How To Install Wainscoting And Chair Rail

WARNING WARNING WARNING: This post is a lengthy detailed one, if your not in to that, stop reading now;) But really, we wanted to write this in hopes that it will give you a more clear picture of how to transform your beautiful home by installing chair railing and wainscoting. We love the dramatic difference it makes on a wall, and if your in-to it as well, read on my friend:)

Chair rail installation:


  • Measure and mark how high on the wall you want the chair rail
  • Cut chair rail to desired length
  • Apply using nail gun or liquid nails

how to install wainscoting and chair rail

how to install wainscoting and chair rail

  • Caulk to seal

how to caulk chair rail

Wainscoting installation:
Steps for the actual boxes:
  • Measure the area between the top of the baseboard and the bottom of the chair rail, as well as the width of the wall. For example: the area we are using has a width of approximately 100 in. wide and 40 in. tall
  • Figure out how many boxes you would like. Generally speaking it is better to stick with an odd number so that your eye is drawn to the center box {we had to use an even number to be consistent with the size of our current boxes}
  • Figure out the size of each box. First step is to figure out the spacing between the boxes, the chair rail, and the baseboard {we used 3 in.} Subtract 2x your space length from the height of the box {40-2*3=34 in = The height of our boxes}
  • To figure out the width: Add 1 to the number of boxes, so in our case 4+1=5. Multiply that number by the space, so 5×3=15. Subtract that number from your overall width, so 100-15=85, and then divide that number by the amount of boxes, so 85/4=21 1/4. So the outside measurements of each box is 21 1/4 in wide by 34 in tall.
  • We chose to take these measurement to a local carpenter, and for $50 {plus the cost of the chair rail that we bought at Lowe’s} he made 9 boxes for us based on the measurements we gave him. This just makes it easier, rather than trying to build the boxes while you install them, and ensures that they are perfectly square….or rectangle in this case :).
Steps for installing the boxes:
  • Once the boxes have been made, cut a 2×4 to your desired space length {3 in. in our case}

installing wainscoting

  • To install, hold your box up against the wall, and put the block in between the chair rail and your box for accurate spacing. Check the side spacing and level of the box as well. Mark using pencil or tape {don’t use pen, we did in 90% of our house and you can still see it through 3 layers of paint, FYI!}

how to install wainscoting and chair rail

  • Apply liquid nails to back of box

  • When in place, nail one corner, and check spacing again before nailing the remaining corners.

how to install wainscoting

  • Follow the same steps for the next boxes, but be sure to measure in between boxes as well.

how to install wasinscoting

  • Caulk and paint and smile:)

how to install wainscoting and chair rail

Heres a before:

And after:

how to install wainscoting and chair rail

how to install wainscoting

I really hope this encourages any of you out there that have been on the fence about doing this, to GO AHEAD! I know its a lot of steps, but if followed precisely, and with a little patience, you can really transform a room with it. It also helps if you happen to be married to an extremely hott {yes, with two t’s, he’s that hott!} handy guy;) Happy Tuesday loves!


  1. says

    Thanks angy!
    Pat-i believe standard is between 30-36 in. But that was just what we researched. We had to do ours higher because we had to pay to have the top 1/2 of our walls smoothed, so the top of our chair rail is at 46 1/2in (cuz we didn’t want to pay for them to go lower). Hope that helps

  2. says

    And for the boxes,not sure if there is a standard size,just use what works best for your space. We chose to keep the spaces between the boxes the same on all walls, instead of keeping a consistent box size.

  3. says

    Thanks politics chick-
    The color is stonington grey by Benjamin Moore (although we had it put in a behring ultra premium plus base because we like that the best). We loveeee the color!

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