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How to Install Picture Frame Moulding in 5 Easy Steps

Learn how to easily install picture frame moulding in a weekend following these five steps and change the whole look of your space.

I’ve got a little problem.

My house has traditional chair rails and picture frame moldings in many of the spaces in our downstairs area.

Now some of you may be thinking…how exactly is that a problem, AnnMarie?

Well, it may not be an issue for some who love that look but for me…well, it’s not really my style.

I’d love flat baseboard, window and door trim, and craftsman or modern farmhouse-style molding but that’s not what I have.

And it would be a really big and expensive project to replace all the trim in our home and honestly not very practical.

So, I’ve lived with chair rail trim with picture frame molding below for years even though it’s not my vibe.

I just tried to disguise the classic look with a large farmhouse gallery wall in the living room, another wall of photos in the stairway, and different colored paint in the dining room.

Until now!

Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by Woodgrain. We received trim from Woodgrain to use and review. All opinions expressed in this post are our honest feedback based on our experiences. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog!

Updating Traditional Chair Rail and Picture Frame Trim

dining room with gray walls on top with chair rail and picture frame trim on bottom

It’s always fun to start off with a before photo so you can see the process and really appreciate the final reveal of a makeover project.

Before this transformation, my dining room was fine…really it was…but it was just a tad bit boring.

I never knew what to do with this long wall since our china cabinet isn’t very wide and doesn’t take up much space.

Over the years, I had considered artwork but never found anything that I loved so didn’t decorate these walls and they’ve been blank for years.

After seeing lots of spaces with picture frame molding on the entire wall from floor to ceiling not just on the bottom third of the wall I knew that’s the look I wanted.

before installing wall trim in room transformation

It was more modern and updated than what we have.

And it has a bit of sophistication, don’t you think so?

Anne installed box trim on one wall in her laundry room last year and it looks amazing as an accent wall.

I created shiplap accent walls in my laundry room which turned out incredible too.

We worked with Woodgrain for our laundry room makeovers previously and love everything about the company.

So when we were ready to tackle our next room transformations we contacted our favorite wood supplier about working together again.

Anne’s been working on updating her dark upstairs hallway. You can see her design plan here.

She made custom door headers that changed the entire look of her ordinary builder’s grade doors.

What Color Should I Paint Decorative Accent Wood Walls

AnnMarie applying black paint on white ceiling

Since I already had decorative trim on the bottom of our walls I decided the easiest way to get the look of floor-to-ceiling picture frame moulding was to just add trim boxes above the existing chair rails.

But then I debated the paint color.

Because ya know that’s what I do! lol

S2M Tip: When trying to decide on a color paint a poster board as a sample and move it around your room at different times of the day to get an accurate feeling of the color.

My furniture is painted white so I seriously considered painting the walls black so that the dining set would pop against the wall color rather than blend in.

However, in the end, I decided it would be too much to have all the walls painted black…one wall, maybe but four… Nah!

Since I really loved the idea of the black, I painted the ceiling black!

It looked amazing from the first stroke of the roller!

The ceiling color is Onyx (2133-10) by Benjamine Moore in a flat matte finish.

I painted the ceiling first so I didn’t have to worry about dripping black paint on the walls because…

AnnMarie holding roller and paint can before starting room makeover

…the walls are going white!

I chose Simply White (OC-117) by Benjamine Moore in an eggshell finish.

I applied two coats of white paint over the gray before I moved on to the next step in this makeover.

What Supplies Do I Need to Install Wall Trim

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supplies on floor needed to install picture frame moulding

You’ll need some basic tools for installing picture frame trim to a wall.

Many of the things required you may have at home already so be sure to check your tools and paint supplies before heading out to the store or ordering online.

To purchase the base cap trim I used for this project click this link to find a Woodgrain dealer near you.

Supplies Needed:

How to Measure Walls for Trim Installation

measuring from corner of walls to line up trim

This installation was simple because I was just replicating the boxes that were already installed by the builder of our home on the bottom of our wall to the top.

I measured the distance between the baseboard trim and the bottom of the existing picture frame box and the space between the top of the box and the bottom of the chair rail.

It measured 3 1/2″ so I used that same distance for the new boxes from the top of the chair rail and the bottom of the trim box and the top of the box to the bottom of the crown moulding around the ceiling.

All of my vertical pieces of trim needed to be cut the same length.

Next, I measured the width of each of the current picture frame boxes and made a list as I went around the room.

The space between each of the trim boxes was also 3 1/2″ so for the box shown above, I measured from the corner of the wall 3 1/2″ and made a small pencil mark on the wall where the edge of the cut wood moulding needed to line up.

How to Cut Wood Base Cap Moulding

measuring length of wall trim with measuring tape on folding table outside

Once I had all my measurements I was able to start cutting the base cap trim to create the boxes.

I cut the ends of each piece at a 45-degree angle so that they create a 90-degree corner when they’re put together.

zoomed in view of cut trim at 45 degree angle

Be sure to cut your 45-degree angle in the correct direction for each piece.

You’re making a square so each angle cut needs to have the longer end on the outside of the molding.

cutting trim pieces with table saw

I used a miter saw to make the cuts needed.

It was simple to move the setting to make the correct inside corner cuts.

If you don’t have a miter saw you can use a hand saw with a miter box, or miter shears although it will take longer to do this by hand it can be done.

Should I Use a Template for Spacing Trim Boxes

using a scrap piece of wood as a template to space trim accurately

The short answer is yes!

Using a template will allow you to get the perfect spacing each and every time you create a box.

I cut a piece of scrap wood to 3 1/2″ wide and used that on top of the chair rail to measure the bottom of each picture frame box I installed.

How to Install Picture Frame Moulding to Walls

applying wood clue to the back of trim before nailing to wall

Using both wood glue and nails to attach the trim will ensure the pieces will be secure on the wall.

The glue also helps to lessen the gaps between the wall and the trim.

S2M Tip: Do you see that number written in pencil on the back of the trim? Label all the cuts so that you can easily find which piece goes where when installing your decorative moulding.

using wood template to measure space between existing chair rail and new trim

Using my template I first line up the piece of moulding that will create the bottom of the box and glue it in place on the wall.

It helps to have someone there to hand you the nail gun so that you can continue to hold the boards in place.

AnnMarie attaching trim with power brad nailer

Next, I secured the trim with a powered brad nailer.

How to Create the Correct Size Picture Frame Boxes

using level to be sure trim is level as it's installed

To install the vertical sides of the trim box a level will ensure that your wood molding is straight.

Especially with the length of the pieces I needed, I checked to be sure each piece remained level and therefore straight in several spots as I nailed the trim to the wall.

using brad nailer to install picture frame molding

Be sure to keep your nail gun straight so that the nail goes through the trim and into the wall.

If you hold the gun at an angle you run the risk of the nail going out the side of the small base cap molding.

When you’re attaching the vertical trim only nail about 3/4 of the way to the top before you add the top piece.

blogger piecing together top of picture frame trim

After the bottom and both sides of the box are installed it’s time to attach the top piece.

Once the trim is installed at the top you can finish nailing the side pieces at the top.

S2M Tip: Don’t nail the sides or vertical pieces at the top before attaching the horizontal top of your box. This allows the sides to have some give if you need to make adjustments as you complete each trim box.

Do I Need to Caulk after Installing Trim

caulking supplies on step ladder

You’re almost in the home stretch of this project and at this point, you probably just want to be done.

But you can’t skip the next important step! Caulking!

I know you probably think you can just cover up those nail holes with some paint but believe me you can’t.

applying paintable flexible caulk to wall trim after installing picture frame moulding

Plus the likelihood that all of your walls are straight is probably pretty slim, which means you’re going to have some gaps between the wood moulding and the wall.

Caulk is designed to fill in those gaps so that after you paint everything looks seamless.

So pick up that caulk gun and get to work.

It’s a messy job but you haven’t come this far to take shortcuts now!

S2M Tip: Everything looks better with caulk.

side by side photo comparison showing trim before and after caulking

Here you can see a bunch of nail holes and even a crack I made in the trim.

This was the most crooked wall in the room and I was determined to get the moulding to lay flat against the wall but I wound up splitting the trim. ugh!

But no worries…that’s what caulk is for!

You can see how it covers the holes and the crack in the wood even before painting.

After Installing Picture Frame Molding

completed room transformation with trim on all walls

And here is the after of my dining room makeover.

I’m absolutely in love with the aesthetic of this space now.

It may not be a modern farmhouse or craftsman style but it’s definitely an updated version of a traditional space.

after dining room makeover with wainscotting and black ceiling

I’m going to call it a transitional style since it doesn’t really feel like a traditional room anymore.

It’s more modern.

I love the crisp white walls covered with the picture frame moulding and how it contrasts with the striking black ceiling.

Now I think I need to update my furniture again.

Because when you give a mouse a cookie…

You know how these projects are never just new trim and paint…one thing always leads to another.

So check back soon to see what changes I make in my dining room next!

before and after photos of dining room transformation with wall trim

Here’s another view of the before and after because it’s just super fun to see them side by side!

What do you think?

Do you have a room where you’d want to create this look?

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collage of product photos needed to install picture frame moulding

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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