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Picture Frame Molding

Over the past few years, we have been working on a master bedroom makeover. This process has included two of my favorite home makeover projects, a DIY wrapped canopy bed and DIY picture frame molding. Today I’m sharing the latter, how to install picture frame molding on walls. I’m going to discuss the basics of picture frame molding, different types of wood wall treatments, materials needed to install picture frame molding, how to calculate the angles and measurements and how to install picture frame molding. I’m also going to share some important tips for DIY picture frame molding including filling in the nail holes, caulking, and using a paint sprayer to complete the project. Let’s get started!

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How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment

Picture Frame Molding, Wainscotting, or Shadow Box Trim

Picture frame molding is a wonderful way to add texture and interest to any room in your home. It elevates the character of a plain wall by providing a visibly added layer, which creates a sophisticated and classy appearance. I’ve seen picture frame molding referred to as many different things including shadow box molding, picture frame moulding, wainscotting, shadow box trim, and box paneling. I’m going to refer to it as picture frame molding in this post, but this classic style can be interchanged with any of these different names. 

What is Picture Molding?

A basic explanation of picture frame molding is when you add a boxed shape of molding on top of your existing walls. This added molding is typically in the shape of a square or rectangle, similar to, yes, a picture frame! You can add picture frame molding to a focal point wall to draw attention specifically to one wall, or you can add it to an entire room. Either way, it’s sure to provide interest and charm to your home.

Primary bedroom with canopy bed and wall treatment.

Different Types of Wood Wall Treatments

Picture frame molding is one of many different types of wood wall treatments. Some other popular wall treatments include chair railing, shiplap, board and batten, and beadboard. Chair railing is typically a single horizontal wood wall molding installed 32” above the floor around the perimeter of a room. It can also have picture frame molding below it. Most are familiar with the popular wall treatment known as shiplap, which is when wooden boards are placed tightly together with a simple, natural gap between each. If you’re interested in this coastal style, be sure to check out my DIY on installing vertical wall and ceiling shiplap. I also love board and batten walls, which alternate between wide boards and narrow wooden strips called “battens.” I recently installed vertical board and batten in the shared kids’ bedroom and I love how it turned out! Last, but not least, beadboard consists of narrow wood planks in rows lined up against each other, sort of like a more narrow version of shiplap.

Where to Install Decorative Molding

Picture frame molding provides a classic, timeless look and can be applied to many different areas of a home. One of my favorite rooms to add picture frame molding to is a dining room. It is such an easy way to add elegance to this space. The same sophisticated look is created when picture frame molding is applied to a bedroom or living room. If you’re wanting to highlight one specific wall, you can add picture frame molding onto a single focal point wall instead of the entire room. You can also apply it to only the bottom half of the wall or choose to cover the entire wall with picture frame molding. I have even seen staircases designed with beautiful picture frame molding. There are endless possibilities!

Frame molding on white wall behind bed.

Using PVC Trim for Picture Frame Molding

PVC molding, or polyvinyl chloride, is a material that can be used in place of wood for many different home projects. It is shaped just like wood and is becoming more and more popular due to the advantages it has over actual wood. Yet, when I posted a video of myself installing this molding using PVC trim and miter shears, people went crazy! I received several messages asking why I would use PVC over wood for the project. And I’m not the only one! I’ve recently seen other bloggers including Jenna Sue Design, Avalanche Design Co., and Lauren Jamison also install picture frame molding using PVC trim. So let’s talk about what makes it so great!

How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment
PVC Composite White Ply Cap Molding (11/16 in. x 1-1/8 in. x 8 ft)

Benefits of PVC Molding

PVC trim is extremely easy to cut using miter shears (see below). It is durable, rot and termite resistant, and paintable. While you typically see this type of product used in exterior projects, it is becoming popular for interior projects as well. The biggest perk? Availability and price point. I was able to purchase all of the supplies that I needed for curbside pickup (thank you pandemic), save a lot of money, and cut out the trips up and down the stairs to my miter saw. For this project, I specifically used PVC Composite White Ply Cap Molding (11/16 in. x 1-1/8 in. x 8 ft).

Cutting Picture Frame Molding with Miter Shears

While I own a miter saw and I’m just learning how to operate it, the process of cutting 45-degree angles was easy enough. I installed one box, running back and forth to the garage to make several cuts in the heat of the summer. Then, my miter shears arrived in the mail and my method of action changed! These shears are incredibly easy to operate and significantly simplified the project.

How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment
Cutting pieces of trim.
How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment
Cutting pieces of trim.

By using miter shears, you can adjust the angles and make quick cuts as you’re installing the trim. They will work for small pieces of wood trim, but make sure to trial the shears with your material before you plan out the project. I also loved using these shears over the saw because the saw tends to shred the PVC when making cuts.

Calculating Measurements for Picture Frame Molding

Next up, let’s talk about how to design and measure for picture frame molding. I use the Pages application and Canva for almost everything that I do including moodboards and visualizing designs. Certain functions in the Pages app including the “shapes” button and “distribution” are helpful to guide the design of your picture frame molding. If you follow me on Instagram, I have a highlight titled “Math for Walls” where I share a video on how to use the Pages application to guide your design.

To calculate the picture frame molding spacing, start by obtaining the total measurements of the walls. For our home, I measured from the top of the floor molding to the bottom of the ceiling molding. I taped off several different sizes of boxes until I found the look that I desired. I preferred 5″ to 6″ between each box. I also knew that I wanted 5 boxes on the wall directly behind the bed, to keep the bed centered.

How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment
Testing different sizes of tape (not to scale or level).

How to Calculate Picture Frame Molding Spacing

  1. Calculate the space between picture frame boxes and the end of the walls. For us: 5.25″ spacing (multiplied by) 6 spaces (equals) 31.5″ total spacing.
  2. Measure the total length of the wall and subtract the space between boxes to get the leftover space. For us: 212″ total length of wall (subtract) 33″ total space between boxes (equals) 180.5″ leftover space.
  3. Divide leftover space by the number of picture frame boxes you want. I wanted 5 boxes, so 180.5″ leftover space (divided by) 5 boxes (equals) 36.1″ for each box.
  4. Repeat this method for the vertical measurements.

*Please note, I am rounding here and there, so my numbers are not EXACT, but they worked in the end. Not recommended by professionals, but it worked for us.

How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment

How to Install Picture Frame Molding

The real MVP of this project was my new cordless nail gun. I do not advise attempting picture frame molding without a nail gun. I justified this purchase because we have several projects in the works that will require a nail gun and it felt like the right time to purchase one. Installing the molding was simple. I started at the top and worked my way down. I made sure my top piece was level, nailed in the center, and then nailed the outer corners. Then I installed the left and right pieces, nailing at the tops only. I worked my way down with the level and nailed as I went. Finally, I measured the bottom to confirm my sizing remained the same. You will find that your walls are not always square and the bottom may not be as exact as the top. This is why I advise cutting your pieces as you go! It’s easier to make measurement adjustments as you go on. Finally, I installed the bottom square, following the same method and confirmed the pieces were level with the upper boxes.

Steps to Install Picture Frame Molding

  1. Start at the top and work your way down. Using a level, make sure the top piece is straight. Nail in the center and then the outer corners.
  2. Install the left and right pieces, first nailing only at the top. Then, work your way down these side pieces using a level and nailing as you go.
  3. Measure the bottom to determine exactly what size PVC you need at the end. You may find your walls are not always perfectly square, so the top and bottom sizes may not be exactly the same. This is why I advise waiting to cut your pieces as you go, rather than all at the beginning. 
  4. Install the bottom piece, using a level, nailing the middle first and then the sides.
  5. Lastly, install the bottom square(s), following the same steps 1-4. Be sure to confirm the pieces are level with the upper boxes.
How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment
Making sure the top pieces is level.
How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment
Starting in the center, nailing the top piece.

Tips for Installing Picture Frame Molding

  • Be aware that PVC trim pieces are highly flexible, which is nice when fitting corners for picture frame molding. However, use caution when flexing the pieces or you will end up with curved lines. I made this mistake a few times and had to remove the trim to level it out. That is why it was easier for me to start at the top with my level and make my way down, making sure I was not bending the trim.
  • You will want to paint your picture frame molding the same color as the wall it is being attached to. If the wall needs a fresh coat of paint, do this before beginning. You can paint the molding after it has been installed. Some of my favorite white paint colors including Chantilly Lace and Extra White would look wonderful with picture frame molding.
  • You can fill in any nail holes with a little wood filler.
  • Don’t worry if the corners of the molding aren’t super tight. You can use caulk around each section to tidy up the job and give the project a finished look.
How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment
One tiny wall complete.
How to install picture frame molding, the easy way, using miter shears and PVC molding.  No saw required.  #millwork #molding #moulding #pictureframemolding #pictureframemoulding #pvctrim #pvcmillwork #walltrim #walltreatment
Installing the molding.
Another wall done, stay tuned for more!
Primary bedroom with blue nightstands in front of picture molding.

Final Thoughts on Picture Frame Molding

I am extremely happy with how this project turned out! Installing picture frame molding was actually very simple after I had a set plan and started to take action. Whether it’s vertical shiplap, board and batten or picture frame molding, I love how adding wood wall treatments brings character and interest to our home. Do you have a favorite wood wall treatment or one that you’ve been wanting to install? In which rooms of your home do you have or would you like to have picture frame molding? I’d love to hear about your experiences and help answer any questions you may have in the comments below!

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