Wainscoting vs. Chair Rail

Home buyers and home builders alike often get chair rail and wainscoting confused when contemplating trim options for a new house. This is understandable considering the application and placement of both trim choices are very similar. Below is a comparison of chair rail and wainscoting to help guide a customer's decision on which trim option is best for their new construction home. These two molding options are also quick and easy ways for renovators, remodelers, and DIYers to spruce up boring walls during a renovation or weekend home project.


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Definition

Wainscoting (pronounced “waynes-coating” or “wayne-scotting”) is wooden paneling that lines the lower part of walls along the perimeter of a room. It is thought that wainscoting was first used to help insulate ancient stone buildings. During this time, wainscoting was usually constructed from oak since it was readily available and easy to work with. Nowadays, wainscoting is mostly decorative and made from a multitude of materials including wood, MDF, and even PVC.

Application

Wainscoting is used in a variety of applications but this type of trim is most commonly seen in more formal areas such as foyers, staircases, master bathrooms, and dining rooms. A rising trend is installing taller wainscoting with hooks in mudrooms for a decorative and durable storage area.

Details

There are dozens of different types of wainscoting styles and designs: the most popular include flat panel, overlay panel, board and batten, and beadboard. Typically, the height is between 30 and 54 inches from the floor, but this can vary depending on the size of the room and style of wainscoting. While there is a lot of creative flexibility in style and placement, wainscoting should never fall exactly halfway up the wall; this creates a choppy, static visual effect and is not at all pleasing to the eye.



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Definition

Chair rail by definition is molding on an interior wall that is attached horizontally around the perimeter of a room. Most people associate chair rail as a type of trim that prevents chairs from rubbing against the walls. The term “chair rail” is said to have been coined by the Shakers who placed wood and pegs on the walls in order to hang chairs to clean the floor underneath. There is also the theory that chair rail was first used centuries ago to divide walls into pleasing proportions (typically into thirds).

Application

Chair rail creates a decorative element in a room, but it also acts as a protective barrier from wear and tear in high traffic areas or spaces where furniture is moved around often. This trim is commonly used in dining rooms, breakfast nooks, living rooms and foyers.

Details

Chair rail is a popular wood trim used today in new construction. Typically chair rail is between 2 and 3 inches in height and is placed between 32 and 36 inches from the floor. The placement varies depending on the ceiling height: if the room has 8-foot ceilings, the chair rail will be placed lower than if the room has 10-foot ceilings. To determine placement, a good rule of thumb is to take the wall height and divide it by 3, then place the chair rail one third of the way up the wall. Traditionally, chair rail is painted or stained to match the crown molding and/or baseboards; designers with a more contemporary vision prefer to paint the chair rail to match the wall for a streamlined look.




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