How to Fix a Picture Rail

Updated February 21, 2017

Chair rail moulding is not only functional, it's an attractive feature for a wall. Hanging pictures with attractive picture hooks is easier than nailing hooks directly into the wall. Pictures can be rearranged or removed by simply lifting the picture off the rail hook. Adding more pictures is just as easy: Slide the hooks from side to side until you find the proper distance between the pictures. A picture rail also eliminates the need to patch nail holes.

Measure the perimeter of the wall and purchase railing according to that measurement. Buy a few feet of extra railing in anticipation of cutting errors.

Measure and mark the entire wall 12 to 18 inches below the ceiling. The distance for the railing height will depend on personal preference.

Use a stud finder to mark the studs on the wall. Studs are spaced 16 inches apart, from centre to centre.

Cut the first length of moulding for the wall. Use a mitre box and a hand saw to cut a 45-degree angle for the corner. The mitre box has slots that keep the saw in perfect alignment while cutting the moulding. Sand rough edges until they are smooth once the moulding has been cut. A mitre box and hand saw can be purchased at a home improvement centre.

Align the top of the rail moulding under the perimeter guideline. Attach the moulding to the stud at the corner of the wall using finishing nails. Continue nailing the moulding to the studs until the moulding is attached.

Countersink each nail using a nail set tool. Countersinking drives the nail slightly below the surface of the moulding.

Cover the nail holes with wood putty. Use fine-grade sandpaper to smooth the surface and remove hardened wood putty.

Use paintable caulk to conceal gaps between the wall and the moulding. Gaps are likely to occur when the walls have an uneven surface. This is most likely to occur in older homes.


Paint or stain the wood before attaching to the wall. Wood putty is available in different colours to match natural wood colours. Electric mitre saws also make quick and clean cuts for angled corners, although the cost is considerably more than a hand saw.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Stud finder
  • Mitre box
  • Finishing nails
  • Hammer
  • Nail set
  • Wood putty
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Stain
  • Caulk
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Emma Lee owns a photography website and also works as a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, animals and photography. Her work can be found on various websites. Lee attended Charles County Community College located in Maryland.