Mission style wainscoting question

Hi - I would like to install mission style wainscoting on our walls. I'd like to do a 60" high plate shelf, plate rail, sub rail about 9" below the plate rail, a base board rail and vertical stiles between the three rails. I plan to paint the wall behind, paint the rails and stiles and install straight over the drywall, touching up with paint at the end.
However, I'm not sure how to ensure that I don't get expansion and contraction and therefore cracking of the paint at the joints. I don't have a biscuit joiner or anything else to properly join the stiles to the rails. I was hoping to find some MDF planks to use instead, but haven't managed to do so yet. Do you think that if I used wood, prepping it properly (keeping in room for several days, priming and painting on all six sides) would mean that I could use wood? Any other ideas to keep this looking good for several years? In terms of atmosphere, if it helps, we live in Washington DC.
Ta
mj
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (mj) wrote in message

Go with MDF. Get sheets from HD or Lowes and rip them down. If you don't have the tools to do that, pay them to rip them for you.
MDF barely moves so it that won't be a problem. You can use solid wood for the moldings as it is small enough that movement isn't a factor. Caulk all the joints prior to painting and you shouldn't have any problems.
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We have wainscoting on most of the downstairs walls in our 100+ year old house. Sounds like it is similar to what you are doing except ours are varnished and we don't have the plate rail. Anyway, it appears that if you want to do it like the old-timers did you should nail directly into the wall. Now our walls ARE lath and horsehair plaster so there is almost always something to nail to... but I would think you could glue them to the wall just as well. Of course if you ever decide to take them down you will tear the heck out of the dry wall.
Expansion doesn't seem to be any problem. Our wainscoting has ~1" wide stat with a ~1/8" bead in between them. The bead allows them to be installed individually without being joined and the normal slight gap you get by just butting them together seems to be enough to allow for any expansion.
Oh and it looks like the original wainscoting was made from pine or some other soft wood. I bought some at menards to fill in where we took out a door and they were definately pine. I'm not sure if this is the style your looking for, but if it is the purchased boards would be a LOT easier than making them all individually.
Jim
snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (mj) wrote in

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