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I hope you saw my recent post sharing our picture frame wall molding reveal using Metrie panel moulding–I’m absolutely thrilled with how it turned out! Initially, we just planned to install wall molding in our living room, but we ended up adding trim to the walls in our dining room, entryway, hallway, and one wall of our master bedroom as well!
Installing wall molding is a DIY project I highly recommend, and if you’d like to learn how to install picture frame molding (also called panel molding or decorative wall moulding) on the walls in your home, read on!
I’m sharing the entire process with you, including what picture molding is, how to cut wall molding, how far apart your wall trim should be, how to install picture frame molding, and everything else my husband and I learned while completing our wall molding project.
First of all, I believe anyone with basic carpentry skills and a passion for DIY projects can do this, so I hope you’ll give it a go. That said, I do think it helps a lot if you have a second pair of hands.
Second, although the instructions for how to install picture frame molding might look a bit daunting, once you get going, you’ll just be repeating the same steps over and over again. AND, best of all, once your picture molding is on the walls, you’ll love it so much it will make everything worthwhile–I promise!
By the way, if you’d like to know how to install modern square wall molding, see this post: How to Install Decorative Wall Molding: An Easy DIY.
How to Install Picture Frame Wall Molding
Blue painter’s tape
Miter Saw and a place to set it up*
Nail gun/nails* (or hammer and finishing nails)
Panel Mould/Picture Frame Molding this is what we used — comes in 8-foot and 12-foot lengths
Caulk – we went through about 6 tubes
Disposable gloves (optional)
Paint and trim brush (this is my favorite)
A 2- to 3-foot length of wood the same width as your spaces to use as your spacer
*It’s possible to do this project using a regular saw and a hammer and finishing nails, but if you’re installing over a large area, like we were, you’ll really want to have a miter saw and an electric or pneumatic nail gun.
Our project began a few months ago with painting our walls white. Just the process of deciding which paint to use stretched over several weeks, with me running to the store for samples and doing test patches on the wall. We ended up selecting and using Benjamin Moore Simply White in the areas shown here and BM White Dove elsewhere.
Since we planned to add picture frame molding, we chose a satin finish for our paint in order to match our existing trim work. I think we could have gone with an eggshell finish, but sometimes you just don’t know these things until afterward. Of course, you don’t have to use white paint–I’ve seen beautiful rooms with panel molding painted in just about every color.
Some people paint their walls after the trim work is installed, but we decided to paint the walls first and just touch up the molding after it was installed.
Choose your molding style:
As I mentioned in my last post, when we started shopping for molding, the picture frame moulding supplier I was drawn to over and over again was Metrie. After checking out all the collections on their website, I chose the Scene II Panel Mould from their Fashion Forward collection. I love the clean modern look of this molding style, as well as its symmetry.
Measuring and Deciding How Much Molding You’ll Need:
Gather a calculator, a tape measure, and paper and pencil and measure the width and height of your wall from the ceiling to the top of the baseboard. (If you have crown molding, measure from the bottom of the crown molding to the top of the baseboard.)
Decide how far apart you want the space between your panels to be. I’ve heard of people using 3” spaces all the way up to 8”. We decided to go with 5-inch spaces, both between panels and at the upper, lower and outer edges. This allowed us to avoid most electrical outlets, switch plates, and air vents.
If you’re using chair rail, you’ll need to take that into account as well. I think it’s important to keep your spaces consistent to retain a clean, symmetrical look. It’s also extremely helpful to make a spacer the exact width of your spaces. See below for more info on how to use your spacer.
Next, decide on the configuration of your sections. You can either divide your wall into equal sections, or, if there’s an area of the wall where you would naturally place a TV, a couch, artwork, or a bed, you might want to plan for a bigger section in those places, surrounded by smaller sections on each side. We did this in our dining room and living room. Measure outward from the center of the place where you would hang the TV or artwork. We had one wall that was especially tricky because the center of the living space wasn’t the actual center of the wall, so that took quite a bit of time to figure out.
In any places you’re not sure about, use blue painter’s tape to mark your sections on the wall to get an idea of what different configurations will look like. This step was invaluable to me, because there were certain areas I couldn’t envision without seeing an outline on the wall.
Once I decided on the configuration, I used note cards to draw out the plan for each wall as well as make note of the length of the cuts we would need for each section. Don’t let all the calculations below scare you off. You don’t necessarily have to do this, but I’m a visual-oriented person so I found it helpful to “see” things on paper before we started.
You can also use the note cards to help you determine how much molding you’ll need to buy. Pieces generally come in 8-foot and 12-foot lengths. Remember that you don’t want to be cobbling short pieces together to make a longer length, so think about the longest pieces you’ll need and whether you’ll be able to get any more cuts out of those strips of molding.
If you have very tall walls, like ours, some of your cuts might take almost an entire piece of molding, and often the excess is unusable, so make sure you add extra to account for loss. I would add about 20% over your measurements to account for loss and mistakes. If you’re wondering how much the molding will cost, most panel or picture frame molding comes out to about a dollar a foot.
Installation & How to Cut Picture Frame Molding
First, you’ll need to measure and cut your molding lengths at a 45-degree angle using a miter saw. The style of unfinished panel molding we chose was the same on both edges, but if you’re using a type of molding that isn’t symmetrical, you’ll need to take into account the inside and outside edges of the molding as you cut and install it.
My husband started out assembling entire sections in the garage, using staples or nails at the corners to hold them together, and then attaching the whole thing to the wall at once. He soon discovered this wasn’t the fastest or easiest way to go, so he started attaching one piece of molding to the wall at a time, leaving the nails nearest to the last corner until the last and then bringing those two sides together to touch at the corner.
Most people recommend drawing your squares on the wall with a pencil, using a level to make sure they’re straight. We tried this at first, but it seemed to slow things down, so my hubby cut a 2-foot length of plywood so it was 5 inches wide – or the width of all of our spaces. He then used this piece of wood as his guide as he placed and nailed each side of the square. This helped immensely!
After his first few sections, he got really fast at cutting and installing the picture frame molding. I was following along, caulking each section as he finished, and I could barely keep up with him!
How to install picture frame molding – step by step instructions:
1. Place your spacer on the baseboard and put your bottom length of molding on top of it. Measure out to each side with your tape measure to make sure the molding is in the correct horizontal position. Place your level on top of the piece of molding to make sure it’s level and make adjustments as needed. Secure the molding to the wall with your nail gun. (I apologize for the quality of these photos–we were in a hallway so I had to turn on the lights.)
>>2. Place the next strip of molding (for either the right or left side of the frame) perpendicular to the bottom section, fitting the corner into the corner of the bottom section, and use your level to make sure it’s straight. Secure the molding to the wall with your nail gun.
>>3. Repeat step 2 for the opposite side. You now have a U-shape.
>>4. Place the top piece of molding on top of the two vertical sections, fitting it in at each corner. Check to make sure it’s level, then attach it to the wall with your nail gun, leaving the nails nearest to the final corner until last and bringing those two sides together to touch at the corner. You want to have minimal gaps at each corner, but if you do have gaps, you can fill them in later with wood filler.
>>5. If you’re doing an upper section, like we did, place the spacer on top of your completed section and use it as your guide for the bottom strip of the upper section. Then repeat steps 1-4 to complete the frame.
>>6. If your strip of molding will intersect with a switch plate, as you can see in our living room, below, you’ll need to cut lengths that will butt up to each side of the plate. Dave made a cut that angled downward toward the switch plate so the molding wouldn’t just abruptly stick out from the switch plate.
As you’re installing the panel molding, you might have places where you’ll need to adjust things a bit to make your sections look pretty and symmetrical. We wanted the center of a couple of our sections to be in a certain spot to allow for placement of artwork, so we had to adjust our section sizes a bit to make it look right.
Once the wall trim sections are installed, you’ll need to caulk around the inside and outside edges of the unfinished molding strips where they meet the wall to create a seal. If necessary, smooth lightly with your fingertip. Wipe up any excess at the outer and inner corners. Make sure you’re wearing disposable gloves and have lots of damp paper towels or rags handy!
I learned how to caulk while doing this project and at first I was making a big mess! Then I discovered that the tip of my caulk gun had turned over and wasn’t pointing at the correct angle toward the wall!
You’ll also need to patch the nail holes and corner gaps in the unfinished picture frame moulding, using clear or white wood filler. Once the wood filler is dry, lightly sand any bumpy spots and touch up all of the molding with paint. This is a “before caulk and wood filler” shot:
And this is after filling, sanding and painting. Hopefully people won’t inspect your corners this closely!
That’s it! Now that you know how to install picture frame molding, I have a feeling you’ll want to add it everywhere!
Here’s the same wall I showed earlier in the post–this time with completed wall trim instead of blue tape!
And a big thank you to my husband for sticking with me through this project, and for his amazing carpentry skills!