Rugged Wainscoting

An installer gets advice on wainscot paneling for a high-traffic commercial space.

I'm looking at a job of a wall, 100 feet long, that will have a lot of people walking along it with luggage. The client wants paneling (looks like shaker doors) installed along the wall about 40" high. The panels are about two or so feet long each and divided with a mid rail. The bottom will have a base board. Top has a cap rail. Nothing here can be bought, so I have to mill everything myself. It is painted white after installation with satin white enamel (not my choice) by me.

How do you bid on a job like this (it's for an interior designer who I have been courting for some time now)? And what would you recommend building this out of? I was thinking of building it from MDF, but it will be damaged easily with the luggage. Maybe rails and stiles from poplar and center panel from plywood.

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Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
I'd use MDF, and I'd only be worried about the corners at the start of the corridorÖ maybe some stainless corner or something.

Do you mean wainscot paneling? Medite or MDF would work. Why not route in some maple hardwood on all high traffic corners? Don't forget to seal backs of paneling and check moisture content.

Bid high. Are you installing? Are you doing the finish? What is your warrantee?

You might consider beveling the sides of the stiles and rails into the panel. In high traffic areas with people dragging luggage behind them, a square corner will get beat up. At least a bevel would deflect the baggage and keep the damage down to scrapes that can be filled and painted by someone else. With the square stile, things could rip out chunks of wood, then you would have to fix it (for a price, of course). Itís more expensive to manufacture but worth it in the long run.

I would go MDF. All around except for the top cap. MDF paints great and itís easy to repair (most of the time). It also machines real well.

You can use poplar for stiles and rails, but I think it would yield the same results. I would consider using poplar on the outside corners if they can be hit.

You can also have them look into a tougher paint finish due to the situation, especially for white in a high traffic area. Itís going to look great when youíre through, but what about 3-6 months later?

As for bidding: First you have to determine exactly how you are going to manufacture it.
Only you know your shop's or your personal capabilities. Youíre on your own there.

If you want to reel in the designer, present the problems you see and have a solution to solve them. Present it in a non-threatening, non-insulting way. Give them the pros and cons of the situation (the trick is there are more pros for the way you want it done). Make them think they came up with the solution. Now youíre a team player and stand a good chance of getting more work from them.

From the original questioner:
I took my shop time and worked out how long it will take to do. Worked out the material at 60% yield, added 20%. I even included the price of the router bits, as they will be working hard on the MDF (something about ash damaging the carbide blades). Finishing time and cost of materials. Sundries. I came out with a number and then doubled it. (Hey, why not?) The designer is happy with the price and we are meeting tomorrow in my shop to discuss a start date and some other jobs he wants me to bid on. I hope this is the start of something, as I turned my business onto a new course not long ago and this is the first fruit bared from my new and revised POA.