What Paint to Use for Chair Rails

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Chair rails are becoming more and more common as elements of home decor. When done right, chair rails add a touch of elegance and interest to bare walls. When done incorrectly, however, they detract from rather than add to the beauty of your home. Choosing the right paint is one of the most important elements in decorating with chair rails.

Chair Rail Location

  • If your chair rails are in high traffic areas such as the living room, hallway, or a child's room, it is advisable to choose a paint that will not show the little stains, nicks, and marks that come along with the traffic.

Chair Rail Age

  • If your chair rails have been newly installed, they are less likely to contain the imperfections that sometimes plague older chair rails that have often been painted and repainted and subjected to bumps and scrapes by chairs, houseguests, and careless movers.

Other Decorative Elements

  • Consider the paint you'll be using above and below the chair rail. Is it high-gloss? Semi-gloss? Often, decorators will choose a paint finish one level above or below the wall paint depending on the effect they wish to achieve. That is, if you're using semi-gloss paint on your walls, consider painting the chair rail with either high-gloss or eggshell paint for an interesting visual effect.

Properties of Paints

  • High-gloss lends a beautiful sheen to chair rails. However, it will highlight any imperfections in the wood or any nicks, scuffs, or scratches. It's best for low-traffic areas.

    Semi-gloss is excellent for high-traffic areas, as it is very easy to clean. It combines most of the shine of high-gloss paint with some of the imperfection-camouflaging properties of eggshell paint. It's best for newly-installed chair rails with few imperfections in the wood.

    Eggshell is less shiny than semi-gloss. This paint camouflages any imperfections in the wood, but is harder to clean than semi-gloss. It's best for chair rails that have been painted before or have some imperfections that cannot be removed.

    Satin or flat paints have little shine and are difficult to clean, and are not generally suitable for chair rails.

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