Learn exactly how to download chair rail molding that will certainly take your residence from ordinary to elegant in one weekend.

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Family Handyman
Chair rail molding deserve to transform the figure of her living room, dining room or hallway, and installation goes easily when girlfriend prefinish the wood.

By the DIY professionals of The household Handyman Magazine

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All about chair rail molding

The original purpose of chair rail molding, specifically dining room chair rail, was to protect walls from being damaged by chair backs. Today, this chair rail molding is a fast means to stylishly define a dining room, living room or entry hall, specifically when supplied to separate wallpaper indigenous paint, or in between two various colors that paint.

This article will show you just how to install chair rail molding, with tips to do the task go faster and also easier and with less wasted material. Chair rail is accessible in a range of woods and also styles, from inexpensive paint-grade pine to large, an extremely expensive hardwood profiles. Friend can additionally make your very own chair rail molding through standard trim or clear “1-by” material. The special-order cherry molding us used expense $5 per ft.

To cut the chair rail, you’ll require a miter saw and a coping saw with extra chisels (they rest easily). A end up nailer isn’t for sure necessary yet will give you faster, far better results.

Make a sketch, then walk shopping

Sketch out the floor setup of the room, note the exact length of each ar of wall. Add a foot come each size for rubbish to gain the minimum dimension you need for every wall. As soon as you decide on a style, you’ll should do part juggling to do the typical lengths the the lumberyard sells fit the lengths that you need. The best way to store track of what item goes where and also avoid wasting expensive timber is to make notes ~ above the sketch. Here are part shopping tips:

When possible, buy piece of chair rail molding long sufficient to expectations the whole wall; otherwise, you’ll have to splice part (Photo 7).If you arrangement to stain and also varnish the chair molding, choose pieces with similar grain pattern and also color.Check each item for flaws such together splits and tear-out.To avoid heavy sanding, pick pieces that have a smooth surface. Watch the end for deep “chatter marks” (a wavy surface left through the milling machine).Home centers only bring a few pine and also oak chair rails. For a bigger selection, ask about special-order chair railing file or visit a lumberyard that caters to experienced contractors.Many types and combinations of moldings can be used as chair rail, even if they aren’t called chair rail.

Also use your sketch to plan the ar of coped cuts, so that you don’t end up through pieces that need to be coped in ~ both ends. If possible, situate coped piece on wall surfaces where the non-coped end can be significant in place. That means you deserve to shave the coped cut down, or even recut that if you have actually to, prior to you cut it to length. Also pros have to tweak your cuts, so leaving yourself a small extra lumber to work-related with.


Get much better Results v an wait Nailer

Until the 1990s, air nailers to be so high value that numerous carpenters didn’t use them. They’re a totality lot cheaper now; even if you do just occasional carpentry, they’re well worth the investment. No only have the right to you nail trim faster and also easier, however you’ll obtain better-looking results. The skinny pond are much less likely to separation wood, and they leave smaller holes that are less complicated to hide. Hammer dents and also bent nails space no much longer a concern.


Air nailer because that installing chair rail
chair rail molding prep

Photo 1: mark studs

Locate studs and mark them v masking tape. If brand-new wallpaper or repaint is component of the project, complete those jobs prior to you install chair rail.


How High is a Chair Rail?

Apply wallpaper or repaint high sufficient (or short enough) for the chair rail come cover the edge. Chair rail elevation is commonly 36 in. Above the floor yet can be installed almost everywhere from 30 in. Come 42 in., v wallpaper either above or below.

Lightly note the bottom of the chair rail every 3 ft. About the perimeter that the room. Measure from the baseboard, the ceiling or the floor—whichever is most consistent. Find and mark every the studs (Photo 1).


Split the Difference

In larger houses, wherein level floors and ceilings might be only a remote memory, perfect level chair rail have the right to actually look at crooked. The finest solution is to overlook the level and follow a damage line halfway in between level and the closest visual reference point—usually the baseboard. If in doubt, tack up a test item or a piece of tape, then stand back and watch if the looks right.


prefinish chair rail molding

Photo 2: Finish prior to installing

Prefinish the chair rail molding for much less mess and smoother results. Apply the final coat after installation the chair rail and also filling pond holes.


For a job with sharp, fresh edges, stain and also varnish (or paint) the chair rail prior to nailing it increase (Photo 2). Prior to the first coat, sand all the chair rail lightly however thoroughly v 180-grit sandpaper. Test the finish on scrap piece to make certain the color looks right. To match existing trim, you’ll have to experiment top top scraps of chair rail. Don’t assume the stain colors will certainly look the same on her chair rail together they perform on save displays.

Cope corners because that a perfect fit


coping saw

Photo 3: cope cuts

Cope inside corners by cutting follow me the profile left by a 45-degree miter cut. Hold the coping saw at an angle to “backcut” the chair rail.


Photo 4: Fine-tune the cut

Perfect the right of coped ends v a file, rasp, energy knife or sandpaper. Don’t try to shave off thin slices v a coping saw.


chair rail molding

Photo 5: Solve difficulties with covert shims

Close a space with a shim. On slide the shim under the uncoped end to force it versus the coped end. This just works if the space is follow me the lower half of the chair railing joint.


Wall corners are practically never perfectly square, however coped joints covering this difficulty by installation tightly versus the adjoining piece also if the corner is a couple of degrees off.

Cut the piece for the very first side that the corner at 90 degrees and also nail that in place—but keep the pond a foot earlier from the corner for now. Reduced the coped end of the next piece and tweak it until the joint is tight (Photos 3 and 4).

Here room some tips because that making smooth, accurate cope cuts:

Make certain the witnessed teeth suggest toward the handle. That way, the blade will reduced smoothly ~ above the pull stroke.Practice top top scraps. You’ll it is in surprised at just how much your copes boost after a couple of practice cuts.Clamp the chair rail to a solid work surface. Cuts space smoother and also easier if the molding can’t shift or wiggle.Don’t force the observed forward. Make smooth, even strokes, using light front pressure.

If the an initial wall isn’t perfect plumb, you might need to glue a slim shim under the bottom edge come tighten the share (Photo 5). Don’t reduced off the shim in place—you may damages the wall. Instead, note it, and then traction it the end to reduced it.

Once the coped joint looks right, organize it in place and mark the cut at the various other end. Only one end should be coped. The other finish will always be one of two people an outside corner or a 90-degree cut. Here’s much more on developing coped corners.

Test exterior corners for a chop fit


Photo 6: use scraps for test cuts

Find the miter reduced angle on exterior corners through an edge finder or just by cutting and also recutting check pieces until they form a tight corner.


Outside corners regularly flare the end slightly, so that the chair rail demands to be reduced at more than 45 degrees. To acquire the specific angle, reduced two scrap pieces at 46 degrees, then change the angle of the cut until the joint is tight (Photo 6). Both sides need to be cut at the very same angle.

Spread hardwood glue on among the ends prior to nailing the chair railing piece to the wall. Don’t pond within 2 in. The the finish unless you’re using a brad nailer or predrilling, to avoid splitting the wood.


Create a “Return” at an Archway

To end chair rail in ~ an archway or corner, form a return an customs from the corner. As soon as you cut the return, leave the witnessed blade down until the blade stops spinning to stop nicking the return as it drops away indigenous the blade.

First, cut a return piece the broad of the chair rail. Clamp a 1×4 come the fence so the observed blade won’t mangle the return.

Next, press the return right into place through a small wood glue and hold it for a minute till the glue starts come set. Don’t pond the return—it’s too small.


Cut a return in a chair rail in ~ an archway opening.Use care when cutting a chair rail return.Glue the chair rail return in place.

Photo 7: Scarf joint

Join sections of chair rail through a 30-degree “scarf” joint at a stud. Because that a solid joint, use glue in enhancement to nails.


If your wall surface is too lengthy for a solitary piece the chair rail, you can inconspicuously sign up with two pieces by cutting the ends at 30 degrees and also gluing them with each other (Photo 7).

Select 2 chair railing piece with comparable grain. Measure and also cut the 2 pieces so that the splice occurs on a stud. Place the height piece so that all the edges line up, then nail it come the wall. Wipe away glue drips and touch up through filler and extr finish if necessary.


Cut a “Bevel” at Thin home window Casing

Some varieties of chair rail molding space thicker than window and door casing. To settle this problem, bevel-cut the chair rail as displayed in the picture with a shallow 45-degree bevel cut. Apply finish come the cut prior to you pond it up to prevent getting finish on the casing.


Cut a shallow bevel in ~ the finish when you download thick chair rail versus thin casing.
fill nail holes in chair rail molding

Photo 8: fill holes

Fill pond holes with colored putty. Blend different colors that putty to perfectly complement the color of the wood. Then apply the final coat of clear finish.


Before applying the final coat of finish, fill all pond holes. Use colored wood putty—either oil or water-based—to to fill holes in herbal woodwork (Photo 8). If girlfriend don’t have the appropriate shade, blend various colors v your fingers for a far better match. Wipe far excess filler with a rag dipped in thinner for the oil-based putty, or water for the water-based product.

Use spackling dough for painted chair rail molding. Sand that flush, spot-prime the nail holes, climate repaint.

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Figure A: plate or Chair Rail Design

The methods used to install a chair rail molding can additionally be provided to make a key rail or a heavier, built-up chair rail. In addition to being visually interesting, a accumulated chair rail molding prefer this deserve to be used to screen photos, artwork and also knickknacks. Plate rails space usually installed around five feet above the floor.


Parts because that a bowl rail or chair rail

Required tools for this Project

Have the essential tools because that this DIY chair rail molding project lined up before you start—you’ll conserve time and also frustration.Air compressorAir hoseBlock planeBrad pond gunClampsCoping sawCordless drillFileHammerLevelMiter sawOrbital sanderPaintbrushPry barPutty knifeRagsSafety glassesStud finderUtility knife

Required materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready front of time. Here’s a list.1-1/2-in. Brad nailsChair railColored lumber putty or fillerFinishPainter"s tapeWood glueWood shims