What Is Chair Rail? A Helpful Guide To Making One

Have you ever considered moldings on the wall when you were asked what is chair rail? Just like other things we deal with every day, chair rails were named rather bizarre. We’ll take a look later on in this article at why they were called such.

Carpentry has become more advanced with technology, and with its advancement comes some exciting development. As a result, some decorative attachments became functional, and some parts that used to be vital lost their place. However, some weren’t able to keep their nature.

While most carpentry nowadays takes aged homes and offices into modern design, many previous conventions are still used. One of these is the chair rails.

You might be immersed in learning to remodel your house by yourself and wondering how a set of chair rails advance your designs, so let’s dive through its definition.


what is chair rail

Definition Of Chair Rail

Chair rails are the moldings found on most 90’s era dining rooms of many households. If you’ve ever been to one recently or currently living on one, they are the iconic change in the height of the wall’s surface where the upper and lower textures meet. They are called moldings as they transition the ceiling to the floor stylistically.

This architectural part is named chair rails because of its original purpose for attachment. They were initially used to protect the walls of dining areas with high traffic and object movements. Back then, the most harmful activities were that of wooden chairs that tend to get pushed around the room and then bump and scrape the wall.

You might be thinking, “That shouldn’t be a cause of concern since it might leave some of the chair’s paint on the wall, but that’s just about it”. However, that’s not the case.

The architecture of houses in those days was majorly composed of plaster walls. While these walls are pretty and are still being used for some constructions these days, they are just susceptible to getting scraped off.

Not only were they the common cause of damage used to name these parts, but chairs were also used as the basis of their attachment height. Since you want to protect your walls from coming in contact with chairs, you’ll want the height of the chair rails to be slightly lower or the same as that of the chairs. So, if you asked carpenters about how high the chair rails should be from the floor, they’re going to tell you either 32 or 36 inches.



These days, improved and higher quality materials allow your wall surfaces to stay smooth for a long time.. While the initial purpose of chair rails has gotten lost in these advancements, you can still find its design application in carpentry manuals. Unfortunately, it also lost the stiff convention in height due to this purpose.

You can now attach the chair rails at whatever height you feel will fit your style. Of course, an architect would still tell you how different heights are equipped with different themes.

Nevertheless, it’s still up to your choosing. Since they’re now mainly for design, you might as well pick one under your taste.


Relevance Of Chair Rails In Modern Design

Chair rails still retain their function as moldings, though. Their specific coving still provides subtle sloping for your walls, so it beautifully transitions to the next design. For example, the bottom part of your room might have some dainty wainscot, and the perfect chair rail would heighten the area’s beauty.

Moldings also act as the basis of proportion for your eyes when you enter a room. A well-balanced wall element ratio allows you to have a relaxed sensation when you’re in a room. This is why there is still a good rule of thumb for chair rails that it should be more or less one-third of the room’s total height.

These conventions might change a little bit if you’re applying the chair rails (also known as dado rail) to other establishments. For example, chair rails are also popular in restaurants and hospitals. These places use them on a shorter distance on the floor and provide an added sense of continuity and direction.


How to install chair rail at home

Now that we’ve talked about what a chair rail is and some of its uses, wouldn’t it be nice to know how to attach them to your walls? If your following projects come with a plan of getting a nice set of chair rail, here’s how you can connect them.

  • Step #1. Clean your wall and chair rails first.
  • Step #2. Paint the chair rails with your choice color and let them dry completely.
  • Step #3. Measure your desired distance from the floor and mark it.
  • Step #4. Draw a straight line across the entire length you’re planning the attachment.
  • Step #5. Attach the chair rails to the wall using nails or screws.
  • Step #6. Fill any gaps with wood putty.

If this is your first carpentry project, you need to take care of your hands. Make sure you use a leveling tool so your lines and chair rails don’t end up sloping. You can opt to paint the chair rails and the wall after you finish attaching all of them.



We’ve fully presented what is chair rail, and we hope you picked up some nuggets of knowledge from it. These should also teach you what you should and shouldn’t do when working on them. Finally, if you’re still unsure, some advice from an experienced carpenter should lead you there.

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