How To Install A Chair Rail – Part II

By Todd Fratzel on Finish Carpentry

Part II of How To Install A Chair Rail covers installing the top rail and the lower bed moulding between the back rail and top rail. I discussed installing the back rail in How To Install A Chair Rail – Part I

For the second part of this task we needed to create at top rail. I used a 1×2 piece of finger-jointed, primed pine for the top rail. I decided to soften the top front edge of the top rail by putting a quarter round profile on it. I used my router with a 3/8″ round over bit to create the profile. I decided to leave the bottom edge square to create a nice strong shadow line.

The top rail is nailed to the top of the back rail with finish nails. The corners are fit together with miter cuts. No wall is perfectly straight so when you install the top rail you’ll definitely notice and small bows and bumps in the wall. You have two options; first if you’re of the Norm Abram caliber you could scribe each top rail to fit the wall perfectly. Actually if you go with a stained wood then that is the only real choice you have. On the other hand, if you’re going to paint the trim work then you can fill the small gaps with caulking prior to painting (this is what I plan on doing even though it’s the easy way out!).

The next step is to install the bed moulding between the top rail and back rail. The steps are the same as installing the top rail. The only exception here is you need to cut the corners as if you’re installing crown moulding. I’m not going to go into that step here because it’s a big enough issue to discuss in an entire post. Again I nailed the moulding up with finish nails.

When you get to window and door casings there are many ways to terminate the chair rail. In the photo below I show you one way of doing it. I’ve decided to terminate the top plate out onto the face of the
In the next post I’ll go over the remaining steps and show you the final chair rail.

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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  1. sarah says:

    Hi there – Bangor Bungalow here. You have a nice blog as well! I wish I’d seen the chair rail part before we muddled through ours! I added your link to our list of blogs on our site, as you suggested (link swap). Enjoy the snow today! We’re just getting started with it up here…

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