How to Put up Wainscoting and Chair Rail

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
Well, I'm off to the sunshine state. I'm going to St. Petersburg, Florida and visit Corinne and Jim Allman.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
Hi.
RON HAZELTON:
Hi, Corinne?
CORINNE ALLMAN:
Yes.
RON HAZELTON:
I'm Ron. How are you?
  CORINNE ALLMAN:
Nice to meet you. I'm great.
RON HAZELTON:
Hi ya, Jim.
JIM ALLMAN:
Hi, Ron, I'm Jim. Nice to meet you.

RON HAZELTON:
Ah, a pleasure, pleasure. I hear there's a lot of stuff going on inside this house right here.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
A lot.
RON HAZELTON:
Corinne and Jim give me a rundown on all they've accomplished. Then Jim gives me a quick tour before we get started.

Wow, what a view. Look at this, you're sitting right on the water. Now I feel like in Florida.
JIM ALLMAN:
You're in Florida.
RON HAZELTON:
Yeah.

It's obvious the Allmans have finished almost all their home improvement projects, except the dining room walls. They decided to try wainscoting, which we'll make from individual strips of paneling.

It will go right up on the wall like this. The bottom is going to be covered up with a baseboard and the top with a chair rail.

Step one is to decide just how high we want the chair rail.

This is the actual wainscoting cap or chair rail that we're going to use right here. Now originally, these were designed to go right where the chair would hit the wall. So let's just put this about there. Corinne, can you hold this over here?
CORINNE ALLMAN:
Sure.
RON HAZELTON:
I also think that that visually -- this is a good height for me -- let's see what we've got here. So the bottom of the chair rail -- yeah, just about 34 inches, okay. So I, I would think this would work in here.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
I think it looks great.
RON HAZELTON:
Jim measures up 34 inches from the floor and makes marks on both ends of the wall. Then we snap a chalk line to indicate the top edge of our paneling.

Okay, you got it on both ends?
JIM ALLMAN:
Mm-hmm [AFFIRMATIVE].
RON HAZELTON:
Going to pull it out here. There we go.

After that, young David Allman takes over, snapping lines on the rest of the walls.

Wow, now that's a snap. Look at that.

Corinne uses an electronic stud finder to locate and mark the wall studs. This will be important information when it comes time to nail up the chair rail.

Well, here's our paneling. It's about a quarter of an inch thick, about three-and-a-half inches wide and it's tongue-in-groove.

The tongue on one plank slips into the groove on the next.

Now we've made a pattern for this project because we're going to be making repetitive cuts. All the boards on this wall over here are going to be the same length. So what we have to do is take our pattern, lay it on top of a longer piece of wood and draw a line right here.

Now what's important is to always use this same pattern. I know sometimes it's tempting to take the board that we've just cut and use it as a pattern. But if we do that several times, we're introducing sometimes a series of small errors and the pattern can actually change in size.

So make one pattern and use that all the way through the project.

Since we have to cut over a hundred boards, we set up a little assembly line.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
It's been fun, it's been different. We've never tried the whole home remodeling until now and there is a feeling of satisfaction.
RON HAZELTON:
With the paneling cut to length, we can now begin to attach it to the wall. The trick here is to place the nails where they won't be seen -- at the very top of the boards and at the very bottom. Later, the nail heads will be covered by the baseboard and chair rail.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
There we go. Okay, now, just give it the trigger.
RON HAZELTON:
Now here's a place the pneumatic nail gun really shines. It makes the job easy and the thin-gauge nails quickly pin the paneling in place without splitting the ends. [NAILGUN SOUNDS]

Several of our walls have electrical outlets. After turning off the power and pulling out the receptacle, we marked the position of the box, draw the outline with a combination square and then Jim cuts the first opening with a jigsaw.

Corinne takes over and cuts the second piece of paneling.

Excellent.

Finally, we cut mall notches to provide clearance for the receptacle mounting screws, slip the paneling into position and secure it with nails. Our next obstacle is the corner. The final board in the wall needs to be cut to a different width, and there's an easy technique for this.

First, I tape a piece of paneling right on top of the board, closest to the wall. I put a second board on top, push it into the corner and trace the edge onto the board underneath. Jim then cuts along this line and we end up with a panel exactly the width we need.

Well, our paneling's up, looks pretty good, doesn't it? And next we'll be putting up our baseboard. Now here, we're going to be cutting some angles to get around a few tricky situations. [SAW SOUNDS]

Using the power miter saw, we'll make a bevel cut on the end of the baseboard. When this cut is placed next to the door casing, it gives a clean, finished look. To give the baseboard a smooth continuous appearance as it wraps around corners, we'll cut 45-degree miters on adjacent ends. Placed together, they'll form 90-degree angles.

Now Jim, bring in the timber.

We have one wall that is longer than any single piece of baseboard, so we'll have to join two pieces together to get the length that we need. By cutting opposing 45-degree angles on the ends of two baseboards and overlapping them, the joint called a scarf joint becomes almost invisible.

Adding a piece of quarter-round molding where the baseboard meets the floor, creates a nice detail. Well, Jim and Corinne did a great job on the baseboard. Now we're down to the last piece of this wainscoting system.

This is the chair rail, it has a rabbit cut right here on the edge which will do two things: conceal the top of these paneling boards and also trap these in place, holding them securely to the wall because this is going to be nailed directly into the wall studs.

We cut the chair rail using the same techniques we used on the baseboard. Remember how Corinne used the electronic stud finder to locate the studs? This is where those marks come in handy, since we want to nail the chair rail directly into the wall studs.

That turned out really nice.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
I think so.
RON HAZELTON:
Wow, what a difference.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
I love it.
RON HAZELTON:
Remember what that room looked like this morning?
CORINNE ALLMAN:
Yes.
RON HAZELTON:
And, and look what we were able to do in just -- just one day's time.

CORINNE ALLMAN:
Right.
RON HAZELTON:
Thanks for having me over.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
Well, thanks for coming.
RON HAZELTON:
All the best to you both and good luck with the rest of the projects here in the house.
CORINNE ALLMAN:
Thank you.
JIM ALLMAN:
Thanks, Ron. Appreciate it.
RON HAZELTON:
You bet.

Learn how to cut miter and scarf joints to install wainscoting, chair rails, baseboards, and quarter round molding.

In bygone days, a wain was a large open wagon. Today, the term "wainscoting" describes decorative wooden wall paneling that is suggestive of the wide boards that covered the sides of the wagon. Typically, wainscoting covers only the lower portion of the wall and may be capped with a chair rail or a picture rail in the case of high wainscoting. It takes its character from the type of wood and construction used - salvaged planks from a barn make a rustic look, ready-made paneling cut to height looks more functional, and individual milled boards can add refinement to your room. This dining room project uses 1/4-inch thick milled tongue and groove planks with decorative routing and then caps the wainscoting with chair rail.

Determine the Desired Height for the Chair Rail
Step 1

Determine the Desired Height for the Chair Rail

Place a dining room chair against the wall and measure from the floor to the top of the chair back. This measurement also determines the length and elevation of tongue and groove panels to be installed for the wainscoting.

Transfer Measurements to the Walls and Snap a Chalk Line
Step 2

Transfer Measurements to the Walls and Snap a Chalk Line

Transfer the measurement for the top of the tongue and groove paneling to each end of the walls. Snap a chalk line across each wall between the marks to position the panels once they are ready for installation.

Locate and Mark Each Stud to Secure the Chair Rails
Step 3

Locate and Mark Each Stud to Secure the Chair Rails

Use an electronic stud finder to locate wall studs in the walls where wainscoting will be installed. Mark them with a pencil above the chalk line for the top of the tongue and groove panels.

Make a Pattern for Cutting Tongue and Groove Paneling Lengths
Step 4

Make a Pattern for Cutting Tongue and Groove Paneling Lengths

Measure and cut a single length of tongue and groove paneling to use as a pattern for the other paneling cuts for the wainscoting. Always use the same board as a guide so that the length doesn't gradually creep upward.

Create an Assembly Line for Faster Repetitive Cuts
Step 5

Create an Assembly Line for Faster Repetitive Cuts

Set up an assembly line with a helper to make fast and efficient repetitive cuts for the wainscoting tongue and groove panels. One person can mark and measure while the other makes the cuts with a miter saw.

Nail Paneling to the Wall at the Chalk Line
Step 6

Nail Paneling to the Wall at the Chalk Line

Position the top of the wainscoting paneling at the chalk line and nail it with a pneumatic nail gun 1/2 inch from the top and bottom of the panels. Nail heads will be invisible, covered by baseboard and chair rail.

Notch Tongue and Groove Panels around Electrical Outlets
Step 7

Notch Tongue and Groove Panels around Electrical Outlets

Switch off power to electrical outlets and remove the covers. Mark necessary cuts around outlets and notch them on wainscoting panels with a jig saw. Cut notches to accommodate the receptacle mounting screws. Secure panel with nails.

Measure and Cut Narrower Corner Panels
Step 8

Measure and Cut Narrower Corner Panels

Tape a panel in the next-to-the-last position before the corner. Butt another panel into the corner and trace its overlapping edge as a cutline on the taped board. Remove both. Rip the marked board, installing it in the corner position.

Bevel or Miter Ends of Baseboards and Quarter-round Molding
Step 9

Bevel or Miter Ends of Baseboards and Quarter-round Molding

Bevel cut baseboards and quarter-round molding where they meet door framing. Make 45-degree miter cuts where two lengths meet at corners. Form scarf joints where lengths must overlap in the middle of a wall. Secure with a nail gun.

Cut Chair Rail and Nail Directly into the Wall Studs
Step 10

Cut Chair Rail and Nail Directly into the Wall Studs

Measure and cut chair rail. Fit it against the top of the tongue and groove panels and nail directly into the wall studs above the wainscoting. Bevel, miter, or make scarf joints as required using the techniques demonstrated earlier.