How To Install Molding Like a Pro

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Thanks so much for your nice comments about my hallway wainscoting! I am always thrilled to get feedback from my readers. 🙂

Tips and tricks for installing molding and trim like a pro. A great DIY tutorial!

I will be sharing some tips for installing molding that my brother in law taught us. If you’ve never done it before, don’t be scared. You can do this!! For this tutorial, I took the photos and my hubbie hung the trim, but only because I am more familiar with using the camera out of auto mode. I actually did all of the same steps by myself earlier, including cutting the trim, and using the nail gun. You can too. Promise.
diy-install moldingLet me start by saying that before you actually hang your trim, you need to measure your wall, decide on the size you want your boxes, and how much space you want in between them. Katie at Bower Power does an awesome job of explaining this, so I’m not going to re-invent the wheel. Check out her instructions on calculating sizes for molding. After you’ve got that all figured out and have cut out your wood pieces, you are ready to hang your trim!

The first tip Jacob gave us was to start in the area that will be seen the least. With practice, your work will get better, so you want the stuff that will be seen the most look the best. We started in the corner by my boys’ bedroom and worked toward the end of the wall at the top of the stairs. We are working from left to right on the wall.

Let’s do this thing, shall we?

How to Install Molding Like a Pro

1-This tip comes from me, not from Jacob. I think it is much easier to paint the trim before you install it. Strep got in the way of my plans to paint the trim, and all I had time for was the primer. But it is so much easier to paint the trim first, because then you don’t have to tape off the wall.
Here are the pieces from the section of wall that we are doing the demo on:
install wainscoting-diy
2-You want to hang your chair rail first. The bottom of our chair rail is 31 inches from the floor or 28″ from the top of the baseboard, but you can do yours whatever height you like. We are doing ours on a tiny section, but it was the same on our long wall, the boxes were just bigger. We measured 28″ up from the baseboard and made a mark every few inches across the entire wall.
diy-intsall wainscoting3-Now place your chair rail piece up on the wall with the bottom flush with your marks.  Usually this is one long piece, but we were dealing with a corner, so we had a small piece and a longer piece. We worked from left to right, and used wood glue to hold the smaller piece on the wall while we placed the longer piece next to it.
diy-install wainscotingdiy-install wainscoting4-Now it’s time to nail it up using your nail gun and air compressor. Tip: Shoot the nails into a flat or outward curve of your trim. If you shoot them into a groove, it is really hard to fill and sand them later on!
diy-install wainscoting5-Use the bottom of your chair rail and the left side of the wall as a guide to make your marks for the placement of your boxes. Tip: Place your marks where the outer edge of the piece will go, not the inside. It is easier to see and line up that way. In the photo you can only see the top marks, but we marked all the way around. Then take some wood glue and add a thin layer to the back of the piece that goes vertically on the left side. Don’t add too much glue or your piece of trim will slide around while you are placing it, and you don’t want that. Trust me on that one!
diy-install wainscoting6-Place the long piece of wood on the wall, making sure it lines up with the marks on the left side. That will ensure that it is parallel on the sides. To make sure you have it the correct distance from the chair rail, take the piece that will run across the top. Don’t glue it yet, just use it as a guide. Line up that top piece with the marks you made, then slide the long piece up till it fits snugly against the corner.
diy-install wainscoting7-Now nail the long vertical piece in place. You want to nail about every 6 inches or so.
diy-install wainscoting8-Add glue to the back of the top piece, and nail it in place, making sure it lines up with your top marks.
diy-install wainscotingdiy-install wainscoting9-Now take your bottom piece and put glue on the back. Line it up with your bottom marks, and the corner of the left piece. Nail ONLY the left side on. Ignore my scuff marks, mmkay?
diy-install molding10-Put glue on the back of the right piece and place it on the wall, lining it up with your marks on the right side. Make sure the top corners match up. Since you didn’t attach the right edge of the bottom piece you should be able to wiggle it so that it matches up perfectly with the side piece. Nail the side piece in place.
diy-intsalling molding11-Nail the bottom piece in place. Pat yourself on the back, or do a happy dance like I did, whatever floats your boat. You did it!
DIY-installing molding12-Continue adding boxes the same way, using the right side of the previous box as your measuring guide. (Ex. If your boxes are 4″ apart, make several marks 4″ across from the existing box.)

When you are all finished hanging your trim, you need to use spackling to fill in all your nail holes. Then use caulk around the outer and inner edges of each box, and on the top and bottom of the chair rail. After that dries, all you have to do is paint. I used Behr Premium Plus Ulta Paint and Primer in One, in semi-gloss white. I get it at Home Depot and I love it!  I debated about using the semi-gloss on the whole lower part of the wall, but all my door trim is semi-gloss, so I went with it. I love how easy it is to clean up!

Look what a difference molding makes:
diy-install moldingThis is one do-it-yourself project that you should not be afraid to tackle! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. 🙂



  1. Your molding looks beautiful in your hallway!! I love how molding adds so much!

  2. Beautiful!

  3. This is beautiful! I am gathering ideas for our basement that we are going to finish this summer, and I am totally pinning this 🙂 Great job, and thanks for the tutorial!

  4. Lolly Jane says

    Love it!! I’m attempting to do this in my bedroom right now. We’ll see if it’s a success or epic fail 😉 Kelli

  5. I love it! My question is, how do you cut the trim.
    We always seem to have problems with getting the trim to line up nice. Especially in the corners!

    • When I do Rachel’s room I will have to do a tutorial on cutting the corners. 😉
      In the meantime. . . I used my miter saw and cut at a 45° angle. We bought a special blade for trim work that leaves a much smoother edge. Mostly you just have to cut really slow to make sure the blade hits where you want it to.

  6. Awesome job! We have added this in a few homes…and I’m awful at measuring!

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