller took an eternity!

Whether you opt to pre or post paint, the next steps are the same.

I will say this all day long… When you start a new project that you haven’t done a thousand times before, start in an inconspicuous place to hide any mistakes that you will inevitably have at the beginning. Also, with this project, you’ll want to start on a piece of wall without trim. As you can see in the below photo, I started on an outside corner and I suggest you do the same since since it’s the easiest place to start.

If you don’t have an outside corner without trim, then just start in an inconspicuous place and make sure that the first piece is completely level. Even if your door jamb or other trim that you’re abutting isn’t level (most aren’t), make sure that first piece is or your entire wall will be crooked. If there’s a gap between your first piece and the molding, don’t worry about it! No one will notice, I promise.

For the first piece, I measured the space where my fluting would go with a sewing measuring tape. I think having a sewing measuring tape is essential in every toolbox because it’s flexible and you can easily measure inside tight spaces like in between chair rails and the baseboards.

Using that first piece as my guide, I cut about 10 pieces the same length. You want a nice, tight fit, but in no way should the wood bend at all. The ideal fit is for you slide the piece in with no wiggle room at the top or bottom. I also always pushed my piece to the very bottom of the chair rail leaving no gaps because those gaps are a lot more obvious than any gaps you may have at the bottom where the wood meets the baseboards. You can see from the below photo, that I didn’t learn that particular technique right away so there were some gaps at the top of my fluting pieces… See, case in point for starting in an inconspicuous spot.

Also, I used a carpenters square (the measuring device below), to make sure that the pieces were perfectly straight up and down. I used the square every 5 pieces or so. There’s no need to check every piece since the pieces should be fairly straight and there shouldn’t be much deviation from that. And the pieces are flexible so you can bend them into shape. Once in a while, you’ll find a significant bend in a piece that you can’t straighten and those pieces I just tossed. I think that I found maybe 3 such pieces so unless your wood is really warped, that shouldn’t be a problem.

If you find that you are out of level, which will happen from time to time, then just adjust the next piece so that you are square again. There may be a little gap at either the top or bottom relative to the next piece over, but that’s okay, you won’t be able to tell in the end. That’s one of reason why you painted the wall under the fluting to hide those mistakes.

Another way that the square is helpful is that I used it to push my piece into the one over to make sure I had no gaps between pieces. I would hold and push the square with one hand and nail with the other. I wouldn’t do this all the time because it was tiring and didn’t need to be done all the time, but if I nailed 2-3 pieces up at a time, I would make sure to use the square to squish the pieces in tightly.

About after 10 pieces, I would check the piece that I just installed and see if it’s still a perfect fit. If it wasn’t and it’s too long or too short, I took note and adjusted for my next 10 pieces. Unless your house was newly built (and even then…), it’s doubtful that your wood measurements will be the exact same from start to finish.

When cutting the wood, I used a mitre saw and a knife. I would take my template piece and use a knife to notch an uncut piece and then line up about 3-4 uncut pieces with that one notched piece, then cut them all at the same time.

This goes without saying but… please wear eye protection! During this project, the plastic guard accidentally got caught in the moving blade and shattered. The sound was so loud that my son who was in the driveway ran asking if I was okay. Stupid me wasn’t wearing eye protection and luckily I wasn’t hurt, but I have no idea how the projectile plastic missed me because I found pieces flung 15 feet from the saw and I was standing right in front of it. I was seriously shook and wore full face protection after that and will continue to do so when operating my saw. I learned my lesson! Okay, soapbox speech over.

To nail the wood in place, I used a pin nailer. I already had a brad nailer and I was hoping that would work, but the holes left by the brad nailer were too big. I really didn’t want to have to fill in every hole with putty then repaint all the pieces. So, I used a pin nailer instead because it leaves behind minuscule holes that I didn’t bother filling. You can’t ever notice the holes. (Do you even see them in the below photo… Nope!)

So just repeat the process until you get to an inside corner. With that corner, you will end up butting two pieces next to each other at right angles and the effect should be smooth looking if your pieces up to that point have been applied straight.

One thing that I did when approaching the end of a wall is really make sure that my pieces were straight so that there would not be big gaps in corners or at the end of a wall. So, I used my carpenters square a lot at about 20 pieces out from a corner to the end of a wall.

Lastly, every once in a while the nailer will misfire and you’ll end up with a stray pin in between the wood or at an angle. Just pull those out with pliers and re-fire where you wanted the nail to go. Because half round is ROUND, your nailer will slip more often than if you were trying to nail against something straight, but that’s what pliers are for.

So, that’s all there is to it. You just have to paint, measure, cut, nail, and repeat about a thousand times and you’re done!

If you end up using this tutorial, please let me know! I want to see your finished work. I sometimes think I’m writing these tutorials in the ether so seeing projects makes my day!


Eye Protection:

Pin Nailer (this nailer was a CHAMP!)
Safety Glasses (don’t forget!)
Mitre Saw (this is a basic one but it’s all you need for this project)
Sawhorses (you really can’t paint the long pieces of half round without setting them on something like sawhorses)
Black Iron by Benjamin Moore