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How To: Fit Decorative Woodwork

How To: Fit Decorative Woodwork

Decorative woodwork finishes off a room; like framing a picture, it adds the finishing touches. There are different types of mouldings and each type comes in a range of patterns and designs. Here’s how to fit a dado or picture rail.

Picture rails were originally used to hang pictures without marking the walls with nails. Dado rails were designed to protect walls from being scratched or scraped by chair backs and other furniture. Today, both rails are used more as a design feature than for their practical uses; dado and picture rails break up the walls, enabling you to have a feature colour without having to paint a whole room. What’s more, as the lower part of the wall tends to take more wear and tear than the upper parts, dado rails allow you to repaint just the bottom instead of the whole wall.

You Will Need...

To fit a dado or picture rail, you will need: your chosen style of rail; a countersink drill bit or nail punch; spirit level, grab adhesive (optional), tenon saw, mitre block, wire detector, pencil and metre rule. You may decide to use nails alone to secure the rail, but if you want the rails to be more secure (particularly if you are planning on hanging heavy pictures and mirrors from the picture rail), you can also use grab adhesive.

Getting Started

To begin with, draw a guide line around the wall. This is often 1 metre from the top of your skirting board, so a metre ruler is perfect for the job. Using a pencil, mark the height at intervals with a straight dash. Use a wire detector to make sure that you are not planning on putting a nail through any pipes or wires! Place your rail on the line and nail through the centre of the rail, securing it to the wall.

Mitre Cuts

At the corners, you will need to make mitre cuts to ensure that the rails fit seamlessly together. Use the mitre block and tenon saw to get two 45-degree angles and make sure that both pieces fit together before you secure then to the wall.


Measuring and cutting dado and picture rails for stairs isn’t as tough as it seems. Take your pencil line one metre above the skirting board all the way to the point at which the skirting board starts to slope upwards. Mark this point. Continue up the stairs, marking the one-metre mark every couple of stairs. Finally, join your dots to get the straight rail line. Using your rail as a template, add top lines to your guide, so that you have two parallel lines running along the flat and up the stairs. Place your rail in the guide lines and, using the pencil lines as a guide, mark the angles on the rail. Cut using your mitre block and saw, checking that they fit cleanly before fixing to the wall.

If you don’t have the time, inclination or confidence to fit your own dado rails, why not ask a professional? We have a host of trusted, rated carpenters and handymen in our directory, who would be happy to help.

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