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When it comes to molding, working around the obstacles of the room (like outlets, windows, or even the room not having perfectly level walls) is the biggest challenge. In my dining room’s picture molding project, I faced all three. Here’s how I got around them.


First, let’s start with spacing rules in general. While researching this project online, I learned that there is no hard and fast rule for how far apart these boxes should be. They often range from about 2¾ to 4 inches between each box and at the top and bottom – but as long as you keep the spacing consistent around the room, you should be in good shape. Spacing at the top and bottom should be the same, and spacing between the boxes should be the same – but you don’t have to use the same spacing in both cases (so you can have 4 inches at the top and bottom and only 3 in between the boxes if you like). Good news for people like me, who want to keep it simple. Some like to use a scrap of 2×4 to mark even spacing, but I chose a used paint stick to mark a 4″ mark to go around the room, starting at the chair rail.

Picture frame molding

Once you know where your overall outside box is, it’s time to decide how many boxes will really go inside each spot and do your favorite thing ever (Ann Marie, you’re the only one not reading this without sarcasm). See the picture below for a better visual explanation. For regular walls, just come up with a number that you think will work. For example, the far wall looked like five boxes would fit well in the 116″ outside box I measured (this excludes the original 4″ spacing already measured out). I then took how many spaces I would need between each box (5 boxes have 4 spaces in between, and 4 inches per space = 16 inches total). Subtracting the spacing, I now had 100 inches to fit 5 boxes, or 20 inches wide per box.

Layout of moldings

This was a somewhat easy example since we didn’t have to work with fractional measurements. But each wall will usually be different, so you just have to work it out on a piece of scrap paper if it’s not making sense. The opposite wall, for example, had a doorway, so I had to use three boxes at 19 ¾ inches instead.

Wall with outlet

In my room, there was really only one wall with uninterrupted boxes; every other wall was broken up by a doorway or window, which made sizing a little easier. In those cases, the box would be whatever size I drew after my 4″ marks all joined together. These different sizes are perfectly fine; as long as your spacing stays consistent, it works!

Staying Level

The next challenge from those marks (which were very light, and done in pencil), I wanted to make sure that the boxes that I would draw were still going to be level and square. The reason for this is simple:  when it comes to the boxes, you want exact 90-degree angles, which don’t work quite so well when your line across the room turns out to be 4″ down from the chair rail, but way off in terms of an actual straight line. Happened to me, and likely to happen to you (find me a perfectly square room, and I’ll call you drunk). I used a laser level to mark a heavier line across the room to compare to my 4″ marks. While the marks were definitely off on the longer walls, I chose to go with the level line where possible. I worried a little bit about these lines making the existing chair rail and base molding look off by comparison, but your eye is more forgiving when the overall line across the room is nice and straight.

Use a laser level

Outlets & Windows

I didn’t really have too much difficulty with the outlets interfering with the boxes around the room. That is, until I got to the large window. I realized that if I used the same 4″ spacing from the window molding, the top piece of the box would run right over the outlet. No good. To compensate, I adjusted the spacing at the top only, using a 2¾” mark instead of the usual 4. The bottom and sides all stayed at the same 4″ – which kept things consistent enough.

My window helped me out, in some ways – the new casing added to the sides and top created a new spot for marking out the 4″ spacing for the boxes on either side. Thank goodness for small blessings, right?

Wide shot

After that, it was a matter of cutting and creating the boxes, then attaching them to the wall (see back to this post for all of that!). There’s still more to do in the room, but I’ll share a few more progress shots later this week (since there was a lot of activity going on in the kitchen, it was only natural to work on the dining room when time allowed!). Can’t wait to share more. Hope you have a great week!

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  1. I really appreciate you took a moment to lay all the math out. But…after about two seconds my brain exploded and I looked at your pretty pictures instead. Math and I are not friends! :)

  2. It really is a pretty simple DIY. When we did ours we checked for the outlets and worked the boxes to go around them. Other than that, we had a “centered” window in the dining room that was not centered–by several inches. We just made a box on each side and brought the long wall side up to the window area, spacing it as far our from the window as we did on the other side. Curtains extend out and cover the areas near the window so each box looks the same from the outer wall corners :) If that makes any sense! Can’t wait to see more great progress!

  3. The framing has a very classic look about it. I like it. Those laser-levels can be a God-send for projects such as these.

  4. Fantastic! You’ve done a great job of explaining a DIY project in terms that will help so many folks do it themselves. Not an easy thing to do but you’ve made it easy. Not just the task but the explanation. Thanks you for sharing!

  5. Its always easier then it looks isn’t it, ha. Thank you for your simple to follow guide to putting up window molding and yours looks great.

  6. A very detailed instruction and easy to follow too. I can even do it because of the steps you gave. (but maybe the result is not that good..haha) Amazing job! Thanks

  7. Thanks so much for taking the time to write-up your project. I’m just beginning my dining room project and you’ve helped me get over the notion that all my boxes must be the same size. A picture is worth a thousand words and yours helped me tremendously.

  8. Thank you for your tips as we are trying picture frame moulding for the first time! Also, I love your flooring! The color is beautiful. Is it hardwood?

    1. 31 inches. Looking at Google, there’s no real standard height of chair rail other than 28-32 inches; a good rule of thumb is to have it on the lower third. Based on those measurements, I’d say mine was installed somewhat higher than it perhaps should have been (the chair rail was here when I moved in, so I just added the picture frame molding to the lower portion and painted the existing rail).

  9. What did you use for the actual picture frame moulding? I’m having trouble finding the right boards to use. Looks fantastic!

    1. Look for chair rail moulding. There are a few different common patterns but I believe that’s what this is. It’s primed/painted white already and flat on the back side. I have more pictures here if you need them!