Installing Chair Rail




About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

Chair rail moulding is a great way to spruce up a room and protect its walls from wily and dangerous chair backs. If left to their own devices, chairs would dent up all of your walls and make you mad. It is therefor imperative that you keep those walls safe by placing a solid protective barrier at 36" to 42" up from the floor.

The chair rail was first discovered in Europe around the time that our early ancestors first learned to sit. What originated as a wooden plank stuck humbly (and often hastily) to the wall has evolved over time into a type of fancy-schmancy decorative molding. It is now customarily installed into the room of one's first newborn child, as babies are at the greatest risk of exposure to chairs. Typically, during the later stages of pregnancy, the mother-to-be will supervise the installation of chair rail while the dominant males of the family passionately discuss the accuracy of measurements.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

You will need:
- Enough chair rail molding to cover the perimeter of your room
- Chop saw
- Nail gun (preferable over hammer and nails)
- Window glazing
- Tape measure
- A pencil
- A level
- Studfinder
- Calk gun
- Sandpaper
- Paper towels

(You will also need paint if you're molding comes unfinished. This Instructable does not cover painting molding, but you would want to do that before you move on to the next step.)

Step 2: Prepare the Wall

Move furniture away from the wall. Gape at the wall. Move onto the next step.

Step 3: Measure and Mark

Measure 36" - 42" up from the floor and make a mark. In our case we measured 40" up from the floor and used this as the height of the top of the molding.

Measure vertically in a few different spots and then using these measurements and a level, draw a horizontal line around the perimeter of the room (or walls you want to cover).

Step 4: Measure Some More

Measure the distance along the wall of the first section you would like to cover. Invariably there will be a door frame or window, which will determine the lengths of continuous sections of molding.

For instance, in this picture they are measuring the long distance between the door frame and wall and then the tiny distance between the wall and window frame. They are going to cut two pieces to make up the first continuous section.

Step 5: Cut the Molding

Cut the molding to your measurements using the chop saw. Where the molding meets, cut each piece at a 45 degree angle such that they meet at a right angle.

To do this, cut the end of one piece at 45 degrees, then rotate the next piece of molding so that the same face remains upwards, but it now appears "upside down." Make another cut. These two cuts should join smoothly at 90 degrees (see image notes).

Step 6: Studs

Find the wall studs using a stud finder. Mark lightly with pencil just above the horizontal line you drew earlier.

Step 7: Attach the Molding

Put caulk along the backside of the sections of molding and then stick it to the wall, such that the top of the molding is level with the horizontal line on the wall.

Use your nail gun to more permanently attach the molding to each wall stud. For each stud, place a nail to the upper and lower part of the molding.

When you are done fastening it, apply caulk evenly between the molding and the wall, as well as at the 90 degree joint. Before it dries, wipe it up with a wet paper towel, such that none is left on the wall and no extra is left on the moulding.

Step 8: Touch Up

If any nails are sticking out, set them into the molding with a nail set.

Once all of the nails are nicely set, touch up the nail holes with window glazing.

Step 9: Rinse Repeat

Repeat this process for the remainder of the room's perimeter. Your room should now be safe from chairs.

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    32 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 9

    i thought it was going to be like a rail in the floor that the chair is guided along


    8 years ago on Introduction

    dado rail sez what?

    Change the title to Installing Chair/Dado Rail

    as we all don't live in the united states of americans

    6 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Well, that is where I live and where I live, that is what we typically call it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Just as a point of interest what do you call a picture rail in the States? It's similar to your chair/dado rail but about 500 mil /1' from the ceiling and you hang pictures from it via a picture hook.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Not sure what those are called... I've seen them in some really nice older houses that have been refurbished/modernized. Now that you've mentioned it... those would be great in my house!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, I'm not saying remove chair rail, i'm saying so more people understand the instructable add dado.

    I had to read into the instructable to find out its not something to do with blue tape on the floor.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I did the same, I thought this was to stop a chair rolling about the floor.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah but, no offense, several people have voiced their not being American (myself included), and Instructables is an international community, and surely you want your 'able to have the most exposition possible?


    8 years ago on Introduction


    One more thing. I always called them chair rails. A dado was a method to make a joint between pieces ot materiel.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Randofo- Thank you for this instruc. I worked construction for 21 years, installing Bank Vault doors and other bank related equipment. You might ask what bank vault equipment has to do with a chair rail, but it does, and here is why-

    Besides installing the heavy iron (Vaults and Safes and weapons vaults for the government) our company also produced Bank Teller line counters and the the cabinets below the counters for the tellers. Those 'teller lines' as we called them were pre-fabricated and shipped to the job site, and we had to put them all together.

    Most times we had to do some cutting and hacking on them to fit right. When you showed how to cut a 45 degree angle on one piece, then flip it around with the same face up, I about died.

    All those years being ignorant, when the simplicity of the 90 degree angle was right in front of me, I always hated to cut the 45 degree and 90 degree cut.

    Thank you for this build! I guess it is never too late to learn something...James


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    SLAC's BaBar experiment used a 12-sector proton collision ring, by the look of it.
    Cherenkov Imaging Techniques are the way to visualise particle collisions.

    So it's basically an imaginary room with no windows, no doors, no walls, and a homicidal mime out back. In technical terms, it's a mushroom. ;-)


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    :-D I'm not! I'm inside the drift chamber access area of the (now decommissioned) BaBar experiment at SLAC. The twelve sectors you see around me are the back ends of ~11,000 photomultiplier tubes which read out Cherenkov radiation from charged particles.