DIY: Installing Chair Rail Moulding

Chair rail is basically just a piece of moulding that runs all the way around your room. Chair rail moulding will protect your walls from the scuff marks caused by furniture (such as chairs) rubbing up against the walls. But even if you’re careful not to scuff your walls, you may enjoy the decorative look of chair rail moulding. Here’s how you can add this easy but dramatic design element to your home…

First, let’s see how much moulding you’ll need. Measure the length of each wall in the room (or rooms) that you want to add chair rail moulding to. Add the lengths of all the walls together, to get the total perimeter of the room in feet.

Off to the building supply store! You’ll see a selection of mouldings to choose from. They all install essentially the same way, so just choose whatever design appeals to you. moulding typically comes in 8-foot pieces. If your room didn’t come out to a multiple of 8 feet, round up. (You might need a little extra for working it around the corners anyway.)

While you’re at your favorite building supply or home improvement store picking out moulding, be sure to pick up a box of small nails and a nail-punch and container of wood filler. Ask the store staff for help, to make sure that you get the right size nails for your moulding.

Once you get home, it’s time to mark where your chair rail moulding will go. Don’t skip his step!! I know it’s tempting to skip the tedious marking parts of some projects, but for this one it’s essential that your entire room is marked before you start nailing.

Measure up from the floor 23 inches, and make a mark on your wall. Move over about 2 feet and do it again. Go around the whole room doing that about every two feet. Use a straight-edge to connect all the marks. You should end up with a continuous line going all the way around the room. If your line doesn’t connect smoothly all the way around, it usually means that your floor isn’t even. That’s a common problem, especially in older houses.

If you discover that your uneven floor made your wall marks come out wrong, go back and adjust some of your mark (up or down) until you get a line around the room that’s level. It doesn’t have to be exactly 23 inches. It’s more important to be level. If one side of the room is 23 inches and the other is 22 because your floor is uneven, it will still look right as long as the chair rail moulding is level.

Starting at one corner, nail your chair rail moulding up, with the bottom edge of the moulding of the line you drew on the walls. Put one nail in about every two feet. If you have to splice together two pieces along the wall, cut the two pieces at 45-degree angles, one in each direction, so that one piece slides behind the other where they join. Put a couple extra nails in at that point, to be sure your splice stays together.

In the corners, where the pieces come together, you’ll cut 90-degree angles, and put a couple extra nails where they come together too. After all your nails are in, go around with the nail-punch and give each nail a tap to counter-sink it.

Finally, go around all the nails you just counter-sank and wipe a bit of wood filler in each indentation. Wipe it carefully and smoothly, and you won’t even have to sand it later. After the wood filler dries, you can paint or stain your chair rail moulding if you like.

This easy project will really change the look of a room. You can even take it a step further by painting or wallpapering the walls above and below the chair rail moulding. You can use two different paints, or paint one and wallpaper the other, and the chair rail moulding provides a natural visual break between the sections that makes it work.

Enjoy your room’s new look!

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