The term wainscot (UK /ˈweɪnskət/ or US /ˈweɪnskɒt/) originally applied to high quality riven oak boards. The Oxford English Dictionary states that it derives from the medieval German wagenschot as well as wageschot or 'wall-board'. Johnson's Dictionary defined it thus:

Wainscot [wageschot, Dutch], the inner wooden covering of a wall.

To wainscot [waegenschotten, Dutch], to line the walls with boards

A 'wainscot' was therefore a board of riven (and later quarter-sawn) oak, and wainscotting was the panelling made from it. The reason that wainscot was preferred to home-grown oak for this role, especially in Holland and Great Britain, was that it was a far superior product. Wainscot oak came from large, slow-grown forest trees, and produced boards that were knot-free, low in tannin, light in weight and easy to work. They were also dimensionally stable. During the 18th century, oak wainscot was almost entirely superseded for panelling in Europe by softwoods (mainly Scots pine and Norway spruce), but the name stuck:

'The term wainscoting, as applied to the lining of walls, originated in a species of foreign oak of the same name, used for that purpose; and although that has long been superseded by the introduction of fir timber, the term has been continued notwithstanding the change of material'.

Also in the 18th century, the style of panelling changed from a floor-to-ceiling covering to one in which only the lower part of the wall was covered. Hence wainscot or wainscotting became a panelling style applied to the lower 90 to 150 cm (3 to 5 ft) of an interior wall, below the dado rail or chair rail and above the baseboard or skirting board.[citation needed] It is traditionally constructed from tongue-and-groove boards, though bead-board or decorative panels, such as a wooden door might have, are also common. New manufacturing techniques are capable of milling large panels from one sheet, reducing seams, caulking and expansion/contraction cracks that have plagued traditional construction. Wainscoting may also refer to other materials used in a similar fashion.

The original purpose of wainscoting was to cover the lower part of walls, which, in houses constructed with poor or non-existent damp-proof courses, are often affected by rising dampness.[citation needed] Its purpose is now decorative.


Note: The Burg of the Ragnarsson Clan is famous for its wood wainscoting, as real wood is very expensive on Nilfeheim.

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