It’s so hard to focus on DIY projects this time of year. There are baseball divisional series’ going on, hockey is underway, football is in full swing, golf is still going strong and basketball season will start any day now. Not to mention that the weather is fantastic! But yet, a weekend warrior must soldier on to keep on top of home do-it-yourself projects. My project this past weekend was cutting and installing picture frame molding in the dining room (yes…I snuck in a little game time, too!). The photo (above) shows the picture frame molding before it was painted.
Installing picture frame molding in the dining room has been a rewarding project because:
a) It adds a touch of class for cheap.
b) It adds a great final touch to the dining room.
c) It’s not a difficult undertaking (unlike the crown molding I put up a few weeks ago) yet the results were great.
What follows are the steps I went through to get the dining room picture frame molding project underway and to bring it to completion.
The first thing I did was to take measurements of each wall below the chair rail. I also drew a detailed diagram with all of the measurements. That might be a little much for some of you who would rather just write some measurements on a sheet of paper, but it helps me keep on track and speeds the process for me.
I did a little math and figured out how much molding I would need. The molding I choose came in 8′ sections so I had to combine different lengths that would be needed to make the most use of each piece of trim molding. I also added about 15-20% for waste and mistakes.
We went to the local home improvement center and picked out a molding profile that would compliment the existing chair rail and crown molding that I had installed previously. We actually had picked out the picture frame molding at the same time as the rest of the molding in the room, but it’s up to you.
I already had a few things on hand to complete the project:
- measuring tape
- carpenter’s wood glue
- #18 x ¾" zinc plated wire brads
- compound miter saw
- nail set
- wood filler
- paint and primer
When I measured the walls, I figured how many inches looked good as a spacer between the edge of the wall and where the first piece of molding would be installed. In my case, I liked 3½" for my spacer. I had also looked at how far the gap was on new houses I had been looking at in order to get a good idea of industry standard. I used the same 3½" distance on top, bottom and in-between each picture frame box.
However, I did make an exception on the wall of the dining room where the full length bay window is located because the gaps between the walls and window casings are narrow, so I squeezed it in by 1". I wanted all of the walls to look symmetrical but it just didn’t look right to me because the picture frame boxes would have been too narrow.
You will need to cut 45° angles with the thinnest (and fanciest) part of the trim on the inside of the box. All of your vertical pieces should be the exact same length with the exception of any walls where you might have an HVAC return/vent or electric socket to cut around. I cut my first vertical piece and used it as my template for the remainder of the vertical pieces. I simply put the flat edges back-to-back and drew my lines on the face of the trim so that I knew where to cut. This will give you a consistent length throughout.
- Use caution by keeping your fingers out of harms way when using the compound miter saw.
- Always use safety glasses.
I did the same for the horizontal pieces, as well, except when it came to making cuts to trim out around the HVAC return. The other notable exception were all of the special 22½° cuts that were required for the bay window angles. They all had to be cut as individual units because the lengths were not consistent between the gaps, although I did place the top piece up against the piece to be cut, drew my line and then made m
y cuts in the opposite direction for the bottom. This way I knew it would square up.
The next part is a little tricky. I made a measurement on the wall 3½" away from the side and top and made a small mark on the wall. This was my starting point to place my first (horizontal) piece.
I then got my level and placed it on top of the molding. Once it was dead level, I drew a faint line across the top (or bottom…your choice) of the molding. Don’t worry about the line because you will paint the molding and wall when you are done.
If you DO NOT have a nail gun, you will need to pre-nail your brads/nails. This will free up a hand to hold the hammer while you hold the molding level.
TIP: I placed the molding on top of my aluminum level and lightly hammered the nails in until they tapped the level. This kept the nails from protruding through the backside of the molding and freed up a hand to hold the trim while I hammered it in.
I took my carpenter’s wood glue and spread a thin layer along the backside and on the ends of the molding. Good contact is essential to keeping the molding flush to the wall so be sure and press along the length of the molding once you’ve nailed it to the wall. I used three nails per piece of molding; one in the center and one on each end. Don’t nail it any closer than about 1½" from the end of the molding or the wood may split on you.
I suggest that you nail the top piece first, then both sides. Do not nail in the bottom nail of the vertical molding until you are ready to place the bottom horizontal piece. This allows you to make slight adjustments, left or right, in order to square it up for tight joints. Hammer in the remaining nails once you are satisfied with how the angles meet.
Grab your nailset and tap in the nail heads just below the surface of the wood. Take it easy or you may pound the nail clean through the molding. Nailsets have different tip diameters for different nail head sizes. I have a couple of them but I used the thinnest one for this project for obvious reasons.
Once you have completed all of your picture frame molding boxes, it’s time to fill the nail holes with wood filler There are different types of wood filler. A friend of mine told me that he learned a carpenter’s trick from a contractor that did some work in his home.
TIP: Use window glazing to fill nail holes. You may not need to sand it because you can wipe it flush when you apply it. Try it!
The only thing left to do is prime and paint it. You may choose to paint the inside of the picture frame box a darker shade than the remainder of the wall surrounding it to make it stand out. That is your choice.
That’s all there is to it!
(Please note that this project will go faster if you turn the game off.)