Painting The Chair Rail

By Todd Fratzel on Finish Carpentry, Painting and Finishing

Tonight I started painting the chair rail. I like to use Sherwin Williams Semi-Gloss paint. One tip that I learned from a painter years ago really applies to painting this chair rail. When ever you paint trim work, casing, crown molding, chair rails, etc, it’s best to paint the trim work first. When you paint the trim work it’s ok to let the paint overlap onto the adjacent wall. What this does is it applies a nice coat of semi-gloss paint at the junction between the trim work and wall. When you paint the wall and cut in the wall color it’s much easier to run a steady stroke of paint along the freshly painted wall. Next time you paint trim work try it out! My plan is to get the chair rail finished this week after work so this weekend I can paint the walls.

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. Fred says:

    You know, my wife and I just painted our dining room, and every room I paint I’ve always painted the walls first! This seems so obvious now that you say it. I guess everyone just views the trim as the “finishing touches” and so like most finishes, we put them off until the end. Very good tip; Mind if I pass along the tip on my blog as long as I give you the credit?

    One Project Closer

  2. Fratzels says:


    By all means share away. I write my blog to help others out. We all learn from each other. I used to be the same way, walls first followed by trim. When we built our new home I used this technique and it makes a huge difference.

  3. MN Painters Network says:

    That is a great tip I recommend other people do the same. If you’re repainting a rail be sure to thoroughly prepare the surface by sanding beforehand.

    –Mark, a Maple Grove Painter in the MN Painters Network

  4. Suzanne says:

    There seems to be many mixed reviews regarding painting walls or trim first. I do think in theory, painting the trim first then taping and painting walls would be MUCH easier but, I’m wondering about finishes. If I paint my trim using a white semi-gloss and then a few days later, tape and paint the walls in an eggshell, will I have problems with the eggshell adhering to the semi gloss or, even worse, will it change the dried color in the spots that have the semi gloss under??

    • Todd says:

      Suzanne – Thanks for stopping by the site. I’ve been using this technique for years with great success. First off let me say I don’t use tape, I free hand all my edges and the semi-gloss from the trim makes that easier on the wall paint. I’ve never had trouble with the paint adhering to the semi-gloss.

      It is important to not go crazy and put down a couple inches wide of semi-gloss on the wall. I try to limit the amount because you can see some of the texture under the wall paint if you’ve gotten a bit crazy with the trim paint.

      I also think it really comes down to what works best for folks. This is one method that I really like but it may not be for everyone.

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