How To Install Chair Rail Molding? Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Helen Skeates
Helen Skeates
15 min read

Make sure you finish reading this 5-step guide if you’ve never installed chair rail molding before. Chair rail moldings were originally erected for functional and defensive reasons, but their use has expanded through time to become a decorative advantage instead.

Chair rail molding is a great way to add function and beauty to a room. If you follow a few simple instructions, you may have one in your room in no time at all.

What Is Chair Rail Molding?

The term “dado rail” refers to the molding used to create a chair rail. Molding that is put horizontally along the perimeter of a room near the middle of the wall is known as this form of molding. The purpose of the molding is purely aesthetic rather than functional.

It does provide scratch resistance, but it also has other advantages. The dado rail is often a few feet above the floor. We’ll get into this in greater depth in the near future. In the beginning there was chair rail molding.

History Of Chair Rail Molding

Repeatedly, the history of chair rail molding is repeated. Every time there is a new genesis story and a new reason for its existence. The phrase “chair rail” is often attributed to the rails that Shakers used to hang their chairs on.

The Right Way to Install Chair Molding - YouTube

They would use pegs in wood to hang chairs up so that they could dry and clean the floor underneath. Another possibility is that they were there to keep the chairs from damaging the walls. Neither of these is out of the question.

Nonetheless, chair rail molding, or dado rails, were most likely installed in order to create a sense of symmetry and beauty on the walls. The origins of this form of molding are still a mystery, as it has been found in structures from the Ancient Egyptian and Greek periods.

Crown Molding Vs. Chair Rail Molding

Chair rail molding and crown molding are quite similar, yet they are also very different. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, crown molding can also be utilized to fill up gaps. When it comes to dado rails, the opposite is true.

At the center or at the height of the waist, a chair rail molding can be found. The crown molding is always positioned at the top of a room. A matching set, including the footing and baseboards, may be found if you’re lucky.

Standard Chair Rail Height

One-third of the ceiling height from the floor is a common location for chair rails. Chair rails are typically placed 32 inches from the floor in rooms with 8-foot ceilings, for example. However, this is merely a guideline.

In order to have a more balanced appearance, placing it halfway up can assist, but it may appear odd. While railings at the halfway point can make a space appear smaller, those at the one-third point can make a room appear larger.

Other Ways To Make Your Room Look Bigger

If a nice chair railing height isn’t enough to make your space appear larger, you may want to consider alternative options. Almost everyone desires this.

You don’t have to live in a tiny house to desire a larger one. Even individuals who live in 5000-square-foot homes should be able to make their spaces appear larger. Use these tricks to make your space appear larger and more spectacular.

Light Colors And Cool Colors

Dark hues, without a doubt, give the impression that spaces are much smaller than they actually are. The opposite is true, though, with light hues. Because it is lighter and more open than any other hue, white is perhaps the greatest choice because it allows the most light to enter.

However, hardly any shade of white will do. Warm hues like red and orange, no matter how light they are, have the ability to shut in a space. If you want to make your space feel airier, stick to light shades of blue, green, and white.

Multipurpose Furniture

Compact living quarters benefit greatly from multi-purpose furnishings. However, the fact that two pieces of furniture might occupy the same space makes a room appear larger. As an illustration, consider using a bunk-bed desk.

A bunk bed with a desk on the lower bunk saves a lot of room. It’s possible to sleep on the top bunk while using the space below it, which does not have a “bed,” as storage or a workstation.

Exposed Legs

That’s what I mean by furniture legs. With a few simple adjustments, you can make a room appear considerably larger. An open-leg bed or table with no cloth will give the impression of a larger space.

In this regard, couches play a critical role. Because rooms with low-to-the-ground furniture and skirting appear smaller when the sofa’s legs are visible. When looking for a couch, have this in mind.

Small Scales

Consider purchasing miniature replicas of larger works of art and sculpture instead. This might provide the illusion of a much larger space. Not just because it leaves more space in the room but also because it has a special effect.

Adding little items to a room makes it appear larger than it actually is. This is the same way that a fairy garden can make your actual garden look larger. You can also utilize garden gnomes instead of full-sized statues.

How to Install Chair Rail Molding - Today's Homeowner

Use Mirrors

A room appears larger when there are more little objects in it. For example, you can make your garden appear larger by putting in a fairy garden. The employment of garden gnomes instead of full-sized statuary, for example.

Paneless Windows

In smaller rooms, windows with a lot of panes appear cluttered and overdone. That’s why you should look for windows with wide panes or no panes at all. Large windows are best served with picture windows.

Using clerestory windows, which are higher but have thinner panes of glass, allows for more light to enter your room, giving the illusion that it is more spacious. Choose windows that fit in with your room’s layout by looking at all the options.

Long Curtains

The appearance of a small wall can be exacerbated by using short curtains. Instead, opt for drapes or curtains that extend all the way to the floor, starting at the ceiling. However, if you want to go with shorter curtains, you need to be careful.

Ideally, the curtains should have a simple pattern and end at the correct place. Before purchasing curtains, try adjusting the height with a sheet or buy a long curtain and cut it in half. You should only attempt this if you are proficient in the art of sewing a hem.

Low And High

Both, yes. Don’t install art or bookcases in the middle of a wall. You should instead maintain a balance of high and low points. High art might be paired with low shelves or vice versa. Putting them all in the center would be the worst thing you could do.

Generally speaking, eye height is a good thing, but in smaller places, you want to draw the eye upward. Even if your ceilings are just seven feet instead of nine feet high, the illusion of a higher ceiling will be created.

Keep Good Flow

Making a place appear larger may be the most crucial step. Keeping a steady pace. This means that you want people to be able to walk across a room without stumbling or zigzagging around obstacles.

As a result, it appears larger and more open. When learning about color theory, keep in mind the concept of flow to help you design a space that is harmonious rather than chaotic. There’s no place for disorder in the design of a home.

Chair Rail Molding Installation Guide

Step #1. Measure the walls and chair rail

Find out how much chair rail molding you’ll need before heading to your local hardware store. Install a chair rail by measuring the distance from the top of the chair rail to the floor. To get an idea of how long the walls are, measure them and record the measurements.

You’ll also need to figure out where the molding will go. One third of the room’s total height is reserved for chair rail molding installation. A chair rail can be installed at a distance of 32 inches (2.67 feet) from an 8-foot-high ceiling, which is safe.

In measuring, begin down with the floor for the first inch upward until you reach the 32nd-inch mark. Then, draw or tape new lines on the wall.

Step #2. Prepare other tools and materials

Measure from the floor to the 32nd-inch mark by starting at the bottom and working your way up. Then, mark the wall again with pencil or tape.

You may also have to choose between wood and plastic moldings. ‘ If you have sloping walls, polyurethane molding is a better option than wood.

To attach the molding, decide whether to use a brad nailer or finish nails and hammer. You will need a stud finder, wood glue or adhesives, a miter saw, colored putty, coping saw, sandpaper, and varnish to complete this project.

Step #3. Cut moldings and corners

Prior to making any cuts, use the stud finder to locate and label the wall studs. Over the stud, if one molding is shorter than your wall, the other molding should connect to the first molding. Apply this to all the joints that you can find.

Using a coping saw, cut a 45-degree angle into the molding’s edge at the inside corner. Join the molding by doing this. Work the crossings until they are perfectly aligned before continuing on.

For the outside corners, you’ll need to cut the molding parts at an angle of at least 46 degrees. To get the correct cutting tips, you can make do with scraps. Both pieces must fit snugly before the joint can be considered complete.

Instead of cutting a square end zone for the chair rail, make a “return” with an outside 45-degree angle cut and the thickness of the chair rail. The opposite sliver can be made from a scrap piece once more.

Step #4. Glue and nail to the wall

Attaching all of the chair rail moldings is now possible because to the marks you made on the wall earlier. As well as brads and finishing nails, consider using wood glue or construction adhesives.

Simply tack in the nails with the gun when using a brad air nailer. Finish nails should be used if the moldings are not already secured. When you’re gluing two components together, go overboard with the adhesive.

Step #5. Fill holes and gaps

Finally, use a colored putty to fill in all of the wood’s cracks and crevices. You can mix and combine hues to get the perfect chair rail color. To give the chair rail a polished look, you can caulk the seams.

Cost to Install Chair Rail Molding

Don’t let your renovation budget be blown out of proportion because of unanticipated expenses — use our simple calculator to find out how much Chair Rail Molding should cost in your area. In 2022, how much will it cost to install chair rail molding and how much will a contractor charge? This is the page for you.

As a certified and experienced home improvement contractor, I can tell you exactly how much it should cost to upgrade your home from the most basic to the most luxurious. Estimates for the installation of chair rail molding in your region will be provided by this estimator. Your zip code and square footage are all that is needed to get a breakdown of how much it will cost to install chair rail molding in your home when you click the “update” button.

*Keep in mind that the more Chair Rail Molding you place, the less it costs to install.

Chair Rail Molding – Pricing and Installation Cost Checklist

  • There will be a wide range of Chair Rail Molding pricing available, since each business has its own set of operating costs and overhead to contend with.
  • Wait until late fall or early winter to acquire a price quote from a contractor, as this is their slowest time of year.
  • In addition to the price our chair rail molding calculator estimates, plan on spending 7-15 percent more.
  • The installation of chair rail molding is a difficult task that might leave you with a hurting back. A General Contractor may be more cost-effective than doing the work yourself. If you’re looking to save money on Chair Rail Molding supplies, ask your neighbors if they can recommend a general contractor who can do a better job than you can.

Does A Chair Rail Have To Match The Baseboard Color?

It’s important to have one unifying element in a room, even if the area has a lot of different hues. To accomplish this, use a chair rail color that complements the baseboard color. For example, you can experiment with with different hues for the chair rail and molding, but remember to keep the colors balanced.

How to Install Chair Rail and Picture Frame Moulding - YouTube

What Can I Use Instead Of Chair Rail?

There are a variety of chair rail alternatives that can be utilized in place of the typical one. Tile, paint textures, stencils, cuts and borders from wallpapers, and even ribbons can achieve the same visual appeal.


Decorating and protecting your little area from chair damage will be a breeze now that you know how to install chair rail molding. Designing your own chair rail can also be a fun pastime for those who are creative. After you’ve completed the installation, take some time to admire your hard work.

Helen Skeates

Helen Skeates

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