I have a couple questions regarding my chair rail installation. I have read that, if possible, the chair rail should be at the same level as the window sill but I am thinking it might be better a little higher. Note that the overall wall height is 8'4", the upper surface of the window sill is around 31" and the height of the chair backs is around 36". One of the photos shows how the chair rail would look if it were installed a few inches above the window sill.

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I would be interested to hear what others think about this.

Another issue is that I want to terminate a chair rail about 1 foot beyond an inside corner as it reaches an outside corner about 13 inches to the left of the inside corner.

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I was thinking of putting in a mitered return about one inch from this outside corner. Another option which is easier would be to not even install the railing along the 13 inch wall and just terminate the molding in the inside corner using a square cut. I'm not sure if this would look as good though.

  • To give you a 3rd option, install trim around the open doorway and run your chair rail up to this trim. – BMitch Jul 22 '13 at 11:23

Although this is sort of an arbitrary question, and might get flagged, I'll pen a few thoughts.
There are no real rules to chair rails, I've installed them from 28 to 38 inches. Traditionally, some feature, like a window sill or a side board dictates the height so the lines flow around the room. But I always say, "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder". If you decide to go higher than your sill, be sure to back cut the rail 3 or 4 degrees so it will fit snug to the window trim, no gaps.

Finishing at an outside corner is pretty straight forward. The rail should meet the edge of the outside corner perfectly with a 30 degree miter cut. I think cutting short of the corner makes it look unfinished, especially finishing with a straight cut at the inside corner. The end miter cut needs to be sanded really smooth so no cut off wood grain shows through your paint. I use a fixed rotatory sander for that job, but a delicate touch with a decent palm sander will work.

Just my humble opinion, hope your job looks great when your done. Good luck.

  • Thanks, Shirlock for your advice. I was thinking the same thing about back-cutting the molding so it fits snuggly against the window casing (if I decide to go that route). Having it fit nicely against the sill would be possible though a lot more work. I'm not sure it would look any nicer but others will hopefully have more informed opinions. I like the idea of the 30 degree cut where it terminates at the corner. – user4809 Jan 6 '12 at 20:01
  • I'm with you. This seems like a silly "rule", especially since I've seen older homes with large windows where the sill is only 18"-24" from the floor. A chair rail at 18" would look ridiculous. – Tester101 Jan 6 '12 at 20:06
  • If the windows are high enough, I like to go under them so no tricky cuts, especially with extended sills. But you're right, going a bit higher than the sill is much easier and if the window is fairly low, still looks great. Like I said, do what looks good for the situation. – shirlock homes Jan 6 '12 at 20:13
  • Another good look for you situation might be to rest the chair rail on the top of the extended sill, butted to the side molding. That gets rid of that little jog of color and may give a smoother look. – shirlock homes Jan 7 '12 at 11:14
  • That's a good idea about resting the molding on the sill. The only issue there is that if I did that the chair rail would be 1 inch too low to serve a functional purpose since the backs of the chairs we will be using will be 1 inch too high. Then again, I'm not sure if these days chair rails are supposed to serve a functional purpose as opposed to being solely decorative. – user4809 Jan 7 '12 at 15:43

It's been more than 1 year since the OP asked the question but I will answer for posterity. For the bottom pic the answer is easy. Follow the base board molding around the corner! Terminate your chair rail in the same fashion the base board molding terminates. This will allow the look to flow and be consistent.

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    You typically run baseboard throughout the entire house to cover the joint between the bottom of the drywall and the flooring. Chair rail tends to only be used in formal rooms (like a dining or living room). – BMitch Jul 22 '13 at 11:22

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