Installing Picture Rail Molding and Hooks

When installing picture rail, it must be screwed or nailed into studs located behind your drywall or plaster. This is necessary so that the picture rail can bear the load of heavy pictures. We recommend square-head trim screws. The tiny heads can sink just below the surface of the wood. You will need a #1 square head bit. These screws come in black and white at Home Depot (at least, in the mid-Atlantic area). You can find other woodtone colors from one of our favorite vendors, OMB Trimtop. If you choose to nail into the studs, you may do so over drywall, but make sure to pre-drill the nail holes in the picture rail molding first. Trim screws are nice in that they often are self-tapping; no pre-drilling is necessary. You can also use any trim screw or nail head, and put just a touch of paint on the exposed head that approximates the color or stain of the picture rail. For larger images of the rail colors, click here

Trim Screws for installing picture rail molding In some installations over plaster, you may use liquid nails with 2" brads installed using a pneumatic nailer, varying the brad orientation as you move across the rail. Do not nail by hand as it is too easy to crack the plaster, and compromise the integrity of the wall.

English Oak Picture Rail with Brass HookIn general, most picture rail hooks DO NOT follow the profile of the picture rail. Rail varies too much from home to home, and it is actually better if the picture rail hook hangs IN FRONT OF the picture rail molding. If the hook "skirts" in front of the picture rail, the weight of the picture will actually direct the force of the picture rail INTO THE WALL as opposed to merely pulling downward. There is actual benefit to having a hook that bends in an arc in front of the rail, and deflects the weight into the wall. Secondly, a hook that arcs over the rail also is less inclined to mar the finish.

Hanging a Victorian Picture When hanging a picture, you may attach a strong decorative cord to the picture frame and hang it from the picture rail hook. If you want to achieve the Victorian effect of having the frame "dip forward", make sure the cord joins the back of the picture frame about one-fourth of the distance from the top of the frame (on each side of the picture, on the back side of the frame). Otherwise, if you want the frame to hang straight against the wall (the more modern way!) then the cord should join the picture frame near the top of the frame on each side.