Chair rail molding can be an elegant addition to any room, giving a welcoming, warm, traditional feel to living spaces.
Chair railing evolved hundreds of years ago as a way to protect walls from being scuffed by chairs and other furniture pieces. As a general rule of thumb, the height of chair railing was adjustable to the height of said furniture. To maintain a look of balance and proportion in a room that traditionally meant that a chair rail could be no higher at its top edge than a third of the distance from floor to ceiling.
Nowadays, while its value in protecting walls remains undiminished, chair rail molding is often more of a design statement. As a result the height of the chair rail has been freed from its former constraints somewhat. Some folks opt for chair railing that goes two thirds of the way up a wall (in nurseries and bathrooms); others stick with the more traditional proportions.
Over at the littlemisspennywenny.blogspot.com, our intrepid Miss Penny Wenny shares her first experience in DIYing a chair rail molding in her master bedroom:
Penny, an admitted traditionalist, went with a chair rail height that extended 40” up the master bedroom wall (matched to an antique wingback chair that is her pride and joy); slightly over a 1/3rd of her 8 foot high ceiling height.
Once the height of the chair rail had been determined, it was vital to carefully measure the length of rail required. Penny measured her walls and subtracted the width of doors and windows. While many times chair rail can be purchased in 8’ lengths and a simple calculation like this will indicate how many pieces to buy, Penny suggests that rather than stick religiously to that number, buy more than you strictly need. It is better to be able to have an unbroken line of molding than opting to go a cheaper route and “cut and paste” smaller lengths where necessary; an approach that will involve a lot of extra caulking on the back end.
Penny found that chair rail molding options were limited at her local home improvement stores; there was a choice of only two designs, neither of which suited her project. Because her home is a Craftsman cottage, she felt she needed a “boxier” look as she describes it, rather than the normal chair railing with its smooth curving profile.
She decided instead on using door casings, which have top angled edges, with curves below designed as they are to be used on doors and arches. An added bonus was that she could buy these casings already primed! The takeaway here is that you don’t have to be limited by the choices of so called “chair rail molding” available—you can get creative.
One of the tricky parts of installing molding is the need to cut the material to fit snugly together at corners. There are a couple of options available to a DIYer, a miter box which will aid in making the diagonal cuts necessary with a hand saw; or investing in a miter saw. The decision of which way to go really comes down to how much molding installation you have planned. The miter saw will pay for itself in saved effort and stress if you want to do a lot of it in future.
Miss Penny Wenny gives a great run-down of how she and her husband conquered the complexity of cuts and insured the flawless beauty of the end result. Better, she has great photographs of the finished project as well as many materials, tools and step-by-step how-to images at the link above.