Monday, March 4, 2019

wains world

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the new wainscoting in our dining room. Considering how much time and planning went into this trim work, I think it deserves a little more attention that just a sentence or two! We opted for picture frame moulding, attaching rectangles made of thin wooden trim (like picture frames) directly to the plaster or drywall. Picture frame moulding is the easier and more cost-effective cousin of the more traditional recessed panel wainscoting.

Our dining room already had a chair rail installed, so we worked around that existing feature. I love the look of white paneling below the chair rail and a deeper color above, though some people opt for the darker (and visually heavier) color below the rail instead.

There seem to be two approaches to installing the picture frame moulding. One camp prefers to pre-assemble the squares using precise measurements and a jig to get perfect 90 degree corners. When the boxes are made, they attach them to the wall. The second camp measures and attaches each piece as they go, building the square directly on the wall. We weighed (and argued about) the two options extensively, but ultimately decided that the second method would work better for several reasons. Our walls are not square, level, or flat. We were worried that a perfectly square box wouldn't line up with both the chair rail and the baseboard. We were also worried that it would be hard to attach the pre-assembled box in parts of the room where the wall bows outwards slightly. Attaching the pieces one-by-one to these bulged wall sections allowed for a bit more flexibility.

To start the process, I used a section of 2x4 as a guide to mark the outline of the boxes on the walls. A 2x4 is actually about 3.5" wide, which was approximately the spacing I wanted from the chair rail and baseboards. This ensured that the tops and bottoms of the boxes would run parallel to the rail, and it seemed more important visually to be parallel than perfectly level. Next I precisely measured each side of each box. No box was a perfect rectangle with all sides being slightly different lengths, which reinforced our choice of method 2 (building boxes on the walls instead of pre-assembling). We added up all the measurements, added 10% for scrap/mistakes, and spent an hour selecting the straightest trim pieces at the hardware store.

At this point, I wanted nothing more to do with this project. Over it. I just wanted it done. I was stressed about finishing the project and worried that it wouldn't turn out with how much time/thought I'd already put into it. Plus, power tools make me a little skittish. So, I called in the reinforcements. Dad came to visit for the weekend, and brought along two critical tools: a power miter saw and a nail gun with air compressor. While we COULD have accomplished this project with a miter box and a regular hammer with a nail punch, Dan and Dad were able to finish cutting and installing all the trim in one Saturday (while Mom and I entertained Mae).

Over the course of the next week, I primed (to cover my pencil marks), filled, spackled, caulked, and painted the trim and walls. The caulk helped to hide all the (very minor) sins of my trim installers like nail gouges and slight imperfections at the corners. I chose the color that most closely matched the existing chair rail and window trim so I wouldn't have to repaint those also (untinted Sherwin Williams semi-gloss superpaint... very glamorous).

I'm so pleased with how the trim turned out. It's added a lot of drama to a previously drab room. While it wasn't a difficult or expensive project, it did take a lot of planning and effort. Well worth it, in my opinion!

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