While my mom was here, the biggest job on our project to-do list was wallpapering the guest room. I was planning on installing the chair rail as a part of that, but I was going to stop there and work on the picture frame/box molding with Jeff. He’s the real woodworker in our family and he is much more detail-oriented than I am.
Plus, there’s the math.
But once we got the wallpaper done and the room was looking so good, we didn’t want to stop. I decided to just go for it. I’ve done other types of trim and I took a chance that I would be able to figure this out.
So, my mom and I went and bought all of the trim we would need for the guest room and we even got a little ambitious and bought it for the bathroom, too!
One tip – The trim comes in 16′ lengths and if you’re getting a lot (we needed 230′ for both rooms), it’s worth having the store cut it down for you as opposed to using the manual saw on the cutting table they let customers use. We would’ve been there for an hour cutting all of the pieces. We had them cut them into 8′ lengths, so we could fit them in my van.
In each room, we started by installing the chair rail. We used this as a guide when installing the box trim, so it was important to make sure it was level. I chose a height of 32″ for my 9′ ceilings, which is pretty standard. You can really put a chair rail at whatever height you want, though!
I originally felt like I needed to have all of the boxes the same size, but I kicked that idea to the curb pretty quickly and focused on having uniformity in the space around each box. I played with 2-4″ and landed on a 3″ space on all sides of each box. To determine the height of the vertical piece, I measured from the top of the baseboard to the bottom of the chair rail. For the living room, that measurement was 27″. I then subtracted 6″ (3″ for the top and 3″ for the bottom) and determined each piece needed to be 21″.
For the horizontal piece, I measured one span of the wall at a time (like from a corner to a door frame or from corner to corner). If the span was a larger one (over 50″), I would decide if I wanted to split it into two or more boxes or just leave it as one. For the guest room, I split the two longer walls into three boxes. In the living room, I opted for one large box, because I knew there would be furniture in the middle of the wall and I didn’t feel the need to use the extra wood or spend the time on something that would always be covered up.
Once I got the measurement for the span of each wall and determined how many boxes I wanted to install, I would subtract 6″ for one box, 9″ for two, 12″ for three, etc. This was to allow a 3″ space on each side of each box. That measurement gave me the length I needed to cut my pieces. Here’s an example of how I drew up a diagram and cut list for my living room…
Under the window of each room, I had the trim line up with the window frame exactly. Having those boxes inset 3″ on each side would’ve looked a little strange.
I cut all of the pieces on our mitre saw at a 45° angle, so they would fit together to make a box. Because measuring with a measuring tape can be unreliable, I would measure and cut one piece and then use it as a template for the other of the same size. That way, the pieces are exactly the same and the box would be perfectly square and not off by 1/16″ here or there.
In the same way, I used blocks to measure the 3″ space around each box. This way, I didn’t have to pull out the measuring tape and level with each piece I’m installing. I just position one or two of my blocks between the molding and the chair rail or the molding and the wall and I know it’s right.
Now, because not all trim, floors, and walls are level and plumb, the blocks are just a guide. I would use them without a level along the chair rail, because I just installed it and I knew it was level. For the vertical pieces and the baseboard, though, I would double-check with a small level.
So, I always started with the top horizontal piece, then added the right-hand piece, double-checking it with a level. I would then fit the bottom and left pieces at the same time, to make sure the corners lined up nicely. My mom would hold them in place while I shot in the nails. Once we got our system down, we were able to install the trim quickly. Each room probably took about two hours including the cutting, fitting, nailing, and caulking.
The nailer we use for all of our trim and finishing work is this DeWalt angled finishing nailer. I used 1 1/2″ nails for this project.
I use Dapp paintable white caulk to fill in all of the holes and seams and painted the wall and trim in a custom white. (The picture below was after one coat.)
You can also have the trim and wall contrasting colors if you like that look. I like it both ways, but I’m going to paint mine all white. Here’s an idea of how it looks in the living room, though, since I haven’t gotten around to painting that, yet.
I’ll show you how the bathroom looks in another post.
The cost of trim for each room was about $150 and that’s a small investment for such an impactful look! Once you throw in painting, each room probably took 3-4 hours to complete, so it’s an easy weekend project.
I will warn you, though…
It’s addictive. I’m already eyeing the walls in the master bedroom.