How to Install Chair Rail Molding

One Way to Dress up a Room is to Install Chair Rail Molding

By Mark J. Donovan

Installing chair rail molding is a great way to accent a kitchen, dining room, or even a hallway. Besides chair rail molding providing texture and character to a room it also provides functionality by protecting walls from chair damage. To install chair rail molding a few basic tools are required as well as a little upfront knowledge.

Chair rail molding is available in a variety of styles and materials. For large rooms, fancier and more elaborate chair rail moldings are commonly used.

For smaller rooms, simpler chair rail molding styles are normally used. In the end, however, it really comes down to personal preference and budget. Common woods used to fabricate chair rail molding include Poplar, Oak, and Maple.

Tools Required for Installing Chair Rail Molding

  • Hammer (or Pneumatic Finish Nail Gun with compressor)
  • Nail Punch
  • Miter saw
  • Sand Paper
  • Try Square
  • Putty Knife
  • Caulking Gun

Materials Required Installing Chair Rail Molding

  • Chair Rail Molding
  • Finish Nails (8d) or 2-1/2” finished nails for nail gun
  • Wood Filler
  • Stain/Paint
  • Interior Grade Caulk
Determining the Require Length of Chair Rail Molding and Height Location

To begin the process of installing chair rail molding, first measure the wall lengths to determine how many linear feet of chair rail molding is required. Try to purchase lengths that are consistent with the various wall measurements to reduce scrap material.

Prior to installing chair rail molding, stain or paint the material to reduce the amount of work later on.

Typically when installing chair rail molding, it is located 1/3 up the length of the wall for standard 8 foot high walls.

How to install chair rail

This effectively translates into a height of around 32 inches. You can also decide to locate its position on the wall, by positioning a chair up against the wall to see where it touches the wall.

After locating the desired height for the chair rail, use your measuring tape, pencil and level to extend the line around the room where the chair rail molding is to be installed.

Cutting and Installing Chair Rail Molding

Whenever possible use one length of chair rail molding per section of wall length. When unable to do this, use a scarf joint to join two sections of chair rail molding together. A scarf joint consists of 45o angled cuts on two lengths of chair rail molding that butt up against one another. A scarf joint creates a much cleaner look than simply butting to flat ends of chair rail molding up against one another. Make sure, however, that you make the seam over a wall stud so both ends can be fastened to the wall stud with nails.

Ideally the first piece of chair rail molding that is to be installed should be a section that butts up against an inside corner or door/window frame, where a square (90o) angled cut is required.

For corners make 45o mitered end cuts, however keep in mind that not all corners will be 90o. You may want to use a Try square to find out actual inside or outside angles and then divide the number by two for making mitered cuts. For example, an 88o inside angle measurement would require the two adjoining lengths of chair rail molding ends be cut at 44o each.

Make sure you have the chair rail molding positioned properly over the pencil mark lines before fastening it to the wall.

To install chair rail molding onto the wall use 8d finish nails, or a pneumatic finish nail gun with 2-1/2” finish nails. Make sure to nail the chair rail molding to the wall over wall studs. The nails must penetrate into the wall studs if the chair rail is to be properly fastened. Over each wall stud location place two nails, one over the other, into the chair rail molding. Be careful, however, to not position the nails too near the edges of the chair rail molding to prevent splitting.

Finishing Touches to Installing Chair Rail Molding

After installing the chair rail molding, countersink the nail heads with your hammer and nail punch, if you did not use a pneumatic finish nail gun.

Next, use your finger or a putty knife to fill in the nail holes with wood filler.

After the wood filler has dried, use sandpaper and lightly sand over the wood filler areas, as well as the entire length of the chair rail molding.

Next, apply caulk to the chair rail molding top and bottom seams and the joints, if you plan on painting the chair rail molding.

Finally, to complete the process of installing chair rail molding, apply a final coat of touch up paint, or stain, over the chair rail molding.

Dress Up Your Home with Crown Molding – For specific instructions on installing crown molding see the “Installing Crown Molding Ebook“.  The “Installing Crown Molding Ebook” will show you how to properly measure, select, cut and install crown molding like a professional carpenter.  It provides detailed instructions on every step in the process of installing crown molding and includes 28 instructional pictures! Order and Immediately Download today!. 100% Money-Back Guarantee if you are not satisfied.

For information on installing Window and Door trim see’s  Installing Interior Window Trim Ebook and  Installing Interior Door Trim Ebook.  These Ebooks are loaded with pictures and provide easy to understand, step-by-step instructions, on how to install interior window and door trim.

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