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How to Create Simulated Panels with Molding

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva creates a simulated stile and rail wainscoting on a dining room wall by using base cap molding.

Steps:

  1. Measure the height of the space between the chair rail and the baseboard using a measuring tape.
  2. The base cap molding frame should be centered all around the room. An easy way to measure is to take two pieces of 1x4 and place them against the top of the baseboard and the bottom of the chair rail. The distance between the two blocks is a good height for the frame.
  3. To get the horizontal measurements of the frame, measure the entire width of your wall. Divide the measurement up evenly and allow for spacing between each frame. Using a piece of 1x4 as a gauge block between each frame is a good way to separate the frames evenly.
  4. To cut the vertical portion of the frames, set the stop on the outfeed of a miter saw and place the base cap molding just beyond the stop.
  5. Set the miter saw to a 45-degree angle, hold the molding tight to the saw and make the first cut. Repeat the process for the necessary amount of vertical sides.
  6. Reverse the angle of the miter saw to the opposite 45-degree angle.
  7. Set the outfeed stop to desired length for the horizontal pieces, press the molding firmly against the miter saw and make a cut. Repeat the process for the necessary amount of horizontal sides.
  8. Take two vertical molding sides and two horizontal molding sides and create a frame.
  9. Use wood glue to connect each corner and a 23-gauge pin nail gun with headless pin nails to tack all of the connections together.
  10. Be sure to remove any excess glue immediately with a rag. Repeat the process for the necessary amount of frames.
  11. Let the frames dry for ten minutes.
  12. Lay out the frames in place using a piece of 1x4 as a gauge block to set the spacing from the chair rail, the baseboard, and between each frame side by side.
  13. Use wood glue and a 23-gauge pin nail gun with headless pin nails to tack up the molding frames to the wall.
  14. To finish off the look of the frames, fill in any holes with wood filler. Then sand it down using a fine grit sandpaper.
  15. If there are any imperfections between the inside and the outside of the frames in relation to the wall, fill in those gaps with caulking using a caulking gun.
  16. Paint to desired color.