How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Make a plain wall interesting with a lightweight, urethane-foam niche

Nouveau Niche

The interiors of homes built between the mid-1800s and early 1900s were often adorned with beautifully ornate plaster molding and millwork. Skilled plasterers worked on site to cast fancy cornices, large ceiling medallions and dentil crown molding.

You can still capture the formal elegance of yesteryear with modern reproduction molding. Today, a handful of companies are reproducing traditional cast-plaster molding out of durable plastics and high-density urethane foam. And, best of all, you can easily install this modern decoration yourself using simple carpentry tools.

We'll show you how to install an attractive round-top wall niche made of lightweight urethane foam. Its 7-inch-deep shelf provides a perfect place for displaying your favorite vase, clock or curio. This niche is designed to fit in a 2x4 wall between two 16-inch on-center studs. That means you don't have to reframe the opening. Just saw a hole in the drywall and pop in the niche.
 


Steps // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche
1 ×

Mark niche location

 
Step One // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Mark niche location

tracing niche and making measurements for niche placement
Photo by Chip Henderson

Lock your tape measure at the desired height, then place the tape on the shelf with the tape blade extending down. Hold the niche against the wall with the tape end touching the floor. Reach underneath the niche and mark where it meets the wall. Use this line as a reference mark for drawing the outline of the cutout.

 
2 ×

Make cutout lines

 
Step Two // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Make cutout lines

marking a wall to cut out drywall for niche installation
Photo by Chip Henderson

Place a level on the reference mark and draw a horizontal line to represent the bottom of the cutout; be sure the line extends between two studs. Draw the vertical lines alongside the edge of each stud, then mark the top line. Note that the top corners of the cutout slope down at a 45-degree angle.

 
3 ×

Cut out opening in drywall

 
Step Three // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Cut out opening in drywall

cutting into drywall between beams to make space for niche
Photo by Chip Henderson

Tape a large drop cloth to the wall directly below the marked outline. It'll catch most of the drywall dust and make cleanup much easier, especially in a carpeted room. Next, cut along the outline with a drywall saw. Follow the pencil lines as closely as possible, but don't worry if your cuts are a little wavy, the niche will hide them.

 
4 ×

Install support beams

 
Step Four // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Install support beams

installing 2-by-4 support beams for niche support
Photo by Chip Henderson

Cut two short 2x4s to fit between the studs. Screw one 2x4 flush with the top of the opening and the other flush with the bottom. These pieces will prevent the wall from bowing in and provide additional blocking for attaching the niche.

 
5 ×

Apply adhesive

 
Step Five // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Apply adhesive

apply adhesive for preliminary install of niche into wall-opening
Photo by Chip Henderson

Check to make sure that the niche fits into the opening and lies flat against the wall. Remove the niche and apply a thin bead of urethane adhesive to its overhanging flange.

 
6 ×

Install niche

 
Step Six // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Install niche

placing the niche into the wall for temporary install with adhesive to hold in place while nailing in
Photo by Chip Henderson

Carefully lift up the niche and set it into the wall opening. Press it tight to the wall and then check to make sure the shelf is level. If necessary, have a helper hold the niche in place as you nail it.

 
7 ×

Nail the niche into place

 
Step Seven // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Nail the niche into place

using a pneumatic nailer to nail the niche into place with minimal dings
Photo by Chip Henderson

Fasten the niche to the wall studs and 2x4 header with 2 ½-inch (8d) finishing nails; set the nail heads below the surface. We used a pneumatic nail gun so we wouldn't mar the niche with an errant hammer blow.

 
8 ×

Add chair rail (optional)

 
Step Eight // How to Install a Decorative Wall Niche

Add chair rail (optional)

adding a decorative chair rail beneath the niche adds to the look
Photo by Chip Henderson

]To further dress up the wall, fasten chair rail molding to the wall directly below the niche. When installing chair rail, be sure to drive the nails into the wall studs, not just into the drywall. Fill all the nail holes with spackling compound and touch up with paint.

 
 
 

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