In addition to adding depth to the wall and enhancing the character of a room, panel wainscoting serves a functional purpose. Panel wainscoting is paneling placed on the lower part of an interior wall. The addition of panel wainscoting provides an additional layer of support on the wall, making the wall more durable and better able to withstand damage from children and pets. Today, wainscot can be made from a variety of decorative materials, including tiles. Wainscot can even be as simple as having the lower part of the wall painted a different color from the upper part, and marking the division with a chair rail. Panel wainscoting, however, usually implies traditional wood paneling. Medieval European castles could be very grand, but the stone walls were cold and sometimes damp. In the early Renaissance, owners began installing panel wainscoting to make rooms more comfortable. They were very popular in Tudor England and remained so for a long time.
Today, panel wainscoting is usually positioned to reach to about three feet (0.9 m) up the wall. In the past, wainscot was sometimes installed to a much higher point, sometimes almost to the ceiling. The most common wood used for early wainscot panels was quartersawn oak.