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Using Moldings in Denver: How to Measure and Place Chair Rail

Installing chair rail is a great way to add visual appeal in a home remodel. The common belief around chair rail is that it’s supposed to keep chairs from banging into the wall (hence the name “chair rail” and why it’s so often used in dining rooms). However, even more than its practical purpose, chair rail is meant to create pleasing proportions. And when it comes to measuring and placing chair rail, there’s both a science and an art to it. That is, you can be deliberate in your ratios, but still need to “feel” your way to the final result. Let’s explore this more:

Believe it or not, measurement and placement of chair rail is a bone of contention. Some experts say chair rail should be installed anywhere between 30-36 inches from the floor—or about the height of the back of a chair. But this measurement usually does not take into consideration the height of the ceiling. Chair rail can quickly create a feeling of disproportion if ceiling height is left out of the equation.
Instead, carpentry expert Bret Hull likes to employ the rules of proportion from classic architecture; specifically, that to achieve symmetry, harmony, and proportion, the 1:7 ratio of a Doric column—which is seven times as tall as it is wide—should be the golden standard. But interestingly enough, this 1:7 ratio is also based on the proportions of the human body. In his article titled Misused & Confused Chair Rail, Hull explains: “The moldings in a room are supposed to relate to our bodies, too. That is why you can walk into an old building and it just ‘feels’ right. The reason it feels right is because it is symmetrical and harmonious to our own size. We innately relate to and enjoy a space we fit into and fit well with.”

So how does this apply to chair rail? 

Hull’s post goes into great detail about how to break down placement of chair rail by parts and inches, using the ratio mentioned above. But if you want a quicker answer, consider these basic guidelines around chair rail height
  • Place chair rail at one-third the distance of the ceiling height. For example, in a room with a standard 8-foot ceiling, you would place the chair rail about 32 inches from the floor.
  • If a particular placement feels right to you, then go with it, no matter if the measurement is 24 inches from the floor or 36. In fact, chair rail used to be installed much closer to the floor in previous eras than we tend to install these days…which brings us to the third rule:
  • It’s better to place chair rail too low in a room rather than too high. Placing it too high can make the room feel squat, stuffy, and uncomfortable, as Hull attests. He prefers to place chair rail at about 25% the height of the room.
If you’re planning a home remodel and want to incorporate elements of design using Denver moldings, check out our selection at Natural Stone Sales. Our experts will give you the individualized service and advice you need. Call us at 303-777-7485 or stop by our showroom today.