Progress is finally being made on our renovations! Progress you can really see! Over the weekend S. and I completed our dining room DIY wainscoting and chair rail project. Who am I kidding? S. did most of the work; he is a jack of all trades: a mechanic, a carpenter, and one hell of a handsome ginger all rolled into one fine Southern gentleman. I know ladies. I really lucked out!
What you don’t know about S. is that he is a pro at putting up molding. He did all of this in a weekend on top of a time sucking trip to Lowes with me documenting him the whole way. Plus I was distracting him with questions about what he was doing and why, just so I could share his know-how with you all. Superhero badge earned!
You might be wondering what my contributions were to all of this hard work. Well…faux picture frame wainscoting and a chair rail were my idea in the first place. Oh…and I did the painting!
Alright Let’s Get to It! 8 Tricks to DIY Wainscoting:
No. 1 Paint Molding Before Putting It Up
Why? Its just easier. Be sure it is good and dry before installing. You will have to go back and touch up nail holes and smudges.
No. 2 Measure Twice, Cut Once
You know that saying. Well, our advice is actually to measure twice, have a second set of eyes check you, then cut once (Henry was fascinated with the tape measure). Measure each length of wall where you will be installing the chair rail. Our chair rail height is at 33 inches. This is based on where the top of our dining room chairs hit the wall. Measure your height on one wall where you start the chair rail. Use the laser level to make it level across the wall. Then work around the room, making sure that each new section of chair rail is even with the one before it. This is important if you have un-even floors. So we started with a height of 33 inches, but in the opposite corner the height is actually 33 ½ inches off the floor, but it looks level.
No. 3 Put Your Nails into the Studs
You can purchase one of those fancy stud finders, but S. prefers to use the outlet method. Basically, you use an outlet on the wall to find the stud. The outlet will be attached to one side of the stud. Tap up and down on either side of the outlet, listening for the higher more solid tone that signals a two-by-four. Then measure every 16 inches (studs are sometimes at 24 inches) to find the other studs and mark your molding or wall for the nail holes.
No. 4 Blunt the Ends of Finishing Nails
Use your hammer to lightly tap down the pointed end of the nail. This will help keep the molding from splitting.
No. 5 Corners are Easier than They Look
Cut first molding piece on its side at a 45 degree angle then cut its corner mate in the opposite direction on its side at a 45 degree angle. Make sure angles meet up before installing.
No. 6 Make the Height of and Spacing around Wainscoting the Same
No matter how long or how many boxes you do for the picture frame wainscoting, it will look better and uniform if they are all the same height and evenly spaced from the chair rail, baseboard, and each other. Our wainscoting is spaced 4 inches from these other elements.
No. 7 Make Picture Frames
Since we actually installed faux picture frame wainscoting, not the raised panel version, S. basically just made frames at the height and length we wanted for each box. He stapled the corners together on the back. Then he hung them on the wall with only a few, strategically placed nails in the studs.
No. 8 Caulk is Your Best Friend
Chances are your frames and chair rail will not be perfectly aligned at the corners without any gaps. Use caulk to fill in these corner seams and anywhere there are visible seams between the molding and wall. You can also use it or sheet rock mud to fill the nail holes. This will give that finishing touch to the chair rail and wainscoting.
Aren’t you ready to tackle that wainscoting or chair rail project now? I hope these tricks to DIY wainscoting help you out! As you can see we are still not done with the dining room. Stay tuned for our adventures with crown molding!