A chair rail is a kind of moulding that runs around a room at a height of about 30 inches or so from the floor. Chair rails get their name from their original purpose, which was to protect a wall from damage caused by the backs of chairs. For this reason, they are usually found in dining rooms, but we think you can put them anywhere. They can really add an instant polish and character to any space. Chair rails are a beautiful addition to any home, and one you may be surprised to learn you can complete yourself! If you’ve read our other DIY blogs, then you’ll find this installation to be somewhat similar. It’s all about measuring and cutting correctly to get that seamless, perfect fit.
Miter Saw and miter box
Angle measuring device
How to Choose Your Moulding and Where to Place It
The most important thing here is really your taste. While there are certain styles that are traditionally used for chair rails, if you find something that you like better, we say, go for it!
Typically, chair rails are placed at a height of 30-36” from the floor. To determine the appropriately sized rail for your space, you must first measure the ceiling height. For ceilings of over 10 feet, we recommend a moulding that’s about 7” wide. For shorter ceilings, 4” will do.
As far as style goes, the wider the rail, the more dramatic it tends to look. So if you’re going for a serious impact, choose a larger one. For a more subdued look, go smaller.
Visit our products page to view our chair rail mouldings.
Measure Your Walls and Mark Studs
Once you have determined the height you want to place the rail at, use a level to draw a line around the entire room. Then, measure the length to determine how much moulding you will need.
Use a stud finder to find the studs in your walls. Mark the locations with a pencil.
Cut the Moulding
Using your miter saw, cut the first piece of moulding. You will be using 90-degree angles for inside corners and those that butt against door or window frames. Cut at a 45-degree angle for all outside corners.
For inside corner joints, we recommend coping over mitering, as this results in a cleaner, smoother seam. To do this, one piece of moulding will be cut square at 90-degrees to butt up against the corner. The other piece will be cut at a slight angle to fit with it.
Mark the profile of the moulding with a pencil on the piece you will be coping. Then, use a coping saw to cut at a 5-degree angle along the edge. Be sure to clamp the moulding down to your work surface to make cutting easier. The two pieces should then fit together beautifully, with the coped one overlaying the square-cut piece.
Use this technique for all inside corner joints.
Attach the Chair Rail
Once all pieces have been cut, it’s time to fix them to the wall. It’s easiest to start with an inside corner and work from there. Attach the first piece to the wall with wood glue. Then nail the rail in place at the studs. Continue along the walls until all pieces are attached.
Caulk and Sand the Chair Rail
Use caulk to fill in any small gaps between the rail and wall. Then, lightly sand down the chair rail to prep for paint. This can also be done before installation if you prefer.
Fill in Nail Holes
You can now fill in the nail holes with colored putty. Use a bit of paint thinner on a cloth to remove any excess. This small step will ensure your chair rail looks as seamless and beautiful as possible.
Stain or Paint
Now you can stain or paint the chair rail with the colors of your choosing. It is always advisable to test the color on a small scrap first. This allows you to see how the final product will look.