Install Basic Chair Rail Molding Step-By-Step

What You'll Need
Chair Rail Molding
2 1/2 Finishing Nails
Coping and Miter Saw
Measuring Tape
Stud Finder

Chair rail molding can both protect walls from chairs and dramatically enhance the look of a room.

Step 1 – Measure Up The Walls

From the ground, measure 32 inches up and make a mark. This will be the point at which the bottom of the chair rail molding will set. Continue to go around the room making marks about 36 inches apart.

Step 2 – Find Studs

Use your stud finder and locate studs around the room. Mark each stud location just above the mark you made for the height.

Step 3 – Measure the Room

After you locate studs, measure the length of each wall that makes up the room. It is important to get a few more inches of molding to compensate for the miter and coping cuts.

Also remember to measure any dips or protrusions in the wall. Include this amount when you purchase the molding.

Step 4 – Make Your First Cut

Measure out the length of the wall onto the molding. Cut the ends square so it lays flush with the wall. Be sure to make exact measurements and cuts. If cuts are not precise, they will leave gaps and look sloppy.

Next, line up the molding with the bottom against the mark you made in Step 1. Nail the molding to the wall and into the studs.

Step 5 – Join Corners

You can use your coping saw to join the corners. With a pencil, trace the edge of a scrap of molding onto the back edge of the piece of molding that will be joined in the corner. Then cut it out and mount flush to the molding that is connected on the adjacent wall.

Step 6 – Caulk

If you choose to use caulk, you can apply it in the corners and along the top and bottom. You can also choose to fill in the nail holes or sink them into the molding with a nail set.  

When you are done with placing your molding and nailing it to the wall, you can put up a clear coat, stain or paint it. Most chair rails look best with a stain and clear coat finish. Adding a clear coat will help protect the molding from any damage from contact or liquid.

Always take your time while making measurements and cuts as inaccurate cuts can lead to gaps and rail misalignment. The final fit should be snug so you can slide the pieces down the wall and lock them in place. Consider practicing a few cuts before moving onto your actual pieces of chair rail molding.