How to Install Picture Rail Now That It Is (Rightfully) Back in Style

How to Install Picture Rail Now That It Is (Rightfully) Back in Style
Photo: steved_np3, Shutterstock

While most contemporary homes don’t come with picture rail installed, the Victorian style of moulding is making a comeback. Whether you’re after that classic victorian look — or something a bit more modern look — installing picture rail moulding is a simple and stylish project to tackle. While conventional picture hooks and hangers are still the norm, we’re here to say that picture rail offers versatility and impact that hooks alone can’t provide.

Choose your moulding

Picture rail comes in a variety of shapes, but the important thing about it is that the top curves out from the wall so there’s room for a hook to nest on top of it. The hooks also come in a variety of designs that are designed to be used in conjunction with picture-hanging cord, chain, or wire. Newer designs also sometimes have a track or a slot for hanging hardware, but these types will come equipped with hanging hardware and instructions.

Tools and materials

Once you’ve chosen your moulding, you’ll need to get your tools together for the install: You’ll need a tape measure, stud finder, level, miter saw, a finish nail gun or finish nails, and hammer with a nail set. Some masking tape and safety glasses are also in order.

Install your rail

Picture rail is traditionally installed all the way around the room at the same height as the top of the door frame. However, for a more modern look, you can choose to highlight just one wall. Measure your lengths of moulding with your tape measure and then find and mark your studs with masking tape or a light pencil mark. Then, cut your moulding to the length of the wall you’re installing it on. If you plan to go all the way around the room, you’ll need to cut the moulding at a 45-degree angle at the corners. The side of the moulding that rests against the wall will be the longest side of your 45-degree angle to make the moulding match. Then you can tape your moulding to the wall at the height of the door frame (or get someone to help you hold it), check that it’s level, and nail it into your studs.

Display your artwork

Once your moulding is installed, you can use the hooks and hanging equipment to hang your artwork. The advantage of having a picture rail system isn’t just the look of it — it also makes it easier to change the position of your artwork on the wall. You can slide the hooks along the moulding to choose the lateral position of your frames, and you can lengthen or shorten the chord to change the height. You don’t need to fill nail holes when you change your mind or hang a new framed piece.

Other great uses for picture rail

The versatility of picture rail doesn’t stop with artwork, though. The hooks are designed to carry enough weight that they can accommodate a medium-sized house plant, as well. For climbing vines, the hook and rail system is a great indoor trellis. If you have picture rail in a hallway or entryway, the hooks also make great extra coat or hat hooks. And for a little bit of sparkle, a strand of fairy lights can be easily hung from picture rail hooks. Your picture rail can be the hardest working piece of moulding in your home, and it will look great doing it.

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