A quick guide to positioning dado rails


(deɪdəʊ reɪl) a moulding at about waist height on an interior wall, used for decoration and to protect the wall.

Collins Dictionary

Historically the dado area, or lower part of the wall, was used to protect walls or wall coverings (silk in the great houses) from furniture. These days, the purpose is purely aesthetic and an elegant addition to any interior, adding dimension, scale and proportion.

It is important to remember there are no hard and fast rules in decorating, but there are some basic tips that will help you create balance and tie your look together. Wainscotting and wall mouldings help to divide the wall and allow you to experiment with colour, texture and pattern.

what height should my dado rail be?

How high should my dado rail be?

There are various schools of thought on the subject of dado rail height and there are a few different ways to approach it. Our fail-safe version is to measure 25% of the wall height or one-third up the wall for the perfect placement of your chair rail. Using a chair to roughly mark out the height is a starting point, but by no means foolproof.

Many carpenters suggest dado mouldings can be hung between 32 and 36 inches off the ground, whilst other experts will recommend anywhere between 24 – 72 inches. Use your scheme and eye to help guide your decision, erring on a slightly lower height to retain a balance within the space.

Consider the style of your moulding. Our largest door and dado moulding, No.121, is a bold 9.4cm high for example. Other products include more period / decorative styles such as No. 7030 which features an egg and dart pattern reminiscent of a classic 18th century design.

No.7030 dado rail moulding from the library ladder company

How easy is it to hang my dado rail?

Our decorative interior mouldings are made from a product called Purotouch.

It is a high-quality, high-density polyurethane that allows for fine design details and a sharp finish. For a fraction of the price of traditional panelling and decorative accessories, Purotouch is a popular choice with many other advantages. Upon purchase, your product is primed and ready to paint, it is water-resistant, shock-resistant, termite resistant, flexible enough to be bent around corners and is extremely easy to install with our recommended adhesive. Purotouch is very durable, so you can be assured that your moulding will stand the test of time.

Other Purotouch products available online include: CovingSkirting boards, Wall PanellingWall MouldingsDoor Mouldings and Ceiling Roses.

dado rails from the library ladder company

How should I paint my dado rail?

Originally dado rails were painted to cover mismatched wood grains and colours. Then there was a trend for picking them out with white gloss which can be distracting and draw the eye to white stripes around the room. If you choose grand or decorative mouldings you may want to highlight them, but it can create an overly busy room and we would recommend painting them in the same colour as the walls for a strong, unified look. With no contrasts to distract the eye the overall effect is to make your room look bigger. 

Having a chair rail gives you the opportunity to consider a range of options for the walls. This could be two contrasting or sympathetic paint colours, or wallpaper and paint above and below. Traditionally if you are using a darker colour, the balance is much better when it is used on the lower part of the wall. Painting a darker tone above the dado rail gives the impression of the walls tipping towards you.

painted dado rails from the library ladder company

Image c/o Pinterest

Moulding No. 169 is a lovely, rounded and lightweight design. It has a chamfered section at the bottom to allow you to use it with our No. 147 vertical wall panelling. Paint the classic tongue and groove in a darker colour tonally matched with a lighter colour above. Before you know it, you’ll have rooms that look like Soho House with a design that is easily translated for hallways, bathrooms, dressing rooms and bootrooms. Read our blog “5 Ways to make your house feel like a hotel,” for more inspiration.

painted wall panel and dado rail from the library ladder company

What style dado rail should I use?

That all depends on the style of your interior. We have created an inspiration gallery to give you a few ideas of how to use our interior decor mouldings.

We offer a wide range of chair rail styles and designs at The Library Ladder Company, from decorative / period designs to something more contemporary. Sold in two metre lengths they are all reasonably priced and a great investment for improving the overall look of your interior.

Purotouch has made it possible for us to offer a flexible dado rail! The No.9010 profile is a large, plain dado rail or architrave. The rounded top edge makes it perfect for use in both modern and traditional homes. The flexible version can be used to frame an existing alcove or archway.

flexible dado rail from the library ladder company

No. 8020 is one of our bestselling wall panel mouldings and can used as a simple dado rail, a ceiling astragal or used to create wall panelling. They can be bought alongside our plain curved corner piece No. 801c to create panels on both walls and ceiling. The moulding can be easily cut to size to great effect. This design can also be used as a picture rail which would ideally be hung 6 – 12” below a cornice.

No.801c corner cornice moulding from the library ladder company

A brief history of dado rails

In the 17th century, chairs and other pieces of furniture were stored against the walls and were only moved into the central space when in use. For this reason dado rails and wainscoting were introduced to shield the walls from scuffs and knocks whilst protecting the fabric lined walls at the same time. In pre-industrial design terminology, the dado rail was called the dado or the wainscot cap and represented the ‘die’ in classical architecture which sits above the base of the pedestal. The term ‘chair rail’ was introduced by the Shakers who installed wooden chair pegs to their walls to hang their chairs while cleaning the floor.

When you need a little extra help

All our products are available to purchase online, but if you would like to find out more about our products please complete an online form and one of our small team will gladly advise.

Browse our selection of Dado Rails online here.

dado rails from the library ladder company 

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