Different Kinds of Chair Rails

Written by e.a. west
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Different Kinds of Chair Rails
Chair rails can be used to separate different materials on the upper and lower portions of the wall. (Living Room image by Dawn from Fotolia.com)

Chair rails are a type of moulding applied to the wall about three feet above the floor. Originally, chair rails were used to protect plaster walls from being damaged by the backs of chairs. This is one reason chair rails are popular in the dining rooms of old homes. Now, in addition to providing a bit of protection to your walls, chair rails have become a popular interior decorating material.

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Traditionally, chair rails are made of wood. The kinds of wood used to create chair rails include pine, oak, maple, and poplar. Some wood chair rails are made from MDF (medium-density fiberboard), which is an engineered wood.


Chair rail moulding can also be made from plaster. While more fragile than a wood chair rail, it tends to be less expensive than wood and it takes paint well.


Another affordable option for chair rails is plastic or resin. Though not traditional materials, plastic and resin are durable and usually less expensive than wood.


There are hundreds of different styles of chair rails. Simple chair rails with a smooth surface that's either squared or rounded are popular for a more subdued decor For a more ornate look, carved and embossed chair rails are available. Although chair rail moulding is usually two to three inches wide, many different widths are available. Thicker chair rails work best in large rooms, while thinner chair rails are suitable for smaller rooms.


White plaster chair rail moulding is a popular way to separate two different coverings on the same wall, such as wainscoting on the lower portion and wallpaper on the upper portion. Other colours available include off-white and cream. Wood chair rails can be stained or painted to match any decor Plaster and resin chair rail moulding can also be painted in any colour.

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