Imagine you’re designing a room in your dream home. You’ve mapped out the entire room in your head – or, if you’re more artistic, you might’ve sketched it out on paper. You’ve incorporated a dado rail into your design (you love the refined look and depth that it provides). You’ve chosen your colour scheme and wallpaper, bought your materials, and you’re ready to go.
Then suddenly, it hits you – what height should your dado rail actually be?
Dado rails are an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to transform any bland space into your picture-perfect dream home. Whether you’re looking to install a Victorian period piece, or create a more eye-catching modern look, these rails are a versatile tool that can either enhance and elongate your space, or shrink it.
However, installing your rail at the wrong height for your space can throw off the proportions of an entire room. That’s why it’s essential that you plan and measure carefully before installing one. But how do you figure out what the right height for your room is?
Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. With our handy guide, you can achieve your desired effect and get it right first time. Keep reading to discover the most effective way to decide the best height to install your dado rail.
Eye-catching period pieces
To calculate the perfect height for your dado rail, it’s useful to know what they were traditionally used for. This will help you when you’re thinking about your own design and what you hope to achieve with it.
While dado rails were popular during the Gregorian era, they actually date back to Roman and Greek architecture. The ‘dado’ originally referred to the lower part of a column, just above the base.
In architecture and design, the ’dado’ refers to the lower part of a wall. This is where the term ‘dado rail’ originates – quite literally, the rail sits above the space that is called the dado.
But what were dado rails used for?
It’s often said that in Gregorian design, dado rails were installed to protect walls and expensive wall hangings from furniture bumping against and damaging them. They were placed at the height where the top of the chair would collide with the wall. This is why you’ll also hear them referred to as ‘chair rails.’
Because of this, some online guides suggest your dado rail should align with the tops of your chairs and furniture. But it isn’t always that simple.
How do you figure out what height your dado rail should be?
First thing’s first – there is no one set rule. The ideal height for your dado rail can be influenced by both your personal style and the height of the furniture already in the room. But there are guidelines that can help you estimate the right dimensions for the space you’re working with.
Brent Hull, expert in historic design and mouldings advises that “too low is better than too high.” Placing your rail too high can shrink your space, making your ceiling appear far lower than it is.
Whereas a lower rail can actually open up your space. It can even create the illusion of a larger room if coupled with a light-coloured paint or wallpaper on the wall above the rail,
Some guides might suggest specific measurements for your rails (typically between 26-32 inches). But as a rule of thumb, the height of your rail should be proportionate with the height of your ceiling. In simple terms, the higher your ceiling, the higher your dado rail needs to be.
Think about it – would you position your dado rail at the same height for both a seven-foot and a ten-foot ceiling? One of those rooms is likely going to look out of proportion.
So, before you start planning the height of your rail, you’ll need to measure the length of your wall from floor to ceiling. Once you’ve done that, the best height for your dado rail is to place it a third of this length up the wall from the floor. An easy way for you to calculate this is to simply divide the measurement you took of the entire wall from floor to ceiling by three, and you have your answer.
For example, if you had a nine-foot ceiling, dividing this by three would give you a sum of three feet. You would then look to place your dado rail three feet from the floor.
Be sure to have a pencil handy to mark exactly where your rail is going to go, and use a spirit level to make sure the height is consistent all the way around. You don’t want wonky rails!
But, what about stairs?
Stairs are a little fiddlier, but they’re just as straightforward as regular walls.
For your stairs, you should set your dado rail at the same height calculated for the hallway. So, if the rails in your hallway are placed three foot from the floor, the rail going along the stairs should measure at three foot above each step. The rail should rest at a 90-degree angle, following the slope of the stairs.
You can map this out by placing a mark on the wall at three feet up from the end of each stair tread. You can then join these together afterwards to create a slope parallel with your stairs.
Looking for the perfect dado rail for your dream home?
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