Fitting dado rails

Start by deciding on the height of your dado rail.

If you are replacing an existing dado rail, it is probably best to keep to the same height. Otherwise, normally dado rails are positioned between 1 and 1.2m (3 to 4 ft) above the floor - generally, the higher the room, the higher the rail.

Marking the walls

Mark the walls in each corner with the required height - mark the line for the dado rail around the room by:

  • Working from one corner using a long straight edge and a spirit level to mark the line (when you reach the far corner, you will find out how accurate you have been or how level the floors are).
  • Fix a chalked line between the corner marks and snap the chalked line to the wall.
  • Use a laser level positioned in the centre of the room - this will be the most accurate and easiest method - laser levelling kits can be hired from most good tool hire centres.

dado rail on a stairs If the dado rail is to go up a stairway, measure the required height for the rail at rightangles to the stairs from the front of the treads at the top and bottom of the stairs,

Fixing methods for dado rails

There are a number of options for fixing dado rails to walls, the three shown below are suitable for screw fixing to masonry walls, other options will need to be considered for other wall construction method:

Screw dado rail


Simple, drill, wall plug and screw - covering screw head with plaster or filler

Screw and plug dado fixings


Drill, counterbore, wall plug, screw and use dowel plug to cover the screw head.
Gives a better finish if the dado rails are varnished.

Nailable plug dado fixing


Drill, nailable plug fixing - covering nail head with plaster or filler

For plasterboard stud walling, use a screw fixing with plugs for hollow walls.

Fix the dado rail at about 30cm (1ft) from each corner and then at no more than 1m (3 ft) intervals, drill the rail AFTER the ends have been mitred - then use the drilled rail as a template for drilling the wall.

Cutting the dado rail moulding

Dado rail mitreStart with the dado rail for the longest length of plain wall and mitre the ends of the first rail using a saw and mitre box. Note the possible need for two types of mitre, internal and external, (see right) to suit alcoves etc. - remember that the wall length is always the measurement on the back of the dado rail.

If a wall is longer than a single piece of dado rail, mitre the ends to overlap where they join along the wall run and fix both pieces of dado rail about 30cm (1ft) from the join.

Cutting dado rails for a stairwayWhen putting a dado rail up a stairway, the rails should be cut to form butt joints. Hold the horizontal rail in place and mark the top and bottom onto the wall; repeat with the rail up the stairs so that the marks overlap. The cut angle is the line between where the bottom rail marks cross and where the top rail marks cross.

Fixing the dado rail

Position the cut and drilled dado rail against the wall with the top edge lined up with wall mark. Mark the positions for the screw holes onto the wall.

Drill the fixing holes in the wall as marked. Use appropriate wall plugs.

Fix the first piece of dado rail in place along the longest, straight run wall and work around the room measuring, cutting, drilling and fixing the other pieces of dado rail.

Once all the dado rail has been fixed, cover the screw heads with dowel plugs or a suitable filler and allow to dry.

Sand off the filler and paint or varnish as required.

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