How To Install A Chair Rail – Part I

By Todd Fratzel on Finish Carpentry

picture of chair railIn this series of posts I’ll be explaining how to install a chair rail. The design for the chair rail we are using is covered in Final Chair Rail Selection. Installing a chair rail is an intermediate level DIY project.

The basic tools you’ll need are:
1. Level
2. Stud Finder
3. Tape Measure
4. Miter Saw
5. Table Saw
6. Finish Nailer or Finish Nails and Hammer
7. Caulking Gun

I purchased 1×8 finger-jointed primed pine to cut the back and top rails out of. I ripped the material down on the table saw. The first step in the project was to rip down the 2-1/2″ wide back rails and the 2″ wide top rails. I decided to place the chair rail 36″ above the floor. So I went around the room and marked a line at 35-1/4″ (top of back rail) above the floor.

Then I went around the room and measured the length of all the back rails. This particular room has two windows, a closet and an entry door which interrupt the chair rail. At each of those locations the window and door casing is only 5/8″ thick. Therefore, I’ll put a slight chamfer (45 degree bevel cut) on the back rail (see the photo below).
picture of chair rail
In the corners I used a butt joint instead of a miter joint. The reason is the top will be covered with the top rail and the butt joint is less likely to open up. I’ve secured the back rail to the wall every 16″ using 2″ long finish nails in my Bostitch finish gun.

In the next post I’ll go over installing the upper rail and bed molding.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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