DIY Slat Wall Tutorial
Our latest project and perhaps maybe the most involved one we’ve undertaken yet is this completely DIY slat wall & floating shelf combo in our dining room.
This project was done in collaboration with Homes by Dream, a Canadian home builder who likes to share inspiration with their clients when it comes to turning their newly-build house into a home full of personality. This is the perfect partnership for me as I’m a strong believer that new homes can have character and charm to (almost) rival that of historic homes. Our own home was built in 2016 and we’ve spent loads of time & energy taking on DIY projects that help our home better reflect our creativity and personality.
We’ve tackled nearly every space in our home so far, but the dining room was one that we hadn’t done much in. I did a painted stencil wall soon after we moved in to jazz up the plain white wall, but all along the space felt unfinished and a little ”juvenile” to me. I wanted to do something unique and really help the room feel sophisticated and grown up. The space is extremely bright with this huge south-facing window, so I felt confident that I could go a bit darker and “moodier” without the space feeling too heavy.
Honestly, I love both the before & and the after, but I’m really enjoying how the new space makes me FEEL - it feels more refined and mature. Plus, I’m just really really proud of all the work that went into this space so walking in and seeing it everyday is a pretty nice feeling.
Alright, let’s get into HOW we made this happen. It was time consuming and a lot of work, but all in all it was pretty EASY and is totally doable - especially if you did it on a smaller scale.
Slats - we chose to cut our own (more on that in a minute) but you could also purchase slim pieces of trim or 1x2 to do this project yourself
Paint - we used Sharkskin by Benjamin Moore in an eggshell finish
Paint roller & brushes
Brad nails - we used 18G 2” nails
Wood filler & metal spatula
Table saw - this was important for us as we cut our own slats, but if you choose to use pre-cut material then you don’t need to worry about it
Mitre saw - we used this to cut down pieces length wise when necessary, but you could also use a simple handsaw with a mitre box
Brad nailer - pneumatic or air nailer
Dealing with Trim
This was something I knew we needed to address before beginning because our trim and window casing was only 1/4 inch deep, while the slats we were installing were 1/2 inch. I didn’t want the slats to overhang the trim - I wanted everything to be flush. So, we pulled off all of the trim in this space & adjoining areas and replaced it with 1/2“ depth trim. This won’t be necessary in slat wall project; it just was an obstacle we had to fix before really getting started. If you want to make it easier on yourself, find/make slats that are the same depth as your existing trim (don’t be difficult like me).
Painting the Wall
I wanted the entire wall - slats and all - to be the same colour. Some slat wall projects will have the slats as a different colour than the wall or even as stained wood, so proceed according to what you want! For me, though, I knew that it would be a lot easier to start with a painted base rather than trying to paint between the slats after they were hung. Everything got two coats of paint. The colour, again, is Sharkskin by Benjamin Moore - it’s a beautiful deep green but leans quite neutral; it even looks grey in some light.
Cutting Down the Slats
I’m always on a mission to do things as cheaply as possible - without sacrificing aesthetics. Because I knew that we’d be painting the slats, I opted to go with MDF rather than solid wood. Wood prices are astronomical right now, so I can’t imagine what this would have cost with actual wood, and there’s really no benefit to having wood over MDF for a project like this where you’re painting the material.
Even when trying to source slim pre-cut pieces of MDF, I found the prices to be pretty wild right now as well. So I returned to a trusty material that has served me well for many budget DIYs, even though I knew that it would be a lot of work to cut. This material may be the best-kept budget secret and I’ve used it for other projects like board & batten walls.
This is the material - it’s a value package of MDF baseboards. You get 80 feet of material for only $55. If you were to buy these boards individually, it would be over DOUBLE the price. This material is great because it’s primed - you don’t have to sand it before painting it. Also, it‘s always in stock at Home Depot.
As I already said, the material is 1/2” thick, and it is 3-1/2” wide. After some experimenting, I found that the perfect width for our slats was 1-1/2“, so out of each baseboard, we would get 2 slats and have a little material left over.
We used our table saw to cut down the slats - once we had it set up at the correct measurement, it was pretty quick to just fire them through. We did many cutting sessions, however, because the amount of slats we had to cut was…. (drumroll please) 236.
Painting the Slats
I decided to pre-paint the slats before hanging them on the wall. I knew that it would be really hard to get in the slim gap to paint the slides of the slats once they were hung - especially in a clean, smooth finish. This was likely the most time-consuming part of the project, as I could only paint so many at one time and I needed two coats on all sides, allowing for drying time in between. In the end, I think it was worth it because once they were on the wall, I only had to put one more quick, thin coat to cover the wood filler rather than spending hours painstakingly painting in all the cracks with a brush.
Hanging the Slats
This part was a lot of fun and actually went pretty quickly! We just started at one end, and used a slat turned on its side as a spacer between the pieces. This meant that we had 1-1/2” inch slats with a 1/2” gap between each one. There were certain places where I wanted the spacing to line up a certain way, like over & under the window - I wanted a slat to perfectly line up with the edge of the window casing on both sides. To accomplish this, we dry fit all of the pieces FIRST and adjusted as needed to get consistent spacing.
Eventually, we just started nailing in from both sides of the window until we got about 1/3 of the way in on either side, then the middle section we spaced out a TINY bit more to get the right amount of slats in there without any awkward gaps.
We repeated this process when figuring out spacing around the shelves as well. I wanted there to be a slat lining up with the edge of the shelf, and I wanted the slats to look continuous, as though they were “slicing” through the shelves.
All in all, hanging the slats was the easy part of this project. We drove 3-5 brad nails into each board, depending on the size, and continually checked with our level to make sure that the slats were straight all the way across the wall. There were a few times that we realized we’d put one in a little slanted, so we’d have to take 3-4 slats out and start over. But they’re easy enough to pry off the wall with just the brad nails.
Speaking of this, I did have someone ask me why we didn’t glue each slat to the wall. I honestly just wanted to avoid that mess and I thought of the horror of trying to pull all the slats off the wall (I don’t think we’d ever do that, but maybe if we sell our home the new owner won’t love them). The amount of drywall patching that would be involved with that just deterred me from using glue. We used two inch nails to try to get them as secure as possible and I don’t see them going anywhere.
This was the part of the project that I definitely dreaded. If you just look at the picture below, I’m sure you can understand why. The filling of the nail holes was definitely not a task I was excited about, but it was of course a necessary one to give this project a clean, professional look. Unfortunately I didn’t count the amount of nail holes, but based on the amount of slats I’d estimate near 1000 holes. That’s not to mention all of the seams that I also had to fill with wood filler - every place where a slat met a piece of trim needed to be filled as well.
After filling all the holes and seams, I used a simple sanding block to get rid of any excess wood filler and smooth out all of those patched areas. Again, this was a time consuming but necessary step. Finally, I painted everything one more time to make all those imperfections disappear and blend in. I opted to paint every slat by hand because I was worried about having excess paint on a roller that might drip into the gaps and make things look messy. This actually didn’t take that long and was really satisfying.
And there she was - finally finished in all her glory!
Still to happen in here: I want to swing the light fixture 90 degrees to the left so that it’s actually centred in this space, and I’m dying to get a nice roman or roller shade to filter the light - I do find this space really hard to photograph with the big window there!
Thanks so much for reading along. You can check out my Instagram to see my story highlight on this project, where I documented everything in real-time. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments here, or feel free to message me on Instagram!
Until next project,