What type of nails should be used for chair rail?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ June 27, 2013 ~ No Comments

I am trying to put up a chair rail. The walls are plaster and behind the walls is brick. What type of nails can I use?


Jeffrey Anderson

Alana, I can tell you from firsthand experience that your project probably isn't going to be easy, but it can be done. Nailing into a plaster surface is very different from wood and sheetrock as the hammering can cause cracking to start - some of which may not become visible until long after the project is complete. The fact that there is brick behind the plaster only complicates the matter.

You don't mention whether there is any wood lathe behind the plaster -- I would think that there must be. I have seen plaster applied directly to brick on the exterior of homes, but never on the inside -- even on very old structures. If there is wood lathing, I would suggest predrilling a few holes using a masonry bit about the same size or a little larger than the finish nails that will be used to mount the chair rail. The holes should be behind where you intend to locate the trim so they're hidden when the chair rail is in place.

Ideally, you want your finish nails to go through the chair rail, plaster, lathe, and into the brick wall. When you have located spots that have the lathe, make small marks on the wall that can be seen when the chair rail is held against the wall. Drill through the chair rail in the marked places and secure the trim with long finish nails driven through your holes - I would think probably 10d nails would suffice. Use a nail set to drive the nail below the trim's surface.

If there is no wood lathe, that is another matter entirely. Pre-drilling the holes through the chair rail should still be done, but I recommend using a pneumatic trim nailer rather than a hammer to attach the trim. If you don't want to purchase the nailer, they can often be rented at home improvement stores. The most common type requires an air-compressor and air hose so you'll need those as well. Special finish nails that work with the nailers are also available at most home improvement stores. I would still go with finish nails that are about 10d.

If a conventional hammer is used to secure the chair rail to plaster applied directly over brick, I would be concerned that the hammering could cause considerable cracking.

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