A step-by-step tutorial for DIY picture frame molding and wainscoting. I am sharing how to install it yourself and giving youall my tips for success PLUS my GENIUS time-saving method for cutting your trim! It is one of the most simple DIYs and doesn’t require power tools if you don’t have them! Picture frame molding adds so much character, dimension, and interest to a space and elevates any room instantly!
When designing my daughter’s gender-neutral nursery, I knew that I would want the room to be timeless and beautiful. I knew I wanted to add a precious wallpaper framed out in picture frame molding around the room to make the vision come to life!
What is picture frame molding?
It is exactly what it sounds like! It is four pieces of decorative trim that are cut at a 45-degree angle at each end to fit together to make a frame on the wall. They can be done out of any size trim that you can easily find at Lowe’s Home Improvement store (I think their trim selection is waaaaay better than Home Depot’s).
You can paint the frames the same color as the wall or a different color to make them stand out! You can wallpaper or paint a contrasting color inside them, too! The frames add so much to a room without trying too hard.
The installation was simple and took the space from boring to beautiful in a day! I used my powered miter saw and 18 gauge brad nailer, but this could be done with a miter box and a hammer/nails if you don’t have the power tools!
What supplies do I need to install picture frame molding:
- Tape measure
- 24″ level
- Additional 48″ level (if you have one)
- Speed square
- Power miter saw or miter box
- 18 gauge brad nailer or hammer/finish nails
- Wood filler
- 220 grit sandpaper
- Caulk and caulking gun
- Selected Trim
Do I need power tools to install trim to my walls?
NO! If you don’t have power tools you can use a miter box and a hammer with finish nails to install trim to a wall!
How do I pick the perfect trim for my wall?
When choosing the trim for this project I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted it to look like.
There are so many trims available but I like LOWE’S because I think that they have a better selection for trim than other stores.
When you go down the trim aisle, be sure to find the section labeled “wall”. They have many sections like door, ceiling, etc. Wall trim is designed to go on the wall.
I knew that I wanted the frames to look like actual picture frames so I chose a trim that was deep on one side and angled in so that it would look like a frame on the wall.
Decide on the molding you want to install before you decide on the layout of the design. Visit the store and make a decision then take photos of the product tag so you have the dimensions and remember which trim pieces you are planning to use in your room.
Once you figure out how much you need you can go back and make your purchase.
How do I install picture frame molding on a wall?
- Figure out the spacing of your frames.
- Take into consideration obstacles like light switches and outlet placements on the walls as well as weird ceiling coffers and bump-outs, etc. Make adjustments to your measurements.
- When deciding where you want your trim on the wall, keep in mind other things like moldings in windows and try to match the height/placement if possible, so that there is a flow to the line around the room. Try to make it consistent and easy on the eye.
- Draw the lines of where all the molding details will go on the wall according to the spacing you just figured out. Having a long 48″ level for the walls and a 24″ level for smaller spaces will be a time saver for this part, but a 24″ level will work just fine, too. I used my levels to outline all the frames and where the chair rail would go. This will help you also line up all of your trim!
Now that you have the frames all measured out you can begin to cut the frames. Begin with cutting the long vertical pieces first. They will most likely all be the same height on the wall or around the room unless you have funky angles or obstacles.
These pieces will need to be cut at 45 degrees and angled so that when it joins the next piece it will create a 90-degree angle and so on until you will have a complete frame. See my time-saving method a little bit later in this post!
Should I use a spacer block to help install trim on a wall?
Yes! It will save you so much time in the end because as you move across the wall you can just slide the block along another level piece of trim and nail the trim as you go!
How do I use a spacer block when installing trim?
- Cut a block the width of the distance that the frames will be apart. Example: If you have 3.5 inches in between the frames and all edges, then cut a block that is 3.5 inches wide. This will speed up the process of adding the trim. If you have a block you won’t have to use your level each time you install the next piece of trim! Just be sure your beginning vertical and horizontal pieces are plumb and level!
- If adding your chair rail, install it first making sure it is level across all walls. Then your molding can be added from there and you can use your block!
- Take your spacer block and lay it against the corner of your wall. Draw a small line where you will add your first molding piece. Lay the piece on the wall and add a nail.
- Now that you have the frames all measured out you can begin to cut the frames. Begin with the long vertical pieces first. They will most likely all be the same height on the wall or around the room. These pieces will need to be cut at 45 degrees and angled so that when it joins the next piece it will create a 90-degree angle and so on until you will have a complete frame.
- Take your level and make sure your trim is plumb (that is a straight vertical line) and then add a few more nails depending on how tall your wall is.
See in the photo how I am using the block to make sure the trim is the same distance from the baseboard along the whole bottom of the frame?
What is the best way to attach trim to a wall?
I do not use glue or adhesive. I don’t think it is completely necessary. Consider if you will be removing the trim at any point in time in the future. If you are – don’t use adhesive. You can get it secure without glue and the caulk will add another layer of “stick” once applied.
If you’re not going into a stud then you can add one nail on one side of the trim angled in and then another in the same spot on the other side angled in so the nails cross each other and create a nice grab onto the drywall. Visualize your pointer fingers on each hand pointing up, then cross them to make an “X”. That is what the nails will look like when installed like this!
- Don’t over nail! You will have to fill and sand every hole you create.
- I choose to use wood filler to fill nail holes, but you could use caulking if you want. I think that wood filler is cleaner and leaves a prettier finish!
- Run a bead of caulk along all edges of your trim boxes – inside and outside of the frame to fill any gaps and make the frames have a professional finish. For each frame you will add 8 lines of caulk! It will also protect the trim from being pulled off the wall by adding a little more hold.
- Paint the trim and the wall the same finish (I chose Eggshell for mine) so that the trim doesn’t stand out. It isn’t necessary to use trim paint and wall paint since the point of the trim work is to add detail to the wall and blend in.
How can I get all of my trim pieces cut the same length without making a mistake?
Check out my genius, time-saving method that I created for this project. It worked like a charm!!
- Measure one piece of trim and cut it to the correct length on both ends. This will be your template piece for a particular measurement that you need to do on several pieces. To do this, make a 45-degree angle on the right end of your trim piece making sure you are cutting inwards towards you from the long side to the short side. Then measure your length and mark the end of your trim. Turn your blade and cut towards the center of the saw, long side to short side. Remember to cut on the outside of your measurements otherwise, your piece will be too short.
- Next Piece of trim you want to cut in a series of several of the same length pieces: turn your blade and make a starter cut at a 45-degree angled towards the center of the saw, from long side to short side again on the right-hand side.
- Place the template piece you cut in the beginning against the trim piece you just did a starter cut on so you have the template piece lined up long side to long side matching up the 45 degree angles on the right to create a “point” on the right side. These will be opposite each other in direction. The right side with both pieces together should look like an arrow.
- Make sure the right sides are perfectly lined up and then mark the left end (or point) on the uncut piece based on your template.
- Take a speed square and line it up with the mark you made and trace a 45-degree line in the direction that you need to cut (it will be opposite the direction of the template). This will remind you which way you need to put your blade and make it so you don’t have to measure each piece one by one.
- Cut on the OUTSIDE of your mark. If you cut inside your piece will be too short by 1/8″ and you will be sad. Be sure to take pay attention to which side of the line you need to cut on!
- Turn your blade and make a starter 45-degree cut on the next piece and repeat steps 2-6 of laying the pieces back to back.
- Repeat until they are all cut. Then move on to another piece with different dimensions and use the same process of creating a template piece for those cuts.
When you are all done you will be left with beautiful picture frame molding in your space that you did all by yourself!
This DIY will completely change your space, I promise! Check out what this room looks like with the trim installed, filled, and painted! Now go out there and dream up a space to install a wall of picture frame molding in!
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