how to install bathroom moldings

[This is part of Our Molding Makeover series.  See all updates here.]

Wall Molding Installation Sequence

  • Scribe layout lines on the walls
  • Install the lowest horizontal rail
  • Install the left and right vertical stiles
  • Install top horizontal rail
  • Install the inner ogee molding starting from the bottom and work up

Now let me show you how I do it, step by step.


Vertical Stile Reveal 3-3/8″ Wide (ceiling and wall panels)

The vertical stiles will be butted up against each other rather than mitered, and that means that one stile will have to be cut wider than the other.

Here I’ve scribed what will be the vertical stile reveal; that is, how much of the flat-stock will be exposed.  That reveal came to 3-3/8″ wide.

I arrived at that dimension by creating several vertical stile models with different widths until the model both accounted for all of the bathroom’s limiting factors and closely resembled the historic building here in Tucson (designed by Henry Trosp!) we are modeling this design after.

moldings in small room

Here I’ve scribed the vertical stile reveals and the inner overlap.

Scribing the inner overlap is just one of those things I do to help me visualize the molding buildup before do the actual installing.

It’s a sort of self-checking system.  Not fail-proof, but it works most of the time.

moldings in a small room

Scribe one side of the inner overlap…

moldings in a small room

…and then scribe the other side.

The stile one the right will be 3-3/8″ + the flat-stock thickness.

The stile on the left will be exactly 3-3/8″ wide.

moldings in a small bathroom

Install the Lower Horizontal Rail

The lower part of the wall frame buildup I call the horizontal rail.  That’s the best place to start, working from the bottom up.

This horizontal rail should be wide enough to include the 3-3/8″ wide reveal from the step above, and whatever width you need to account for your baseboard buildup.

Mine ended up being 5-1/4″ wide.

Back Wall First

This back wall is the only wall with no complications to work around — no vent fans, no door jambs or water supply lines or light fixtures — so that’s where I start.

Bevel the Ends

The corners in this room are very irregular because of the textured surface, so I cut a bevel on each end to help the board sit tight in the corners.

how to install moldings

A bevel helps avoid bumps in the corners.

how to install moldings

A good fit.

I’m using  more Liquid Nails on the back of these moldings than I normally would to ensure I get good adhesion between the wavy, textured walls and the molding.

Smearing  Hold the molding firmly against the wall and move it back and forth.  This helps distribute the glue between the molding and the wall.

liquid nails for moldings

Extra construction adhesive is needed for stucco walls.

Then nail the horizontal rail to the wall with brad nails.

how to install moldings

I used 18 gauge, 1-3/4″ brad nails to hold it in place.

Since the rest of the wall panels are built on top of your horizontal rail, it’s important that you take your time and make sure the fit is good.

how to install moldings

The horizontal rail is the foundation for the rest of the molding buildup.

Install the Vertical Stiles

Testing.  One.  Two.  Testing.  I’ve cut the three other pieces that fit on the back wall and am testing the fit.

I test fit my moldings before I glue or nail them to the walls, especially flat-stock like this where the butt joints have to be flush, to find trouble spots before hand.

finish trim carpenter

I’m testing the fit of the vertical stiles and the top horizontal rail looking for trouble spots.

Installing the Vertical Stiles

Hold the stiles in place and then scribe their location so you know where to smear the glue.

how to install moldings

Note About Using a Biscuit Joiner

Using a biscuit joiner on these butt joints would make the installation a bit easier, but is not absolutely necessary.  Especially when you don’t own a biscuit joiner!

glue for moldings

Above & Below  Always glue both contact surfaces when installing any molding buildup.

molding and millwork glue

Install both the left and right vertical stiles using an 18 gauge brad nail gun.

Read this post If you are having problems matching the butt joints together Quick Tip: Making Two Pieces of Flat-Stock Flush with Each Other.

how to install moldings

Below  Repeat the scribe/glue sequence for the top horizontal rail.  Then glue and nail it in place, too.

easy to install moldings

Install the Inner Ogee Panel Moldings

Cut the first piece of molding with miters at both ends and then put in place, but don’t glue or nail it yet.

bathroom moldings

Make Test Pieces

Take about a one foot section of your inner panel molding and miter it at each end.

This will be the piece you use to test the fit of your permanent molding.

bathroom molding

Start by holding your test piece of molding on the right.

Above & Below  Hold your test piece in place on the left.

Then without moving your permanent piece of molding move the test piece over to the right side.

If it does not fit perfectly, then shave a bit of material from your final piece of molding to shorten and/or adjust the miter angle if it needs it.

easy to install moldings

You can see how the right side needs to be trimmed just a bit to make the test piece fit perfectly.

When the length is just right you can glue and nail the bottom piece of molding in place.

how to install easy moldings

Glue the back of the panel molding and then nail in place with short brad nails.

Then install the rest of the inner panel moldings using the same technique.

finish trim carpenter with tool belt

Remember, the key to a molding buildup like this is to go slow.

Make sure each piece fits just right.  Otherwise your problems will be compounded with each new layer of molding.

Besides, not everything in life should have a production process applied to it.  Relax.  Slow down and enjoy installing your moldings!

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