Installing Wainscoting, Baseboards and Chair Rail

Add texture, depth and architectural interest to any room with beadboard panels and decorative molding.
HRIPR304-wainscoting

HRIPR304-wainscoting

White wainscoting and decorative molding are paired with chocolate brown walls for a sophisticated dining room.

White wainscoting and decorative molding are paired with chocolate brown walls for a sophisticated dining room.

Materials and Tools:

table saw or circular saw
brad nailer and nails
wood glue
chair-rail and baseboard molding
wainscoting
miter saw
drill
router
coping saw
utility knife
crowbar
laser level and standard level

Steps:

1. Measure the walls to be covered, and draw a layout of the room. Indicate the measurements of the walls on your drawing. Use the measurements to help determine how much molding to purchase.

2. Set a laser level to the desired height of the wainscoting. Measure from the laser line down to where the baseboard will fit, based on the height of the wainscoting boards.

3. Mark the wall with the chalk line at the point where the top of the chair rail will sit.

4. Remove your old baseboard. If you are reusing the same baseboard, score the top of it with a utility knife to separate the paint from the wall. This will help prevent the paint from peeling off the baseboard. Use a crowbar to help pull the baseboard off the wall.

5. Many stores sell baseboard that has been precut with notch in the back that allows the wainscoting panel to easily fit in behind it. If you are using the pre-notched baseboard, cut it to size with a miter saw and attach it to the wall with wood glue and a nail gun.

HRIPR304-corner-chair-rail

HRIPR304-corner-chair-rail

Fitting the inside corners of the chair rail together.

Fitting the inside corners of the chair rail together.

6. Cut the wainscoting to fit around the room. Wherever the panels meet along a straight portion of the wall, cut the panels on a 45-degree angle so the pieces will match up to hide the seams. One piece should be cut at a 15-degree angle to the front and the complementary angle on the back. Join pieces in the corners with 45-degree angles. (Wainscoting panels are often sold with pre-cut angles.)

7. Generously apply carpenter’s glue to the back of each panel and then slide the wainscoting into the notch on the backside of the baseboard. Place the level horizontally and vertically against the first piece of wainscoting to make sure it’s straight and level. When it is level, nail the wainscoting to the wall. (Nail into the studs whenever possible.)

8. Continue with the remaining panels. If there are any electrical or cable outlets or phone jacks exposed, measure and mark the location on the piece of wainscoting to make cutouts. Using a drill with a bit large enough to fit a jigsaw blade, drill a hole on the edge of the area to be removed. Be sure to drill within the mark, then cut around the marked area with a jigsaw, starting in the drilled hole.

9. If you do not have pre-notched baseboard, glue and nail the baseboard molding to the wall. Be sure the baseboard is also cut on an angle to hide the seams.

10. Use glue and the nail gun to fasten the chair-rail molding over the top of the wainscoting. For the corners of the chair rail, scribe the ends so that it locks in tightly.

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