How to Install Picture Rail Molding

Why make holes in the wall when you can hang photos and art this way?
Wainscoting Used as Bedroom Shelf

Wainscoting Used as Bedroom Shelf

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Picture rail molding provides both visual interest and a way to hang pictures without making numerous holes in the wall. To determine how much you need, decide how high you want to install the molding and measure the perimeter of the room at that height, and then add an additional 10 percent to the measurement. Note that picture rail molding is typically installed within 12 inches of the ceiling and shouldn't be installed above any window or door casings, so be sure to subtract those areas when you're measuring.

To install the molding, follow these instructions:

Materials and Tools:

picture rail molding
2- or 3-inch all-purpose screws
wood putty or sealant
paint and paintbrush or stain and materials
drill with magnetic Phillips bit and countersink bit
stud sensor
coping saw
miter saw or miter box and handsaw
measuring tape
safety glasses


1. Paint or stain the molding and allow it to dry thoroughly before beginning installation.
2. Transfer the measurements of your room to the molding and cut the pieces to length in straight (90-degree) cuts.
3. Use a stud sensor to find the wall studs all the way around the room. Mark them lightly at the level at which you plan to install your molding.
4. Hold a piece of molding in place and transfer the stud measurements to it. Repeat the process with the molding for the opposite wall.
5. Using a countersink bit, drill pilot holes in the molding at the stud marks.
6. Use a level to create an even line all the way around the room at the height you chose for your molding. Use this line as a guide to keep your molding level.
7. Attach the two pieces of molding to the wall with screws at least 2 inches long. The longer the screw, the more weight your molding will be able to bear. Be sure the screws are driven into the studs.
8. To create the corners, you'll need to cope the ends of the two remaining molding pieces to fit over the two pieces you already installed. To do that, miter-cut the ends in a 45-degree angle, and then, with the front of the trim facing you, use a coping saw to trim away under the molding at an angle.
9. Use a file to smooth rough edges.
10. Dry-fit the molding and trim it as necessary to ensure a tight fit.
11. When the end pieces fit well, transfer the stud measurements on the walls onto the molding and drill pilot holes as before.
12. Attach remaining pieces of molding to the wall.
13. Cover the screw holes with putty or sealant. When it's dry, sand the rough spots and touch up the molding with paint as necessary.

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