How to Install Picture Frame Molding

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.



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?


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.



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


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)


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

Finish nails (1 1/2″ is what I used)


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!



- Rhoda


  1. Sarah @ Thrifty Decor Chick says

    Ohhh I never saw this till now! Congrats on a job well done!! You are going to do this everywhere now, you might as well go buy the nail gun girl!! 🙂

  2. Thank you! I am a designer on HGTV/TLC/BRAVO constantly telling my clients and viewers how easy this is to do…caulking is YOUR FRIEND!! 🙂 nicely done

  3. I’m going to start this weekend on this project ~ FINALLY! I will keep you posted on how it turns out. What color paint did you do in the dining room? It looks like a light wheat/tan color. I think I would like that for my bedroom.

  4. Just in time, I will be updating my dining room soon and wanted to put up Picture Frame Molding and thought it would be to big of a job. But with this tutorial hopefully it will be a breeze.


  5. Rhonda,This is my first time at your site and I really enjoyed the detailed post you gave on the picture frame molding. I enjoy doing my own work also and love this good information. I will be back for more information and thanks for taking the time to give such good info.
    Gail J Richardson

  6. Seeing those pictures of your work, you really did a good job! You also helped some people especially those who wants to make-over their house without paying construction workers. With your blog and with the pictures with it, they can now have a new design of their home. Hoping to read your blogs someday!

  7. Rhonda, It all looks wonderful. I must be a little thick, however. Are all the boxes the same size give or take a little or is it they are whatever size you get 41/2″ down and same up from baseboard and 5″ between?

  8. Judy Stelman says

    What a hoot!!! Is it something to do with having the same bloodline?? I had a red dining room with my longtime queenanne cherry dining furniture. Recently painted above the chairrail a similiar shade as yours. Also have been painting out all the trim in the house a white. It was stained and so outdated. Looks much better now. I haven’t started the picture molding yet, but it was part of my plan! Now I can see what my room will look like! Awesome!

  9. I love your blog. I recently did a similar project, but not nearly as good as this. I use a pencil and tape to saw the angles. I’ll definitely keep checking your blog for more ideas. Check mine out too! I just did a post that will go up tomorrow summarizing all the projects I’m working on now. I’m a horrible multi-tasker.

  10. Just wanted to say thanks so much for this great and descriptive blog post. I found it through a google search and it really inspired me to take on this project myself. I was able to follow your instructions and just completed installation of frame molding in my dining room. I love it and I don’t think I could have done it without your help! My husband was very impressed when he came home and saw it – thanks so much!!

  11. I have one question. What happens if one day you want to remove it? The lower walls are painted semi gloss and the upper half is flat paint. Will it be hard to prime and paint over having two different surfaces. I would loove to do this. I just want to make sure I will not create myself a mess down the road. Thanks and it looks beautiful.

    • HI, Andrea, I don’t think that would be a problem (plus I wouldn’t take down panels anyway). It’s just paint, so could be primed over and repainted with no problem.

  12. Thanks for posting this. I would like to do something similar to my old-wooden kitchen cabinets. They are painted a blah brownish color right now so I thought it would be fun to paint them white and add some depth by putting a framing inside of each door. My only concern is that many of my doors are different widths so I’m not quite sure how to tackle this project! At least I have an idea of how to put it together once I figure it out! Thanks!

  13. I have some good friends who work in construction and they have a saying that I think you’ll enjoy: “Do your best and caulk the rest.”

    Cool project!

  14. I’m looking to do this in a small powder room and wanted to know what chair rail and baseboard you used? Do you have the item numbers for those pieces as well? Nice work I’m just hoping to replicate it! =)

    • HI, Todd, sorry that project has been about 4 years ago and I don’t know exactly what I used. I’m sure it came from Home Depot or Lowes.

    • Could you post or PM me some close up pics of the top and bottom trim boards?

    • Hi, Todd, sorry I do not live in that house anymore. THat was when I lived in AL and I’m now in GA. Sorry about that!

  15. It’s lovely! I’d love that in my dining room! I’m pleasantly surprised at the low cost and impressed that you did it by yourself. Well done!

  16. It looks fabulous! WHAT IS THE RED COLOR SHOWN ABOVE ON YOUR WALLS? Great color. You’ve inspired me to do the pic. frame wainscoting in my guest bedroom!


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  2. […] was a project I tackled all by myself:  adding picture frame molding below the existing chairrail in my diningroom.  It turned out so great and this was one I’m […]

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  4. […] a hand-me-down from Matt’s grandmother.  I love it!  For the wainscoting, I followed this tutorial.  My only words of wisdom are: we nailed in the top of the box, then put glue on the other […]

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