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How to easily install picture frame moulding (or “molding” as we sometimes spell it in the US): with a chair rail separation, getting the spacing right, and how to deal with older walls that aren’t perfectly straight.
I was very, very tempted to call this post Even More Caulk Jokes. Especially since as I type this, my fingers are sticky and it’s driving me crazy. But I’m simply way too excited to show you this first:
Helloooo there. Thanks to my uncle (and his brother Timmy), we got a lot done in the last 24 hours. Not only did they organize my garage (more on that later), finish off my workbench for me (more on that later), and trick out my kitchen window with new molding (you guessed it… later!), but we spent the majority of the day in the dining room realizing my picture frame molding plans. It’s like my dining room finally had it’s cliche 90s teen movie moment where it ripped off its glasses, pulled out the ponytail, and put on a slinky dress. It’s all grown up.
How to install picture frame moulding on the wall:
The night before, (I realize this post is not going up the same day as I wrote it, but go with it), the room looked like this:
Hack #1: prime before installation
First task: I used the same primer that I’d been using on the kitchen cabinets (and brush and roller, since they were still wet & wrapped) to cover the lower half of the dining room walls. The chair rail was original to the house, but I knew it could look a little better with the molding I’d picked up during last night’s late trip to Home Depot (if you recall yesterday’s foreshadowing photo, you may have seen some of that already). Even the primer alone brightened up the room, but we had much more to go.
Hack #2: Measure and mark to visualize (before cutting anything!)
Next, while the guys were outside prepping for a long day of saw-whirring, I was in the dining room marking & measuring boxes to determine where everything would go. Truth be told, I wanted to get this done last night instead of this morning, but after class and two trips to the stores to shop & pre-purchase the molding (it was too big to fit in my car in full 16′ lengths, so I arranged to have them picked up by Dad this morning), I was simply too tired.
However, by taking the time to mark the entire wall where each box would go, I could better visualize how it would all look together and make adjustments. Making it look “right” isn’t always easy, since boxes being all the same size may look good on paper but may not on a wall that doesn’t allow for even spacing (for example, the wall with the window needed a larger box on each end and short ones under the low sill and trim). This is also helpful so you don’t buy too much or too little of your supplies (odd-shaped cuts may require more material than you planned for).
It may have been for the best – the walls (of course) weren’t plumb and the chair rail wasn’t level, so measuring by distance from the chair rail or base molding to get the dimensions of the box didn’t work out quite as easily as anticipated. Eventually, I got the hang of it and marked off where I wanted the boxes to all go (each line marked the outside of the box so I could visualize spacing).
Hack #3: Use a spacer for uneven/unlevel areas
Part of the measuring required making sure that everything was as close to the same width as possible from the chair rail so that visually, things would look even. I marked a 4″ mark on a paint stick to make things a little easier as I moved along (I didn’t have a straight ruler, so a tape measure would be a little more clumsy to use each time). Then, I re-aligned the marks with a straight line along a metal level. For distances on both of the longer walls, I also used a laser level to check my accuracy (the tape along the back was just because the battery door wouldn’t close).
Once all of the
fun math was done, it was time to start re-measuring each piece for cutting. Then, my uncle and his brother went out to my finished work bench (!!) to do some cutting.
Hack #4: create boxes before they go on the wall
Instead of tacking each piece in place one by one, they decided to go the box route of pre-building each box to be nice and flat, and then tacking it to the wall. Genius!
We knew that on some of the uneven areas, there might be a gap between the wall and the tacked-on molding; any of these parts would eventually be caulked and cleaned up, so it seemed like a better idea to make sure that the corners matched up more flat and even instead of having to adjust them with shims when one piece refused to lay as flat as another. It doesn’t really make that much sense until you’re trying to lay (what seems like) two flat pieces of moulding to (what seems like) one flat wall, and then one piece has a lip — a lip that seems to protrude more each time you stare at it. I’d rather just have a flat box and then pull out my BFF (the caulk gun) and cover up any flaws.
Hack #5: Use caulk to help adhere the boxes to the wall
So, that’s where we wound up each time. To help hold the boxes to the wall as we nailed, we added what I assumed would be Liquid Nails to the back — or so I thought! Instead, my uncle used caulk. At first, I thought this was odd, right up until I had to swipe away some of it that had squeezed out and could be seen on the wall. Caulk is what I was going to use on the seams anyway, and worked like a charm.
Then, we checked for level…
And then tacked them into place with a nail gun (which conveniently needed a hose replacement right before the project began… isn’t that how it always goes?)…
And then I ran back over all of the seams with more caulk. I know, I know – caulk shrinks (I use the kind that say it doesn’t shrink, but I’ve heard it still does), and I should use putty for the holes… but when I have the choice between the two, I’m a caulk girl. Me likey the caulk, I guess is what I’m saying. (So. Many. Jokes.)
So, that’s how we go from this:
In one day! But my superhero duo aren’t done yet. We’ve got more work yet to do & more pictures to share. I’m going to write up a separate post about the moulding near the dining room window (we ran into a couple of challenges with outlets and such, so I’ll tell you how we worked around them). And as I’ve just found out on Monday, more classes to attend (my mini-mester starts this week and not next week like the school schedule first posted – yikes!). Stay tuned!