How to Install Panel Moulding

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comHave you ever been drawn to a room, but can’t quite figure out what exactly it is you like about it? It just feels nice? Often times that “feeling” is millwork that presents the perfect backdrop for an interior setting. This tutorial has been requested numerous times, and Emmett & I finally had time to put together a very detailed DIY post for you… how to install panel moulding- like a professional finish carpenter. Click through for some information on millwork, panel moulding, and of course to see & save the tutorial!

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comI’ve talked about millwork multiple times here on the blog… it’s an element of home design I’m pretty passionate about. I wanted to direct you to a couple past posts if you haven’t visited those yet… they’re must-reads:

This particular post is specifically about panel moulding INSTALLATION. Our goal is always to create professional looking millwork that withstands the test of time (in terms of design and craftsmanship… no splitting seams, etc). If you’ve ever wondered how to get the gorgeous look of panel moulding, we’re breaking it down… and I promise it’s much easier than you’d expect.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comThis is what we use to install panel moulding (see below). Panel moulding installation is not difficult at all. It’s just time consuming and requires patience. I actually classify this as a beginner DIY, so it’s definitely a fun project to add to your list!


Step 1 // Measure and plan. I typically create the design plan that includes measurements and then Emmett & I will mark it off together, making adjustments as needed. A laser level is really helpful for this step of the process!

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 2 // Make your cuts and dry fit. Emmett prefers to cut multiples at a time, once he has the precise measurement. Using a miter saw, begin cutting your pieces.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comDry fitting is very important to ensure your miters align and the length is accurate. First we test the vertical pieces…

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comThen we test the horizontal pieces, and make sure they fit together nicely. If all of the pieces are accurate and working well, move onto the next step!

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 3 // Level and nail. We always begin by installing the top piece of the rectangle first. Even though we have the laser level set up, we double check with our handheld level… this also happens to be the amount of spacing I sketched between the top of the panel moulding and the chair rail, so it comes in handy for measuring negative space, too!

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comOnce it’s perfectly level, use the finishing nailer to secure it to the wall. We insert nails every 10-12 inches.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 4 // Glue the edge and secure with a miter clamp. Next, dab a bit of glue onto the unfinished miter of the vertical piece…

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comAlign it and secure the miter using a miter clamp. It’s ok if a little glue squeezes out… we’ll clean this up later!

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 5 // Nail the vertical piece in place. Once your miter clamp is set, use the finishing nailer to secure it to the wall.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comIMPORTANT NOTE: You do NOT have to nail panel moulding into a stud. However, to ensure it stays put, with your finishing nailer- drive a nail in from opposing directions. I’ll share examples below…

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comIn the above image, Emmett is driving a nail from the top downward into the piece of panel moulding. In the below image, you’ll notice he is driving the nail from the bottom upward into the panel moulding. These two nails are placed about an inch apart. This nail placement will lock the piece into place to create a secure, permanent set (since we’re not nailing into a stud).

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 6 // Repeat the process until three sides of your rectangle have been installed. When you get to the lower horizontal section- only nail HALF of it. The section in between Emmett’s fingers, pictured below, has not been nailed and secured yet, because this will allow us literal “wiggle room” to create a tight miter.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 7 // Install the last piece and secure the miters. Next, move onto the last vertical piece, securing it with glue and a miter clamp. Then add the remaining finishing nails. This includes the other half of the lower, horizontal piece. Once the entire rectangle has been secured with glue, miter clamps, and nails, move onto the next step.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 8 // Wipe the excess glue. Next, wipe any excess glue that squeezed out after clamping the miters. It is much easier to wipe and remove wet glue than it is to sand dried glue after it has cured. Once it’s cleaned up, allow the glue to cure before moving onto the next step.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 9 // Fill the nail holes. Pictured below, is our favorite filler for millwork! We’ve tried a LOT and this stuff is the best. Fill the tiny nail holes, making sure you have excess to sand for a smooth look (more is better than too little at this stage).

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 10 // Sand the filler. Once the filler has set, it’s time to sand the profile smooth. We’ve found sanding blocks make this step quick and easy.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comStep 11 // Caulk and paint. After you’ve sanded the millwork, caulk the edges to make it look custom and finished. Once the caulk has completely set, then you can move onto painting! Emmett prefers using our paint sprayer, but I prefer using a nice paintbrush with a good self leveling paint to eliminate brush marks.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comSince we’re still in the process of installing millwork in our guest bedroom, we haven’t quite reached the caulking and painting phase yet… but you can see some spaces we’ve finished in the past below.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comYou can use panel moulding to frame a wall, frame a vignette, enhance your architecture, add balance, and texture. Sometimes I choose to paint it the same color as the wall for a monochromatic look, while other times a little contrast is nice! It totally depends on the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve.

How to Install Panel Moulding - roomfortuesday.comI hope this detailed tutorial was helpful! If you have any questions at all, please leave them for Emmett & I in the comment section below. This is truly a quick project that has the ability to totally transform a room. I’ve actually been noticing more people attempting panel moulding projects and I’m always happy to see their personal DIY process. This is what works well for us, gives a professional end result, and withstands the test of time. I hope your week is off to a good start!

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  1. Hi Sarah! This is SO timely, as I’m literally measuring our home office for chair rail and panel moulding today! And, I really appreciate all of your expert tips, like using the level as the spacer and alternating the finish nails’ directions. I think I’m going to need to get some miter clamps. Do you have enough for all of the moulding boxes to have them on simultaneously, or do you move them from one box to the next? Also, questions for you guys on painting: If the wall and mouldings are the same color, do you paint the wall before or after installing the mouldings. I’m thinking before would be easier, in that there’s more unbroken space to roll, but after would cover the pencil marks… thoughts? And, do you tend to prefer the walls and mouldings be the same paint finish (e.g. satin) if they’re the same color, or do you still paint the trim in a higher sheen than the walls? So many questions for a Monday morning. :) Hope you and Emmett had a nice weekend!

    1. I love hearing that, Julie! Miter clamps are such a game changer… they really make a big difference for tight seams. We bought a kit that comes with quite a few clamps (ours is linked in the supply section of this post), but since we have a LOT of millwork in this room, we do end up having to move them after a couple hours once the glue is set. We can usually do 4-6 boxes at a time. Great question on the paint- this kind of depends on the aesthetic, finish, and your personal preference. If I’m keeping the color and finish consistent, I think it’s easier to paint the millwork on the wall. We’re definitely painting the panel moulding that goes over the wallpapered sections BEFORE. We’ve done both and get the same end result though. We haven’t had any issues covering pencil marks. You’ll end up having to touch up the paint once the panels are installed anyway (fill nail holes, sand, etc), so that’s why I typically prefer to paint it all at the same time after install. In terms of finish- this is another aesthetic design decision. I like a bit of a finish difference, but if I’m going for a subtle look- I’ll keep it the same. This is another “I’ve done both and love both” situation. You really can’t go wrong! Hope this is helpful :) Can’t wait to see and hear how your home office comes together… so exciting! Have a great week. xo

      1. Thank you so much, Sarah – that’s all super helpful! Now that telework is looking like it might continue for the foreseeable future in our area, it’s time the office got some love. I’m excited! Have a great week!

        1. Glad to hear that, Julie! It’s so crazy how the pandemic is affecting home design… better home office / home school spaces, less open concept plans, etc. I definitely support giving the home office a little love :) xo

  2. A thorough and clear tutorial, as always. Alas, unless I make a friend who owns a miter saw, I will not being installing any panel moulding. My terrible, little yellow miterbox barely suffices for the small jobs I tackle. There’s no denying the character and beauty it adds to a room though! I’m especially eager to see your monochromatic wallpaper insets. I think it’s going to be extra lovely. Hopefully, everything is moving along swiftly!
    Cheers to a productive week! (PS, those marble side tables were a wicked score! I 💜 Nero marble!)

    1. I hope it will be helpful for many! If you’re not doing millwork often, a miter saw probably isn’t worth it. Since we’re doing an entire house, ours gets a lot of use. Haha! The guest room is really coming along. Emmett knocked out a ton of millwork yesterday while I wallpapered and finished my patio chairs. I’m finally getting excited about it now that things are coming together. Those tables were such a lucky, quick FBMP find! For $40, I had to jump and grab them fast. I messaged the seller and picked them up within the hour. They’re SO heavy and beautiful in person… what a score! I hope your week is off to a great start :) Has your school decided on classes yet? Our districts just announced students will be returning in person next month. Thinking of all the teachers!

  3. You & Emmett really do the best step by step tutorials. Honestly! I will be pinning this post because I want to add millwork to our living room and 1/2 bath this fall. You both make it look so easy and do-able. That laser beam is exactly what we need because pencil and tape measure only can be maddening!
    My husband and I want to do a board and batten project to our front entry wall but worried we may be biting more than we can chew. I know it will add value to our home.
    Thanks again for a very good step by step breakdown. Now, I have to go check out what you scored! The metal chairs look soooo good!

    1. Thank you so much, Danna! It really is an easy, do-able project. You two can definitely tackle your board and batten! I have to agree that millwork usually adds value and helps homes sell more quickly :) Hope you had an awesome weekend and got a lot accomplished with your furniture refinishing. Happy Monday :)

  4. Hi Sarah,

    Much respect for your knowledge and tutorials. I’m wondering about window casing. Our new build was left without window trim and any casing/baseboard within the home is flat boards. Booo. We are trying to work with it staying within modern and simple transitional. I noticed your window casing often matches door casing. Would it be appropriate to do different profiles? I do love the box effect of your window shown- no sill sticking out. Is it one or two different pieces? Could you share the profile you chose for windows please and maybe some window specific tips? Thank you!!

    1. Thank you, Ashlee! Great questions on casing… I prefer my door and window casings to match, but you could mix it up if you’d like. As long as it is consistent, you should be ok. I’d definitely stick with a flat, simple, modern style to match your existing millwork. I’ll add a casing DIY post to our blog calendar :) It’s very similar to panel moulding (4 pieces). Hope this helps!

  5. Chiara Amendola says:

    Thank you for this! I was wondering how you’d adjust molding when one wall has baseboard heat? Would you do the same panel width as the other wall and just making it shorter? Or best to avoid with baseboard heat in general?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Emmett Gibson says:

      Hi Chiara, depending on 2 scenarios- if the panel above the baseboard heater is perfectly aligned to each side, you could get away with a “shorter” panel. But if it is off centered, or wider or skinnier than the heater, you could play around with options like we did around our thermostat and light switch in the basement bathroom remodel from this past fall. A little more complex and truly depends on the circumstance. Good luck!

  6. Hi Sarah. I loved the tutorial. I’ve been hesitant about doing any mounding because all of my walls are textured and I assumed that walls had to be flat in order to look good with the mounding. Are all your walls flat/not textured?

    1. I’m so happy to hear that, Gaby! Our walls are flat, but you can still add paneling to walls with a bit of texture (orange peel, etc). I wouldn’t let that deter you unless they’re extremely textural.

  7. Thank you for this tutorial – I am planning on adding trim work sometime soon. I have a question for you regarding the spacing. Any rules or thoughts on matching up the size of the boxes based on lighting above? I have recessed lights that cannot be moved based on joist placement. Unless you really stare at them I doubt you can tell one is 4 ft apart vs the other that is 5 ft apart. Should the trim be evenly spaced on the wall or follow the spacing of the lighting?

    1. So happy it was helpful, Monica! To answer your question… I haven’t ever designed panel moulding or millwork around overhead lighting- unless it’s a sconce or gallery light that fits WITHIN the panel on the wall, then you would want to consider. I wouldn’t worry about your recessed light placement, but rather focus on architectural elements in the room to make it feel balanced. I’d rather see consistent spacing on the wall :) Hope this helps!

  8. All these millwork tutorials are so helpful–thank you! Two questions… first, do you think the tip to angle nails when there’s no stud work for plaster walls too? Ours are in great shape (especially for being 102 years old) but we’re always nervous to mess them up.
    Second, how do you handle rooms with asymmetrical wall space? For example, one wall in our dining room has a center window and a corner built-in on just one side–meaning the open wall space to the right of the window is about half that on the left. Could we make an incomplete box on the side with the built-in, like you did with your living room fireplace… or would that look weird because unlike the fireplace, it won’t be symmetrical?
    (I am afraid the answer is that this room is just not a good candidate for panel moulding, although that of course makes me sad.)

    1. Emmett Gibson says:

      Bri, plaster is definitely way harder than drywall. You can still use the nail gun angled tip, just be cautious of nails ricocheting. Do not angle the tip too drastically. And for what to do with asymmetrical rooms. It truly depends on each individual circumstance. It can be done, but you really have to take a step back and decide what looks best with what you are working with. Search the web for examples. Hope this helps!

    2. For asymmetrical walls or rooms, it’s all about finding balance and making the millwork look cohesive despite the asymmetry… and sometimes you have to embrace the asymmetry and provide balance with furnishings. Everything doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical in terms of millwork, but it does need to look intentional. I’ve found sketching to be my best tool! Take images on your phone, print out a few and sketch some millwork configuration options. It also depends on your architecture. Hope this helps with the design aspect of this question :)

  9. You know you read my mind with this post, right?? Wonderful tutorial Sarah, thank you! I do have questions though! Emmett: Are you using standard 45 degree cuts for your miters? And Sarah: Is there a best practice layout when you’re treating a wall that goes with the roof pitch? I want to treat the wall behind or bed, but it’s got me stumped between the roof pitch, a window flanking each side of the bed, and ALL that space in between… I’ve been looking at millwork along staircases for a bit of inspiration since the angles are similar, but I didn’t know if there is other information I should take into consideration before I plan things out. I have this one saved for sure! Thank you for the tutorial Emmett & Sarah!

    1. Emmett Gibson says:

      Whatever your overall angle is (for a rectangle each corner is 90 degrees) divide by 2 two determine your miter cut angle. So in these cases 45 is correct!

    2. Yes! Great question Lauren… typically the millwork follows the pitch of the ceiling or architectural feature (like stairs), so you’d want your panel moulding to follow the angle. You can also break it up into sections or create larger panels for a more streamlined look. I’m all about sketching lots of options to see what works from an aesthetic point of view. This book is also helpful in terms of architecture: Have a great weekend!!

  10. Hi! When we did our picture frame moulding I actually used yours as my guideline. But when I looked at others I began to get a little insecure because the paneling never goes higher than the top of the door frames. We live in a 1930 1.5 story home with an attic master conversion and an addition. Therefore, the moulding in the half of the house built in 1930 is gorgeous. The addition from the 50s is absolutely crazy and needs to be fixed to match the rest of the house. And the 80s attic master…. well, we won’t go there. But this means I do have the opportunity to potentially make the tops of the moulding as high as the doorway. I’m just worried about those awkward doorway addition mouldings that look so off proportionally. Is it ok to leave it slightly higher?

    1. This totally depends on your home and architecture, Tess! Unfortunately millwork is never a “one solution fits all” type of equation because of architecture and design consistency. My recommendation would be to match the original millwork the best you can. Even moving into the 80’s addition, try to keep it close and intentional… even if there is some variation. This book ( ) is really helpful on millwork “rules” and figuring out the equation that is best customized for your house. Hope this is helpful :)

  11. Thank you for sharing all of this! Question regarding Metrie specifically…did you need to special order your material? I’m having trouble finding the trim in stores (Lowes is a listed supplier near me). Thanks for any insight here!

    1. Awesome question, Meagan! I ordered it from our local Metrie (they’re in a lot of cities). You can order from them directly and pick it up or have it delivered from your local warehouse. We just do a pickup from our Salt Lake City branch. It seems easier to get exactly what you want.

  12. It would be great to have a similar post on how to swap out bifold doors for French doors and general door install tips!

    1. Great post idea, Emily! Thank you :) If we do that again, I’ll make sure we photograph a tutorial!

  13. Lana Smith says:

    This is helpful. I have orange peel texture. Wound that work with this Moulding? How would it look? It appears in images that usually the walls are smooth. I’m probably not up for smoothing our my walls. Looking forward to you’d reply.

    1. Glad to hear that Lana! I think it depends on the level of orange peel texture on your walls, but moulding works best with smooth walls. Ceilings are a bit different (medallions, etc).

  14. Hi! Im wondering what your thoughts on consistency throughout a home are? I’m thinking that all crown, baseboards and door/window casings would be consistent throughout, but what about things like panel moulding vs. beadboard, board and batten, etc. We have a builder basic home and are currently renovating our kids/guest bathroom. I know I want to do some type of wall moulding to add interest, but am wondering if whatever I choose for that room (let’s say, board and batten) needs to be used in all other areas of the house where i choose some sort of wall moulding? Or can it vary in different rooms? How do we know which styles would “go” with each other so as not to have a crazy hodge podge of mouldings and trim. Thanks!!

    1. Great question, Jaylyn! Each room doesn’t necessarily have to match perfectly, but it should definitely look cohesive! I like to repeat certain millwork treatments for consistency, but certain spaces require different scale and application. For example… a utility room (like a mudroom) doesn’t need intricate millwork or anything over-the-top like a formal dining room would. Ceiling height, scale, proportion, and function also come into play. I’d recommend checking out this post, this post, and grabbing this book for more info! :) Hope this is helpful!

  15. Hi there! I read this post when you first posted it, and saved it for when we’d be working on a nursery. And now here we are! :) Thank you for all the great info! I want to install panel moulding similar to this on the bottom portion of the walls and wallpaper on top. My question is about the height- With our 8 ft ceilings, 1/3 of the way up would be 32 inches. However the crib we purchased is 41 inches high, and ideally the chair rail would land slightly above the crib. What height would you recommend for chair rail? Thank you so much in advance for your help!

    1. I’m so happy it’s coming in handy for your nursery, Shannon! Congratulations! I’d be happy to offer my opinion. I’m curious why your ideal height for the chair rail is above the crib? I actually would prefer to see it below, with the accurate scaled dimensions. The key is the make sure they don’t intersect in a strange way… that’s when you could give or take a few inches.

      1. Hi Sarah, thank you so much for getting back to me and the input, I really appreciate it! We just put our crib together and I stand corrected, the rail is 35 inches high and the side posts are 41 inches. To make matters a little more tricky, there is a window on one of the walls (not the crib wall) that is 32inches from the ground. So in this case, where would you put the chair rail? Perhaps 36in? Thank you so much again!

  16. I’ve just recently found your page and love it! We recently bought a 80s home that needs to be completely updated. I bought myself a brad nailer on Black Friday only now to realize that I should have gotten a finishing nailer! Would a brad nailer do the job (maybe with liquid nails)? Thanks for your help!

    1. Thank you, Sumaira! Congratulations on your new home! That’s so exciting. I’m thinking it should work, but I’ve asked Emmett to look into it further for you! He knows wayyy more about that sort of stuff :)

    2. I’ve got an answer for you! Typically, you’ll want to use an 18 gauge brad nailer (at least), BUT- it’s dependent on the size of moulding.

  17. Thank you so much for going through the trouble to find out for me! I can’t wait to devour all of your posts :) Hope you and your family enjoy the holidays.

    1. Of course! Thank you so much, Sumaira. Happy holidays to you and your family, as well :)

  18. Hi Sarah –

    Thank you for sharing, great post! Do you have any guidance on how to paint the moulding a different color than the wall?

    1. I’m so happy you liked this one, Bonnie! You can either paint the moulding before you install it (then just touch up once it’s on the wall), or you can paint it with an angled brush once it’s installed. I’ve done it both ways. The first is definitely easier!

  19. Kristie Wixson says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for doing this post on panel moulding. You’ve inspired me & my husband to tackle our dining room! Do you mind giving the dimensions of the frame mouldings for the fireplace wall in your living room, it looks about the size of our dining room and would give us a great jumping off spot to help figure out our own sizes. Thanks!

    1. I love hearing that, Kristie! To give you a baseline of where to start… the upper center panel above our fireplace is 72″ wide by 62″ tall. I hope that helps you map it out!

  20. Hi Sarah, this & your other moulding post are such wonderful sources of information; I come back to them over and over. I have a general question and a more specific one (hate to ask such specific question one, but I really trust and value your thoughts on this topic) – you’re clearly more well-versed than most on the topic! 1.) It seems adding mouldings is really trending right now – obviously they’re a historic element that can enhance a lot of spaces, but are there homes for which you think they’re not the right choice? 2.) On that note, I live in a 1860s-New England Vernacular Greek Revival, which has exceedingly simple trim – no crown, no wall mouldings, glorified 1x4s as window/door trim – I suppose a Puritan hallmark. The house has also shifted over the centuries and we have uneven floors and walls – visibly uneven bows in some walls. I’d love to add some box mouldings but wonder if it would look out of place and/or terrible with our wavy/wacky walls. I’d love to hear opinions on this. Thanks!

  21. Hello, you and Emmet do such beautiful work together. How do I fit the millwork when it runs into the narrow space between wall and a cupboard door? My carpenter wants me to eliminate the cap so the cupboard door doesn’t take a beating. I appreciate that; however, won’t it look odd to have one wall that has rail only – no cap? Thank you so much!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you so much, Tee! Without seeing your space- I can’t answer that. I’d definitely rely on your finishing carpenter for advice, and as for design… I do prefer when things look balanced and intentional, so maybe you’d be able to repeat the image on the other side? Hope that helps!