Wall Frames: Our first NC home DIY

Before I begin, let me just warn you.  This is not some cutsie pootsie organized DIY instruction guide.  It is more of a retelling of the journey of a couple’s first real serious DIY project.  It was messy, fussy, frustrating, hilarious, validating, and every other stop you’d find on such a roller coaster ride.  But of course I will make a minor attempt at providing directions to anyone who daringly decides to take on this project using this post as a guide.

Once I knew I was going to be living in North Carolina, I began to become obsessed with the idea of having wainscoting.  When we started searching for homes, we realized, very quickly that most homes just had chair rails.  You know that high gloss fancy thick strip of wood that runs the line along a wall.  I started researching and discovered this technique called faux wainscoting or wall frame wainscoting.  It is significantly cheaper, gives you the same look and is an easy transition with a room that already has a chair rail installed.

Anyway, fast forward to a few days ago and our project begins.  One thing I noticed during my research is no one ever tells you what trim to buy to create the look.  Well, have no fear, I made sure to document the products.  Here are the tools* we used:



  1. Measuring Tape
  2. Measuring Stick
  3. Hammer
  4. Drill
  5. Wood Glue
  6. Paintable Caulk
  7. Caulking Gun
  8. Pencil
  9. Nails
  10. Level
  11. Miter Saw
  12. Sand paper (220 grit)
  13. Strength
  14. Endurance
  15. Patience

*This is what we used for our method.  You will find many other options involving more or less tools.

This is the trim we bought from Lowe'sThis is the actual product we purchased at Lowe’s for the trim.  We purchase twelve 12′ strips


  This is what the trim looks like from the side

The first step was to determine the size of our boxes.  Every post I read seemed to leave out the size of their boxes so initially I had a hard time figuring this one out.  What helped was the fact that I kept seeing that the vertical space between chair rail and frame and baseboard and frame should be 3-4″.  What we did know was that the space between each frame would be 4″.  My husband and I agreed that we didn’t like the look when the frames were so close together.  Next was to measure the length of the walls.  When we got to a section of wall that was spaced between two windows, and measured 4″  on either side, we found the sizing of our boxes…28″.  We had read in a lot of places, including This Old House (my husband says they use the “gold standard”), that the spacing  between boxes should not change when you cannot get an even number of boxes on the wall.  It is said that the sizing of your boxes should change.  I will tell you right now, I am not going to show you our formulas for calculating the amount of boxes or sizes because we ended up redoing things multiple times.  So, I will say to you, Steps 1-5 should be measure and measure and measure again.  What is that saying, “Measure twice, cut once”?  Well that is an understatement.

trace lines
me measuring spaces

Once each wall was measured and sizes of boxes were determined (mentally and written on paper), it was time to draw.  I love the method to trace  used in a This Old House tutorial.  They cut a piece of wood the length of the space between the chair rail and top of frame and used it as a guide to with the pencil.  It worked out and it was fast.  then you mark vertical lines to show where the sides of your frames will go.

first cuts

Next time for cutting!  Now, this is when my hubby freestyled (not my favorite method) it.  I believe he added a stop and then went straight for the 45 degree cuts.  Since all of the vertical length of all frames will be the same, that was the fastest.  The majority of our frames were  28″  and only a few small ones (which we chose to put on the ends) so this part went pretty quickly.



Then it was time to affix the cut pieces to the wall.  Now everyone does this different.  The aforementioned video on This Old House created a jig and then makes the frame before putting the wall.  We chose to build the frame on the wall and thank goodness we did.



As you can see from the two apparatuses above, we had to do what it took to adhere the frames to the wall.  We added the wood glue to the back and then started finding that our wonderful wall was not flat all over.  WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL US THIS?????  Anyway, we thought we had a solution to this.  Using the stud finder, we would nail the frames to the wall or so we thought.  Turns out not every frame was lined up with a stud, yay!!  That is when we had to get creative and create interesting ways to put pressure against those frames.  We will let you know in a few months or years if they just pop off one day. Oh and on a side note, please get a nail gun if you can!  If you are like us and trying to save money and absolutely have to use a hammer, we found that drilling a hole through the frame (not to the stud) first prevents the trim from cracking when you start hammering (not that we did that or anything).



After everything is dry, time to caulk.  This was really fun for me, don’t ask me why.  We cut the tip into a ‘v’, I am sure you can find it online.  Oops, I forgot to list this but you need to have a towel and a bucket of water so that you can keep the towel damp to wipe excess caulk.  The other tool that is free and is used on this part is your finger.  We found that it makes for very smooth lines.  Just be sure to keep wiping your fingers with the damp towel.  We caulked every space between the wall and frame.  I chose not to caulk underneath the frames because I dare someone to get down on their knees and check my work.  We used putty to seal the cracks where the corners of the frames meet and to hide the holes where the nails were inserted (being cheap we used a screw we already had to tap the nails through the frame).  The image above is after caulking and smoothing with towel and finger.  Pretty smooth if I do say so myself.


Finally we sanded any and everything to make it pretty.  One of the sand paper containers had a pretty useful chart to show you what grit you need for which type of project.


After sanding, I opted for vacuuming dust for a more expedient process.  We had already took so long to do this project.  At this point, you would start painting but we just asked the painters if they could just add this to  our list.  You just gotta know when you have to put things in someone else’s hands, it’s the holidays and we just didn’t have to time to invest.


Here is the finished product with the bottom portion painted.  The painters chose to use their sprayer to apply the paint.


Here is a closer picture so that you can see how the caulk prevented any seems from showing and allows this to look like the real deal.  Now I am not going to say there aren’t any flaws, but I don’t think anyone but us will notice.  If you really look closely you can see there is color on the top portion of the wall.  That will be revealed in another post.  Had it not been for the uneven walls and some of our calculation/measurement errors, I would say this was a fairly easy project.  Please note, that I am saying this now that everything is done and I believe it turned out gorgeous.   I believe it took us three days and I could not tell you how many hours since we chose to do this around Christmas and were doing a lot of back and forth.  I hope this provided some inspiration for some of you potential DIYers.  I am pretty sure I think I am a true mason now.



6 thoughts on “Wall Frames: Our first NC home DIY

  1. Looks fantastic! Since you’re now fully experienced 😉, what’s your view on using premade frames instead of moulding? I wonder because of your comment about the wall not being flat and if that would still be an issue or even make it worse…

    • Thank you so much foundthispaintedthat. I have heard of people using actual frames. There are posts on that. I think in one sense it will be easier with the pre-made frames in that you can eliminate the process of building frames, but I am trying to imagine if the wall is uneven horizontally, but does not effect the vertical part of the frame, would you find that you start cracking the frame at the corner? It’s been done though and I would recommend buying one frame that you want and testing it. Hope this helps. Good Luck!

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