One way to change the look of walls is to paint them. Another is to install a chair rail, which is a decorative molding applied about 24 to 48 inches from the floor. Chair rails run horizontally on the wall, protecting the area from dents or scuffs from chair backs.
You will need:
• Chair rail molding
• Wood filler
• Wood glue
• 2 ½-inch finish nails
• Interior wall paint
• Miter saw
• Nail set
• Pneumatic nailer
• Tape measure
• Small paintbrush
• Paintable caulk
Step 1: Use the tape measure to measure the length of the wall. Determine the length of chair rail molding needed, based on this dimension.
Step 2: Determine chair rail height by measuring the wall height and dividing it by three. Chair rails are commonly placed a third of the way up a wall from the floor. For a room with an eight-foot ceiling, the chair rail is usually installed between 32 and 36 inches from the floor. Or, put a chair against the wall and identify where it would hit the wall. Once chair rail height has been determined, make a level line around the length of the room, using the level, tape measure, and pencil. The level ensures that the line is straight when unlevel floors are present.
Step 3: Mark the first piece of molding at the miter saw. It is easiest to start with a door, window frame, or inside corner and make a 90-degree angle cut. Cut a piece of molding for each wall stretch, using 45-degree angled cuts for all corners. If the wall is longer than one piece of molding, miter together two pieces, using opposite 45-degree cuts where the ends meet to form the miter.
Step 4: Install molding, starting with one of the inside corners. Line the bottom of the molding up with the level line on the wall. Use the wood glue to attach the first piece. Secure the molding to the wall with the finishing nails and pneumatic nailer. To prevent splitting, insert nails into the high portions of the molding. Place nails into molding one above the other.
Step 5: If two pieces were mitered together in Step 3, this seam should be positioned over a wall stud so the ends of the molding can be nailed into the wood.
Step 6: Recess each nail head, using the nail set. Use wood filler to cover the nail holes. Lightly sand the molding to smooth nail holes and joints.
Step 7: Apply a bead of the caulk to the spots where the molding meets the wall. Use the caulk to fill in any other gaps or holes.
Step 8: Paint the chair rail to provide it with a finished appearance.