Installing Chair Rail Up Against a Staircase

How to Determine the Miter Angle between the Rising Staircase and the Abutting Chair Rail

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: Mark, I am installing chair rail in my basement. I am installing the chair rail on all of the walls including next to the stairs and up the stairs. I am trying to figure out how to miter the angles to intersect correctly into the staircase. The chair rail will be the same distance from the steps to the rail as it is around the room. At the bottom of the stairs there will be about 18 inches before the corner. I was looking for a video but have yet to find one. Thanks, Les.

Answer: Hi Les. For butting the ends of chair rail into standard square corners you should cope the ends as I show in my videos “How to Install Chair Rail” and “How to Cope Chair Rail“.

Where the chair rail butts into the rising staircase trim (I assume that is what you are talking about), use a sliding T Bevel Square to measure the angle between the rise in the staircase trim and the line for where the chair rail is to butt into it.

You can then adjust your miter blade angle to the angle on the sliding T bevel square. Just hold the square up against the miter saw to adjust the angle of the miter saw blade and then lock the miter blade into place.

You should then be able to cut the chair rail so that the end of it tapers perfectly into the rising stair case.

For the chair rail going up the staircase, I would suggest measuring from the outer edge of a stair tread up the same height as the height from the floor to the chair rail in the basement area.

Tips on installing chair rail

Repeat this measurement a couple of times on different stair treads and make a mark on the wall at each place with a pencil. Then use a straight edge to draw a line along the length of the wall intersecting the marks you made. This line should represent where the chair rail bottom edge should rest. You can cut the end of the chair rail off flush with the edge of the wall where the chair rail ends. You can also cut the edge so that it has a 15 degree open faced cut so that the edge of the chair rail tapers as it nears the end of the stair case wall.

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