Doesn’t this picture look great?
Would you believe that the trim carpentry work in this picture is only a few hours worth of effort?
That’s the magic of chair rails and wainscoting; they aren’t terribly difficult, but make a huge impact!
In this post, I’ll give you some of the details you need to get started.
What is Chair Rail
The term “chair rail” is orginially derived from the latin root word “chair” which means: furniture for sitting. 🙂
Chair rails have a practical use in the function of protecting the wall from being damaged by the backs of chairs as people move them about, generally getting up and down from the dinner table. That’s why they are so often seen in dining rooms.
Chair rails don’t have a specific height requirement. The most common answer I’ve seen over the years is a practical “measure up to the chairs you’re using.” If there is no other frame of reference, I would put a chair rail at around 32″ above the floor.
You notice that I don’t say whether that’s to the top, or the bottom, or center line…that’s because it is really a matter of taste. Around 30″, but whatever looks right to you is fine.
Chair rail comes in many sizes, but it generally is around 2.5″ or 3″ wide. You rarely see large width material used in this location. Here are a few common profiles:
As you can see in the notes, I really like a flat top profile. I feel like the flat “tiny-shelf” look just feels “proper” and fitting. That said, there really is no “wrong” profile to use. Just pick out one that you like best.
What is Wainscoting?
I’ve been a builder for over 20 years and I still hate this word. As a true construction kid, I learned how to estimate and install wainscoting before I learned to spell it.
I was taught that it is pronounced “Wayne’s Coating”. So I was very chagrined when I had to provide my first written estimate that spelled out Wayne’s Cotting. I’ve often digressed to calling it “bead-board”. Whatever you call it, this is one of the ways it can look:
There are a few basic types of wainscot paneling:
Sheet materials – can have a bead board, smooth, or grooved style.
Plank materials – can be bead board, v-joint, rustic, or ______.
Raised Panels – more intricate work, would be advanced for a Do-It-Yourselfer because this generally requires special tools, but you can order kits online already cut and ready to install.
I love the look of wainscoting that goes higher up the wall like this! I especially like the way they’ve used a wide enough cap molding on this to create a shelf for displaying pictures.
Another great idea is to install a bookcase with a beadboard back in it, like this:
Doesn’t that look great?
I went out and found a couple of videos for you on how to do this work if you want to tackle a project. They were both very helpful and I hope they can answer some of those lingering “How-To” questions.
The second one is a little longer, but it is done by Norm Abrams. If you’re familiar with The New Yankee Workshop television show, then you know Norm. He’s an excellent craftsman and a great teacher.
How to Install Wainscoting – Ron Hazelton
Wainscoting Installation Tips – Norm Abrams (great instructions)
Check out the previous posts in this series:
I’ve also done a virtual room showing before and after bead-board pictures at RG: Express!
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