How to Install Picture Frame Molding

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Thanks for all the GREAT comments on the dining room. I’m SO glad you all love it too, I really have been staring it at every chance I get. It was so nice to actually use it last weekend, since we don’t formally entertain all that often. And we’ll get to use it again this weekend. Most of you thought I should keep the mirror where it is….so, I’m listening. It will stay right there! Moving it would require moving a lot of other things too, so that keeps it simple. For all of you who wanted the details…keep reading.

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I’ll try to do this as step by step as I can, but it was hard to grab the camera to get all the details. Putting up the molding was not hard, it was just time consuming and the hardest part was cutting the molding pieces and keeping them the same size. OK, first…you need to figure out how to lay out your moldings. I started with that one small wall right inside my dining room. I had gotten some ideas from other people on how their molding was spaced, so I used this measurement: 4 1/2 inches from the bottom of the chair rail and the same from the baseboard molding up. Then, I used 5” to space them apart, so came in from the doorframe about 5”. I would use that rule of measurement for the rest of the space too. I did take a pencil and draw a line across which would be where I wanted my molding to sit once it was up. That helped visually to keep it measured right and I used the line all the way across, making sure with my tape measure that I was 4 1/2” down at all times.

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I measured my longest wall (behind the buffet) and got the measurement in inches. It was right at 145” long, so I knew that I would need to do 4 boxes in that space. I counted 5” for each end from the corners, plus 15” for in between each box for a total of 25”. I then subtracted 25 from 145” , which came to 120. Then I divided 120 by 4 and came out with 30” for my box size. Are you still with me?? I’m NOT a math person, but even I could figure this one out. Just decide about how much space you want between, how many boxes you think will fit, & then do the numbers and it should come out fine. I cut one set of moldings for the long wall, which was going to take 4 frames to fill, so I used that first set as my template, but believe me, it didn’t work completely well, even though I used a pencil and drew on the next piece of molding exactly where to cut. They still end up being off by a fraction here or there, so you may end up having to trim off a hair here and there. I had to do that several times. Someone asked if Peter helped. He did help me by cutting the first 4 squares for me so that’s the wall I started on. The rest, I did by myself. Using the miter box is not hard, just takes a little time to get it going. You can see in that first pic that it’s mounted on a work table I have in the garage. There are holes for screws in these mitre boxes and that was definitely the best thing to do. Mount it to my work table, so it didn’t move all around.

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So, with my measurements in place, we cut the molding. My measurements were 30” long and the side pieces were 19”. But, like I said, when you start cutting these on the 45* angle, they do tend to get slightly off here and there. The 45 angle keeps your corners going together well, but if you cut one side a little longer, it can make your rectangle be off in measurement. I ended up being more particular about the top of my molding rather than the bottom. The top is 4 and 1/2” from the bottom of the chair rail and the bottom of the box is slightly less than that from the baseboard, about 4 1/4”. So, that’s what I meant about my measurements not being totally perfect. I don’t think anyone will notice it ever, now that it’s all painted and done. And once all the furniture goes back in place, you don’t even see them all. If you take special care with your first box & get it placed and spaced exactly right, then the rest should fall into place. Get yourself a level. You’ll need that. I placed that level on the top of the box and then as I added the next box, I would place it on top of both pieces to be sure it was all staying level. That’s what I concentrated on the most. The box itself will come together really easily when you get the angles cut, so you don’t really have to worry about that all that much. It will form a box. You’ll end up with 2 long pieces and 2 shorter pieces for the sides. Another thing to be careful of is which way to cut your angles. I screwed that up a couple of times, by having the molding turned the wrong way & cutting the angle the wrong direction. The fat part of the molding is to the outside with the thinner part inside. Once you cut a good set for a template, you should be good to go from there. Just cut them all the same way.

DIY picture frame molding

You will need a small box of finish nails. You have to be a little careful with nails as it can split the molding. For the most part, I used liquid nails on the back of the molding to hold it in place with tape added to keep it secure. But, this molding is real wood and it does tend to bow a little, so you might have a corner that wants to stick up and not lay down flat like it’s supposed to. The Liquid Nails will hold it on the wall fine, but you may have to put a nail in there to secure it more. I used a few nails around on mine and drove them all the way in to keep the molding flatter against the wall. You want that to be as flat as possible when it all dries. I decided to wrap this box around the corner since the wall was so short on the right side. I thought it would look strange to just do one box on the bigger wall & nothing on the small one. I’m really happy with how it came out.

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So, here it all is on the wall and drying. Most of the corners will go together pretty well, but you’ll see little gaps too and that is what the white paintable caulk is for. CAULK IS YOUR BEST FRIEND IN THIS PROJECT! I can’t emphasize that enough. Buy a big tube of caulk and a caulk gun, you will need it. Once everything is dry and you take all the tape off, you’ll go back and caulk all the seams and the corners.

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This is the corner I’m most proud of where I turned the corner. I don’t have the tools for an angle like this, but I kept messing with the molding til I had the edges notched enough that they would fit somewhat together. You have to play with that & use the mitre saw at an angle from the top. This was the hardest cut to figure out and it’s not perfect, but all I could come up with. There was a huge gap once I put it in place, so I used wood putty to fill in the gap. Once that dried and I sanded it slightly, it was fine. The white paint covers most of it up, but remember the smoother your surface and walls, the better it will look. I used white semi-gloss trim paint on this and it took 3 coats to even it all out. Our walls were not in the best shape anyway and the trim paint wasn’t an expert job either from before we moved in here, so when I painted the walls, there are blemishes and little specks on it. I did a little sanding on the walls and the edges of the molding, but not a lot. Sanding after you caulk can keep those little specks out of your paint too. Some of that will show up after the paint is put on. But, like I said, after it’s all done, you won’t be looking at it that closely. At least I don’t! But, if you’re a perfectionist, sand your walls and the trim a bit before you start painting.

 

 

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I only ran into one little problem with my electrical outlets. You can see in the above pic, there is one outlet right there on the far left. I had to scoot my first box over about 1/2” from where it was supposed to be to make sure I could put the cover back on. I didn’t stress out about it, just kept going from there with 5” in between and so that far end down there is probably 1/2” to 1” off from where it should be. Do I care? No way! The other outlets fell inside the boxes on all the rest, thank goodness.

DIY picture frame molding

See all those little gaps on the corners? That’s where the caulking really covers up. It will make a huge difference in how it turns out. Caulking everything is a must. Be sure to caulk the outsides all the way around and inside the box too. That really makes the paint look so much smoother and you won’t see those little gaps. On the wall above, straight ahead, I used the same 30” measurement for those boxes (on either side of the window). When I turned the corner (on the wall behind the china cabinet), that wall was not long enough for 2 boxes at 30” each, so I used my math skills again, still figuring 5” from the corner, 5” in between only 2 boxes and another 5” at the end, subtracted that number from the total length of the wall & came up with a number. Divided that by 2 (boxes) and that’s how long these 2 boxes are. I think they measure 28” instead of 30”, so you’ll have to keep that in mind for any short walls. There’s no exact science to this, you just have to go by what looks good visually and what works for your walls.

 

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Here’s a corner after caulking is done. You’ll also want to countersink the finish nails (which means to sink them below the surface of the wood) and then caulk those too. Sometimes it’s hard to get those little nails countersunk and mine aren’t perfect either, but after caulking and painting, who knows?

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Some of my corners had a little notch out of them from cutting too close with the saw, so I used wood putty on those too. If there are any carpenters looking at my pics right now, they are probably cringing. The caulking gives it a seamless look, so that’s why it’s so important.

 

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This is what the side will look like before caulking…..

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And after. If you can, get those little specks off before you start painting, cause it will show up in the paint. You just wipe off the excess caulk as you’re going along with a damp rag.

I primed over the red first, then added the moldings. Then I did 3 coats of semi-gloss trim paint over ALL of it, wall and new trim. To answer a question, that is to mimic real wood paneling and that’s how lots of builders do it. The semi-gloss paint will show up all the imperfections on your wall, so a good sanding is a great idea before you start painting.

DIY picture frame molding

That’s how I did it! This is probably NOT the correct or professional method at all, but it worked for me. I hope some of you will try this too. I am certainly not an expert on any of this, but I’m not afraid to try something new either. Don’t be scared, what’s the worse that can happen? You mess up a piece of $6 molding. That’s not the end of the world. My hubby just isn’t that handy, so I just do it myself. He’s very proud and loves that I don’t mind trying new things.

I’ve got other things I want to do too, so I’ll just jump in there and give it a go. This project was very inexpensive too. I think I bought about 10 pieces of 8’ molding at around $6 each, plus caulk and Liquid Nails, so really about $65 to do this. Can you beat that price? I don’t think so!

What you’ll need:

Molding – the # on the back of what I used is #EC-163 from Lowes & it was about $5.81 each (8′ long)

Hammer

Mitre Box (These cost less than $10 at the home stores)

Finish nails (1 1/2″ is what I used)

Level

Liquid Nails (get the big one & use a gun)

Caulk – white paintable (get a big tube & use the gun)

Maybe a little sandpaper

I really hope I’ve inspired you to try it yourself too. You can do it!

 

 

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- Rhoda

Comments

  1. I was looking at “Pretty Handy Girl”‘s blog and your blog name just jumped out at me. Must have been the Good Lord helping. I had already decided that this is what I’m going to do to my living room, dining room, kitchen area. It’s all one open area. I totally fell in love with the openness of the rooms when we where house hunting four years ago. I knew this was what I wanted to do the first time I saw it on another blog. Thank you so much for the super great tutorial on this. Did you use the same molding for the chair rail, and frame boxes? I build a electric fireplace and put it on one wall with short book shelves on each side. I bought the book shelves at Walmart. I’m going to build a box to go under them so I can add my baseboards at the bottom of them. So that wall will not need the frames. Do you think this will look right? Wish I know how to send you a picture of the fireplace and bookcases. Can you tell me how to send the pictures? I’m very proud of the fireplace. So many people that sees it says it looks like a real fireplace not an electric one. It took me almost 3 mouths to build it because I’m disabled and using my hands causes them to hurt very bad, so I had to go very slow and only work on it about an hour a day. So doing this will go slow, but I’m determined to do this. Again thank you very much for sharing this. Oh and I have an electric miter saw because of the way my hands are very

    • HI, Janis, thanks for stopping by. The chair rail molding was already in the house when I moved in, so I bought another molding for the boxes. Your idea sounds doable, so give it a try. Glad you have an electric miter saw.

  2. Thank you so much for posting your amazing tutorial! I just finished my dining room and it came out beautifully. I had been researching this method for a while and yours was by far the most detailed and helpful. I’m so happy I stumbled upon your how-to. Thanks again!

    • HI, Jenna, I’m so glad it as helpful. That was done a long time ago and I’m happy it’s still valuable information.

  3. Beautiful job! Is the trim painted the same color and sheen as the wall? Thanks for the inspiration!!

  4. These picture boxes can be bought at the big box stores for approximately 10 dollars and saves so much time. It makes this project very easy!!

    • Hey, Jon, you are right, they do have them, but the sizes are limited so that’s why I chose to do my own size.

  5. Thank you so much for this post. My husband and I just bought a new house and really want to do these shadow boxes in our dining room. I have looked at so many DIY posts and they all just say “whatever molding you like.” You are the only DIY post I found that actually told me what molding you used for the boxes. Thank you, thank you, thank you for actually telling me which one you used. It looks great and I can’t wait to tackle this project!

    • Hi, Nikki, I’m so glad you stopped by, that was a really old project but still useful. Glad it helped!

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