Layout Software for Wainscoting

There may not be a software application out there dedicated to wainscoting layout, but several cabinet design programs can readily accomplish it. November 8, 2008

Can anyone help me choose a good software package that will layout wainscoting raised panels? I see there is software for cabinets that give you the right size for everything including stile and rail and material list, but I would like a software package that gives you raised or recessed panels for wainscoting as long as you put in the length of the wall where it is going.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Forum)
From contributor L:
Wainscoting can have many different divisions. You can't expect a program to offer a single way of having it done. Sometimes they are different sizes in the same row to give character. Some jobs call for long panels while others require very short panels. It is really at the discretion of the builder/client. I have never seen or heard of a software program that would do this for you. I'm sure if you look long enough you might find something.

From contributor J:
Contributor L is dead on. There are too many variables involved with wainscoting to make software practical. There is a package advertised in the software section of this board called Raised Panel Doors. That software has a section where it will calculate parts for wainscoting, but it is almost always wrong.

From contributor A:
One of my CAD-literate friends wrote a macro for AutoCad. It provides cutlists for paneled wainscoting. The math is obviously simple, but time consuming and tedious. He wrote it because we had two 6000 sqft high end houses with wainscoting everywhere. I'll ask him if he will make it available, but I doubt it.

From contributor V:
This is just an idea and not thought through, but... What if you used cabinet software and set it up for euro cabients and then made the cabinet the same length as the run for the panels. While no one would build a cabinet that size, it might give you the right number and sizes of panels.

From contributor B:
Try Microvellum.

From contributor S:
A spreadsheet would be the simplest solution. Put the math down on paper first, then transfer your calculations to a page on your spreadsheet. It shouldn't take too long to come up with a simple worksheet which allows you to input different part sizes, sections, lengths, etc., and then prints out a cutlist. The math can get somewhat involved and you'll need an advanced command of the functions available on your spreadsheet, but with a little effort you'll come up with something that works for you. Keep your initial designs simple and add functionality and flexibility to your program as you go.

From contributor C:
KCDw works very well for this and makes a cut list for the right and left stiles, mid stiles, top rail, bottom rail, and panels. You can easily change the top and bottom rail heights and the widths of the top and bottom rails. You can set up the cut list for any cope and pattern you would like to use.

From contributor O:
Take a look at It is cheap and simple, has raised panel doors and something for wainscoting. Not sure if this is what you're after, but could be worth a shot.

From contributor K:
Is it just wainscot paneling you are going to use this for, or do you also build cabinets? The reason I ask is that contrary to some, I would guess that most cabinet design software will do this well for you. I have Cabnetware which does a great job on paneling with complete customizing possibilities and any configuration of panels. I have never used any other brand of cadware so I can't speak for others, but I would be surprised if Cabnetvision can't do it besides most other similar programs. All this said, they will come with a price high enough that if all you are doing is paneling, they are probably too expensive. On the other hand, if you also build cabinets, you should be looking into CAD software anyway to help your business grow.

From contributor D:
The first couple responders got it right. Focusing on straining work through the restrictive filters of a computer takes the life and art from the product. Using a spreadsheet or calculator will do the math just fine, and your work will look like it came from a machine rather than the human mind.

Look at good examples of wainscoting - English historic, 18th C American, etc. and you will find that things are not evenly broken into 6 equal parts. In fact (the horror!), sometimes things like Fibonacci series/golden proportions were used. Try entering that into your calculator.

Train the eye and brain, not the machine. The machines work for and support us, not the other way around. But that is just this dinosaur's opinion.

From contributor N:
Like KCR we use Cabnetware to lay out wainscot. It gives unlimited design freedom over sizes, proportions, and stile and rail widths, cope depths, etc. Mine doesn’t do curved or angled rails but the latest versions might. I also assume most of the other cabinet software packages do this.

I look at software as just another tool and try to use it to the best advantage. As for not getting the golden proportions with software, that is up to the operator. The rules do not always work, especially in custom sized architectural components. I like to throw the design together in Cabinetware and just keep tweaking till it looks right. If it's complicated panels with, say, curved rails, I would still lay out the basic panel sizes in Ware to get the right proportions and most of the cutlist then proceed to my line to line cad for the presentation drawing.

The computer takes no more of the life and art from woodworking than does using planers and jointers vs. a hand plane. Or on another level a S4S machine vs. the planer and jointer. I do agree hand drawings are more pleasing to look at and have saved all my good drawing from 20 years ago, but it's just not practical to design and cutlist like that anymore unless you can truly get “art prices” for your work.

From contributor D:
You are correct that the software is just a tool. Its use can contribute to the craft. What I tried to address is the blind reliance of the programming to evenly divide a wall and do the math, then building from that result. I think it is important if using software to step back and view the results in the light of proportion or historical precedent. Tweaking it, as you mentioned, is where the eye and brain can come together well.

From contributor R:
A calculator will work. But in today's world you must think smarter, not work more, take more time, set yourself up for more errors. I used KCDW to lay out a wainscot panel job. It was done all with the software around windows, under, over, and used my calculator to verify the job. (Won't have to verify this ever again.) You can lay out 50' of walls in 30 minutes with a full cut list. If your shop is using advanced cutting devices (Tigerstop) you can output it to the Tigerstop in the same time. The key to making money is thinking smarter, not working harder.

From the original questioner:
I can't thank all of you enough for all the suggestions, ideas and putting me in the right direction. This is another example of how great this forum is.