Dado rail tips

Written by kelvin o'donahue
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Dado rail tips
The wall ar right features a chair rail, with different wall treatments above and below the moulding. (Breakfast Room image by Stephen Orsillo from

Dado rails have become a popular design element in modern homes. A dado rail, more often called a chair rail, is a horizontal strip of wooden moulding placed on a wall near waist height. The moulding strip may function as decoration, protect wall surfaces from damage, or both. Chair rails are often combined with wainscoting in more formal settings.

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Chair rail height

Chair rail used to protect a wall from scuffs or gouges caused by furniture should be placed at a height above the floor that is appropriate for the specific furnishings. When used as a decorative accent, the moulding is usually placed about 1/3 of the distance from the floor to the ceiling, or 80 cm (32 inches) for an 2.4 cm (8 foot) ceiling.

Decorative elements

Chair rails are a popular design element, particularly in formal dining rooms. A chair rail is often used to separate different wall treatments. This may include different paint colours, use of wallpaper above or below the rail, or wainscoting below the rail.

Use with wainscoting

Chair rail is often used as a cap on wainscoting, decorative wood panelling covering the lower portion of a wall. Wainscoting is available in standard pre-cut 80 and 90 cm (32 and 36 inch) lengths, which correspond to 1/3 of 2.4 and 2.7 m (8 and 9 foot) walls, respectively.

Installation tips

The complex profile of chair rail moulding is well-suited to the use of a coping technique on inside corners, though outside corners must be conventionally mitred. A chair rail need not surround the entire room: the rail can end at a door or window frame. If end of a rail is exposed, it should be finished with a return, or short piece of moulding mitred into the end. This provides a more finished appearance than a butt cut.

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