If you have been here before, you know that I live in a house that was built with absolutely no architectural details whatsoever.
So every time I makeover a room, I try to add something that will create some interest for my boring walls.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to create the look of panels on the walls.
It is kind of a traditional way to add detail to a room…but you can do so many things with it, it is really easy to do, and it’s inexpensive.
So when I decided to makeover my home office as part of the One Room Challenge (click here to see my progress with that project), I knew right away that panel moldings would be one of the things I would add to the room.
Continue reading to see step by step instructions on how to make and install DIY panel moldings.
How Do You Want The Mouldings To Look?
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There are lots of different configurations you can use for your configurations, depending on the look you want for the room.
1. You can make repeating panels that are all the same size, which is what I am doing for my home office makeover.
2. Use one big panel that has the same amount of space around the outside of it, like the ones that I did in my bedroom.
3. Use alternating smaller and larger panels like I did in my original master bedroom.
4. Add upper and lower panels like I did in the den/library…in my case the upper ones had wallpaper installed in them, but the lower ones did not. Click here to see the rest of this makeover.
How Much Moulding Do You Need?
If you’re not sure how wide or tall to make the panels, try using a proportional formula, like the width of the larger panel will be twice as wide as the width of the small panel.
If I’m using wallpaper to fill the panels, I usually use the width of the wallpaper to determine the width of the panel.
That way you don’t have to do as much wallpaper cutting (or matching), which makes the job so much easier! If you have wallpaper with a repeated pattern, you might want to use the length of the repeat to determine how tall the panel is.
Once you have figured out what kind of pattern you want to do, you will need to figure out how many pieces of molding you need to make it happen. Just add up the width and height of each of the panels and multiply by 2 to get your final number. I also order a few extra boards in case I make some mistakes…you can always take back the ones you don’t use.
- Measuring tape
- Miter saw – I like this cordless one* for cutting small pieces of wood like these mouldings
- Paint roller and tray
- Caulking gun*
- Latex gloves
- Nail gun, or hammer and finishing
- Paint brush
Cut the First Moulding
If you are doing panels that are the same size (like I am in my office), cutting the moldings to size is actually pretty easy. The trick is to get the first one of each length cut exactly to the right size, and then use it as the guide to make all of the others.
Since I wanted the panels to be the exact same width as the wallpaper, I knew that the inside width of the panels would be 21” (the width of the paper).
If you are using finger-jointed thin moldings like these ones, you need to be careful when you’re cutting…sometimes the wood will split where the joins are and fly off. I found that it is less prone to do this if you cut it upside down.
1. Cut the first 45 degree angle at one end of the board.
2. Measure 21” (or whatever your measurement is) from the inside corner that you just cut and make a pencil mark at that point.
3. Turn the saw blade to the 45 degree mark on the other side of the saw.
4. Then cut so that the inside corner meets the mark you made.
5. Double-check that the molding is cut to the right size, by measuring between your two inside corners. Or if you’re planning on installing wallpaper in the middle like I am, hold up a piece of the paper to make sure it is the right length.
Cut The Rest Of The Mouldings
1. Now that the first one is cut, you can use it as a template to cut the rest of the ones that are the same length. Line up the cut edges of your template and the board to be cut. Make sure that they are flush.
2. At the other end, use a pencil to mark the end onto the board that is being cut.
3. Cut along the pencil line.
4. Repeat for as many boards as you need that are this length. Try to always use the same board as the template…that will make sure you don’t have too many slightly different lengths.
When you are finished with all the mouldings that are this length, move on to the next size of board and repeat the same process.
Paint The Mouldings
It is easiest to put the first couple of coats of paint (a primer and a regular paint) before you install the moldings on the wall.
1. If you are using these thin moldings, you can paint them really quickly by laying them all out on a flat surface and using a roller to go over them all with.
2. Repeat with the regular paint after the primer is dry.
3. Wait until the paint is dry before continuing.
4. You may end up with some extra paint sticking to the boards…use a scraper to scrape it off, and you are ready to start installing!
Figure Out The Moulding Placement
The easiest way to install mouldings is to use a pneumatic nail gun, but a hammer and some finishing nails will also work if you don’t own an air compressor.
Before you put them up on the wall, you might want to try laying the mouldings out in your pattern on the floor to make sure the spacing looks okay.
1. If you are doing repetitious panels, like I am, the easiest way to get them evenly spaced is to create a couple of spacers. One to place between the sides of the panels to space them out properly, and one to place above the panel to space it down properly.
2. Use a pencil to mark the corner where the two boards meet.
Install The Mouldings
1. Install the first vertical piece so that it lines up with the corner marks you made. Only use one nail at the top end of the moulding…don’t get it too close to the top or the moulding may split.
2. Use your top spacer to make sure that the top moulding is installed evenly.
3. Put in 3 or 4 nails to keep the second moulding in place. Don’t put any additional nails in the first board yet.
4. Install the moulding on the other side, again using only one nail at the top.
5. Finally fit the bottom board between to the two side pieces and make sure it looks even and level. Use 3 or 4 nails to hold each board in place.
6. Then add a couple more nails into each of the side boards, making sure they are pushed up against the bottom one.
Repeat for all of the panels that you are installing.
Note: A lot of professionals will tell you that you should glue the mouldings on to the wall (as well as nail them). I don’t do this because it makes them impossible to remove without damaging the drywall. And since I like to change things around, I never know when I’m going to want to take them down.
Add The Finishing Touches
1. Use a caulking gun and some paint-able caulk to fill in any cracks and holes in the moulding. I usually put on some latex gloves and use my fingers to get the caulk into all of the crevices.
2. Then use a paint brush to give the moldings one last coat of paint.
Because I was installing wallpaper in the middle, I didn’t need to be too careful about getting paint outside the lines on the inside of the square. But you do need to paint carefully to avoid getting paint outside the square. You can also tape it if you prefer to do that rather than free-hand paint.
Finish The Center Of The Panel
I often finish the middle of the panels by wallpapering them. It adds the interest of the wallpaper pattern without having to do a whole wall.
You can also use the molding as a frame without adding any wallpaper.
Or even paint the mouldings the same color as the wall if you want a more subtle look.
When you are done, the extra architectural details are sure to make your walls look more interesting!
Have comments or questions on how to make and install DIY panel mouldings? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on April 26, 2016 but was updated with new content on April 2, 2020.