picture rail – hooks hangers molding

Besides providing an anchorage on which to hang pictures, picture rails provide an important visual break in the walls of high rooms. They are not usually fitted in modern rooms, which are rarely tall enough to take them, but they are widely found in older houses. Many such rails are beautiful additions to the charm of rooms built in a more graceful era, and to remove them would be an act of wanton destruction. Some picture rails, however, are not especially attractive, and even the best can become so badly damaged, or affected by woodworm or rot, that their removal becomes necessary. Removing picture rails Picture rails are fixed by means of cut nails driven through them into wooden plugs set into the masonry at centres varying from 450 to 6OO mm (18 to 24 in). Prise them away as described for skirting boards, with either a claw hammer or an old chisel. Concentrate your efforts at the locations of the fixing nails. Once you start to lever, you will see their position at a glance. The wall will be damaged as you pull the rail away, but you can make good afterwards with plaster or decorators filler. If it is difficult to move the rail, perhaps because the nails have rusted, scrape off the paintwork until the nails are revealed, then punch them through the rail into the wall be- hind. The rail will then simply fall away. Or just split the rail along the line of the nails with a carpentry chisel, and then lift it clear. Whichever of these two methods you adopt, pull the nails out afterwards, otherwise they might rust and discolour any subsequent decorations. Take them out with a claw hammer, protecting the plaster by placing a small piece of thin waste wood on it. the nail cannot be withdrawn, drive it well below the surface of the wall, so that it can later be covered with a thick layer of filler.

picture rail and hookFor new picture rails you may want to replace a damaged rail. Alternatively, you might like the elegance of a rail and the convenience it offers to hang pictures on the walls. Just as with skirting, it is often possible to buy old picture rails from firms that specialize in salvaging period timber from buildings about to be demolished. Otherwise new timber can be used. If the rail is to replace a damaged one that has been removed, try to make use of the wooden plugs to which the original rail was fixed. Aim to get a rail long enough to cover a wall in one span to avoid having untidy joins. Cut the rail to size. Hold it just below the plugs on the wall, and mark on the face of the rail where the fixing nails should go. Drill clearance holes for these, especially in old valuable timber, to lessen the risk of splitting the wood. Hold the rail in place, and hammer home the nails, taking care not to mark the face of the timber. Punch the nails home, and disguise the heads with tiller. If there are no timber plugs you can use, fix the rail with screws driven into plastic wall plugs. The heads of these will be more difficult to cover up on more intricate moldings, but that cannot be helped. To make your own picture rail, you can buy ornate modern molding, or merely use a straight batten — timber 45 x 13mm is suitable. There needs to be a space behind the timber into which the hanging clips can locate. To provide such a space, glue small neatly—cut blocks to the back of the rail. The blocks should be of the same size as the main rail and be placed at 900 mm (3 ft) intervals. Fix the picture rail to the wall by means of screws driven through it and the spacer blocks into plastic plugs inserted in the wall. It is easy to paint such a rail without getting paint on the wall.

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