Chair rail with picture boxes below is a quality feature sure to enhance your home. As you study the chair rail choices at your local lumber yard, look into chair rail backer board. Backer boards add dramatically to the quality look of the finished product. Always purchase finger jointed (or paint grade) unless you are planning on staining it.  It costs less and you can't tell after painting!  
Step1:  The chair rail is installed approximately 32" from the floor to the bottom of your material. This measurement is not critical. The distance from the floor is determined mostly by what looks appropriate for the room setting, and 32" works for most rooms.
Measure up 32" from the floor and snap a chalk line on all walls that chair rail is to be installed. 

Step 2:  Measure and cut the chair rail backer board using 45 degree miter cuts for inside and outside corners.  For any 45 degree angled walls the miter cuts will be 22 1/2 degrees. (Power miter saws have settings for 22 1/2, and 45 degree cuts to make them easy.)  Nail this backer board to the studs with finish nails, placing the backer board on top of the chalk line. 

Step 3:  The cuts for the Chair rail itself will be done differently. Outside corners will use the same 45 degree outside miter cut as the backer board used.  Inside corner cuts for the chair rail will be a coped cut as shown in Figure 1 and 2 below. First cut an inside 45 degree miter on the power saw.  Second, cut out the profile of the chair rail with a coping saw as shown in Figure 2.  This allows the two pieces to fit together at the inside corner with less gap showing than an inside 45 degree miter cut as shown in Figure 4. You can use a simple 45 degree inside miter cut if you prefer, but the coped cut shows less gap and is easier to caulk.  Caulk will fill gaps in all cuts during the painting process. 

To end your chair rail in the middle of a wall, cut a 45 degree miter as with an outside corner. Secondly, cut a small return piece, and glue in place. This return piece is very small and fragile, and you may have to cut a few before you get one that does not break during the cutting process. I suggest you glue it in place with caulk as nails will split it. This finished product is shown in the photo at the end of this article.

Step 4:  The picture boxes are made from base cap molding.  Simply measure and mark the outline of the picture boxes on the drywall.  They should be spaced approximately 3-4 inches in from the edge boundaries, depending on your preference. Also, you need to decide how many to install. This decision is mostly aesthetic, but a rule of thumb is that they will look better as rectangles than squares. Make sure to avoid electrical plugs. The picture boxes are made from base cap molding with 90 degree miter cuts at the corners, and nailed directly to the drywall. You need not be concerned about your nails hitting studs since the caulking will hold this small molding in place. 

Photos courtesy of "Family Handyman-Weekend Improvements", Page 71-72, Readers Digest Assn., Pleasantville, NY.


Figure 1

         Figure 2


Figure 3

       Figure 4


Outside Miter Cut

Ending in Middle of Wall