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Tips and Tricks For Installing Picture Frame Moulding On Walls

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Inside: Looking to add an elegant touch to your home on a budget? I share all of the tips and tricks for installing picture frame moulding on walls the right way.

We had a wall in our family room that looked pretty bare, so I started researching different wall treatment options that would add that “wow” factor.

Shiplap and board and batten are super popular right now, but I wanted something a little different.

When I saw photos of picture frame moulding on walls, I knew that’s what we needed in our space!

It definitely gives the wall a modern look and is a fairly inexpensive (though time-consuming) project.

Keep reading to get all of my tips and tricks to successfully install wall frames in your home.

Picture frame moulding on white wall with white chair, rug, and coffee table nearby.

Planning Out Your Wall Frames

Before you do anything for this project, you’ll want to measure your wall and layout where you want your wall frames to go.

1. Start by measuring the entire length of the wall (or walls) that you want to cover. You can use this measurement to decide how far to space out your wall frames.

2. Decide on the dimensions you want each box to be. I kept it easy and just used measurements in increments of 8. So I wanted the trim pieces to be 24, 48, and 56 inches in length. You can choose to have uniform frames on the wall or vary the sizes based on how you plan to decorate the room.

3. Once you have the wall frames measured out, use the measurement for the full length of the wall to determine how much space should go in between each frame. In my example, if the horizontal pieces are going to be 24 and 48 inches long and the wall is 124 inches in length, I would want 7 inches in between each box to make everything even.

Graphic of picture frame moulding dimensions with shapes and measurements.

4. Make a drawing of your plan. This will help you keep track of measurements and dimensions.

5. Use some masking tape (or painter’s tape) to visually layout where your moulding will go on the wall. Start with one side and work your way over if you’re doing uniform frames. If you’ll have various sizes, start on the outside edges and work your way in. This can help you see if you like your design and if you’ve spaced everything correctly.

Masking tape on white wall in regtangle and square shapes.

6. Add up all of the lengths for the boxes and purchase your moulding. Plan to order an extra 2 or 3 pieces just in case. Sometimes the trim pieces aren’t all the same length or you may make a mistake with your cuts.

Tips and Tricks For Success

White wall with picture frame moulding and gray couch nearby.

When we started out this project I thought it was going to be a super simple and quick DIY.

Boy was I wrong!

We made a few mistakes along the way that I want to share with you so you can have an easier time than we did.

1. Always measure each trim piece before you cut. Unfortunately, all trim pieces aren’t going to be uniform in length, so it’s best to measure the entire piece before you start cutting so you know how many frame pieces you can get out of the wood.

2. Order more moulding than you think you’ll need. I planned for one extra piece of moulding because I thought that would be plenty, but what I didn’t account for is the length that would be lost making 45-degree angle cuts. It’s always best to order more than you think you’ll need and you can always return the extras.

3. Slow and steady is the best way to cut. Because the moulding we used was so thin, it would chip and break when my husband made a cut too quickly. If you’re going to use the same moulding, slowly lowering the saw is the best way to avoid broken wood.

4. Use a spacer. This was our biggest mistake. We didn’t use a piece of wood to evenly space out our boxes. We thought a measuring tape would be good enough and it wasn’t. We had to pull out several pieces of trim and re-attach them because the boxes weren’t lining up. Do yourself a favor and cut a piece of wood or paint stick to the dimension you want in between the boxes so everything is even.

5. Sometimes you’ll need to decide between the trim piece being level and it being the correct distance. Because no house is 100% level and even, you may have to decide between your boxes being level or being spaced evenly. Just hold up the wood both ways to see which one looks better in your space.

6. Only nail in the corners of the moulding to make sure everything fits correctly. This will save you from having to pull out several nails if you need to readjust something.

7. This project takes two people. There’s no way for one person to hold the moulding, the level, the spacer, and use the nail gun. Plan to have a partner help you through the nailing process.

Materials Needed

Various building materials including hammer, paintbrush, goggles, and nails on wood floor.

Now that I’ve shared some tips, let’s get into the actual materials you’ll need for this project.

How To Install Picture Frame Moulding

Estimated Time: 8-10 hours

Skill Level: Intermediate

1. Measure and mark the moulding

Woman uses pencil and measuring tape to mark piece of chair railing.

Measure the entire piece of frame moulding to ensure it’s the correct length and then measure the dimensions of the horizontal and vertical pieces you need to cut. It’s easiest to measure and cut all of the pieces that are the same length at the same time.

2. Cut each piece with a miter saw

Green miter saw on cement floor with piece of chair moulding on it.

Set your miter saw to 45 degrees (either direction) and make the cut just to the outside of the pencil mark (because of the saw’s thick blade, this ensures you’ll get a cut where you want).

Cut all of the pieces in this direction and then turn your saw to 45 degrees in the other direction. Make additional measurement marks if needed and cut the trim pieces so they have an angle on both ends.

3. Nail moulding to the wall

Unfinished picture frame moulding on white wall with white chair and rug nearby.

Using your spacer (cut to the distance you want between each frame), level, and nail gun, start at one end of the wall and nail the pieces to the wall starting with just the corners. You can add wood glue to the pieces before attaching them if you want them to be extra secure, however, be sure it’s in the right place or you’ll make your wall pretty messy adjusting the piece.

Build your picture frame moulding one box at a time.

Once you’ve ensured the moulding pieces are lined up, level, and evenly spaced, add additional finishing nails along the pieces to secure them to the wall.

4. Use a nail setter

Woman wearing blue shirt uses nail setter on unfinished wall frames.

After all of the wall frames are attached, go through and use a nail setter and hammer to drive any protruding nails into the wood.

5. Fill nail holes

Woman wearing blue shirt applies wood filler to picture frame moulding.

Fill all of the nail holes in the wood with wood filler and allow to dry.

6. Sand down the wood filler

Once the wood filler is dry, sand the pieces smooth using a 180 grit sanding block. Because of the curved nature of the moulding, you may need to use a toothpick to scrape out any filler residue.

7. Caulk around the trim

Add a small bead of caulk around each outer edge of the wall frames and wipe it flat using your finger and a wet rag or a baby wipe. Do one side of the frame at a time and make sure you get all of the excess off the wall.

Once you’ve done the outer edges of the frame, caulk the inside edges.

8. Sand the trim

Once the caulk is set, use the 180 grit sanding block to smooth out the trim where there’s any caulk residue.

9. Apply primer

Woman applies primer using paintbrush to unfinished picture frame moulding.

Using a paintbrush or roller, apply two coats of primer to the moulding, allowing the primer to dry in between each coat.

10. Paint frame moulding

Woman uses paintbrush to paint picture frame moulding.

Once the primer is dry, apply three coats of paint to the trim pieces, allowing the paint to dry in between each coat.

Note: If you plan to paint the wall and the wall moulding a different color than the wall already is, you’ll want to paint the wall before attaching the moulding and then paint the moulding once it’s attached.


White wall with picture frame moulding and white chair, coffee table, and rug nearby.
What kind of moulding do you use for picture frame moulding?

The best kind of moulding to use for picture frame moulding is ornamental chair rail moulding.

There are various sizes of chair rail moulding available at home improvement stores, but I wouldn’t go less than 1/2 inch in thickness or you may split the wood when you nail it. I also wouldn’t go more than 1 inch in thickness or the frames could look bulky on the wall.

We used an 11/16 inch white hardwood colonial chair rail moulding for our project.

How much space do you need between picture frame moulding? 

This will depend on how long and tall your wall is, how many boxes you’ll be making, and how big they are.

Start with a 4 inch spacing between each picture frame and adjust it as needed. We used up to 7.25 inches between some of our wall frames and it looks great!

What should I do if there are gaps between the trim pieces?

Even with correct measuring and spacing, you may end up with some gaps between the picture frames.

For gaps that are smaller than 1/8 of an inch, you can easily fill those with caulk. If you have a larger gap, you can cut a filler piece from leftover moulding using an oscillating tool or small hand saw. Add some wood glue to the piece and fit it in place. You can fill any seams with wood filler and sand it down so it’s hardly noticeable.

How much does it cost to add picture frame moulding to walls?

Assuming you already have most of the tools needed and you’re only adding picture frame moulding to one wall, this project should cost you less than $100!

The only materials we bought were the brad nails, caulk, wood filler, and moulding and it cost us $82.

Want More?

If you liked this post, you’ll also love these DIY home projects:

Your Turn

Do you have any questions about this project or need a step clarified? Just let me know in the comments below!

Pinterest graphic with text and picture frame moulding on white wall.


Thursday 10th of November 2022

Did you preassemble your frames off wall or assembled piece by piece on the wall?

Jessica Ashcroft

Friday 11th of November 2022

Hi Donna! We assembled piece by piece on the wall!