Can I paint the chair rails the same color as the walls?

  • By: Sam Shaw
  • Date: August 15, 2021
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Can I paint the chair rails the same color as the walls?

Yes, you can absolutely paint the chair rails the same color as walls. Aesthetically, If you are going for a plain look similar to what you might see in a modern house, painting your chair rails the same color as your walls is fine.

Generally, chair rails are usually painted white or off-white, which is why it’s important to use the same shade of paint for both the walls and chair rail. Having the same color for chair rails and walls makes the room look more decent because the light is reflected back towards the walls, creating a room with more brightness.

Steps for how to paint a chair rail the same color as walls

If you think you need to paint your chair rails but aren’t sure how to go about doing it correctly, here are some steps that I recommend:

  • Remove the chair rails from their brackets (if attached).
  • Paint the chair rails with a coat of primer to make sure that any nicks or scratches are covered and sealed properly. Make sure you remove all dirt and dust before painting.
  • Use an oil-based primer if your chair rail is made of wood; it will help better protect the wood.
  • Paint the primed pieces using paints of similar colors as your walls, then reattach them back onto the wall when dried.
  • Note: Make sure the paint is dry before reinstalling them. Once dried, they are ready to go back up.
  • If you don’t want to use an oil-based primer, try using a latex-based primer and then painting the chair rail with latex paint by following these steps:
  • Patch any nicks or scratches in the piece and sand it down so that there are no rough surfaces that could cause your new coat of paint to peel off easily.
  • Apply a coat of primer on top of the areas where you sanded. Allow it to dry completely before applying another coat.
  • Paint over the primed areas with your desired shade of latex paint – remember, it’s best to use a similar color for the chair rails and walls. Allow the paint to dry completely before reinstalling it on the wall.
  • Note: For people who may have pet stains in their house, you should probably go with an oil-based primer if possible, as latex paints aren’t very good at sticking well on surfaces that have been stained by pets or children.

Steps for how to paint chair rails with water-based paints

Painting chair rail can be a fun project.
Painting chair rail can be a fun project.

A lot of modern homes might opt to use water-based paints instead of using oil-based ones; this is because these days, a lot of furniture comes pre-treated with water-based coatings which means you don’t have to sand them down before you paint. Besides that, water-based paints are also much easier to clean up and they are much safer for the environment.

If you’re still unsure about how to paint your chair rails, here is what you should do:

  • Remove any pet stains or dirt from the piece.
  • Make sure it’s sanded properly so that there are no splinters left behind.
  • Apply an adequate amount of primer on top so that the painted surfaces will be smooth when dry.
  • Let it dry completely before starting with the next step.
  • Paint over the primed area with your desired shade of water-based paint, then allow them to dry completely before reinstalling them onto the wall.
  • Note: Although these steps might seem like a lot to take into account, it’s actually very easy to do. With just a few simple steps, you can have your chair rails looking as good as new in no time!

What is the best color to paint on chair rails? 

When comes to painting chair rails, there is nothing like the best color. Colors like bright white or light yellow look great against dark-colored walls, while in the case of kitchens with cherry-wood cabinets and cream walls, it’s apparently a good idea to go for an off-white rail that complements both colors.

Painting the chair rail in dark colors will not only make them less noticeable but also create an illusion of something larger and deeper than it really is. Dark hues will merge in with the wall color due to their darker tinge. On a side note, If you want something bolder than white but lighter than black, consider painting them gray.

Blue on the other hand might be too dark for a chair rail-less space because blue usually gives off darker shades in small rooms; therefore orange or pink will be a better choice in this case.

So depending on what effect you want to achieve, one color will not always fit all.

Are there any drawbacks of painting chair rails the same color as walls?

If you use the same color paint for painting both your wall and chair rail, there are some downfalls.

One is that it will be difficult to notice whether or not the joints between the walls and chair rails are even. This problem can be easily fixed by making sure that all of them have a perfect line as well as an area around them filled with white.

A second problem is that where chairs might scratch against the wall, one would not be able to see these scratches until they dug deeper into the chair rails, leaving unsightly marks on its surface.

The last drawback is that if one were to need to change the color scheme of their room later, they would need to repaint both their walls AND their chair rails.

How long does it take to paint a chair rail?

It takes about 30 minutes to paint a chair rail from both sides including prep time. It usually depends on who is painting the chair rail. If you hire an expert, it would be less than 20 minutes to paint both sides of a rail chair. If you plan to do it yourself, you might take around 45 minutes for the job.

How much does it cost to paint a chair rail?

From our research, the average cost of painting chair rails is $10-$30 per linear foot, so it all depends on your location and the type of finish of paint you want to use. You can also ask for a quote from professionals or try to do it yourself if you aren’t a professional painter.

The average cost of painting chair rails that are 12 feet long is approximately $60 – $120, excluding the price of paint. If you add the reasonable cost of buying paint for your project and also consider how much it would cost to actually get this done professionally, it’ll be better if you do it yourself to save money.

Another significant fact is that an average painter needs one to three days to finish painting chair rails for one room. In case you are planning on getting your chairs re-covered or painted along with the rail, allow at least a week of time if not more. 

Now that we are aware of some of the pros and cons of painting chair rails, it’s time to move on in deciding whether or not to paint them.

Will it look bad if the chair rail does not have the same color as walls?

In some cases, you can get away with not painting your chair rail and have them be noticeably different from the wall color.

For example, if the walls are creamy white then they will look great with a dark brown or black rail that will blend in well. However, those who prefer bright colors like pinks and oranges should go for something more neutral such as off-white or light cream to avoid having the overall theme of their rooms thrown off by an out-of-place chair rail.

So, what is it going to be? Are you planning on getting over this ordeal once and forever by painting both your walls and chair rails one single color? Or keep them as is and let them set themselves apart from each other? The choice is yours.

What tools do I need to paint chair rails?

If you are just doing your chair rails yourself, all you need is a brush and picture or wall paint that’s suitable for interior use.

Other things that you might want to have on hand (but not really necessary) include masking tape, spackling compound, sandpaper, drop cloths (2-3), a putty knife, and wax or oil-based primer if you need one. 

Will the color of my chair rail change after I paint it?

Unfortunately yes! The reason why this happens has something to do with the chemical composition of paints as well as their curing process in which they turn from liquid into solid.  

The color of your finished product will be slightly different than what you saw when you bought the paint in the store. This is because manufacturers add something that they call “pigment” to their paints or when you mix two different colors, a third shade is produced.

The main reason why this occurs is to help your paint covers better and make sure it has a more substantial-finish look. The problem with this though is that you will never get an exact match between the color of your chair rails as compared to the swatch on the packaging label or panels on your wall.  


To conclude, yes, you can absolutely paint the chair rails the same color as the walls. When you decide to paint chair rails, there are definitely advantages and disadvantages of doing so. If you don’t mind the extra touch they add to the overall look as well as if you have some time on your hand, then painting them is not a problem at all. However, if saving money and time are your top priorities, then you can hire professional painters or do it yourself. Whichever way you choose to go about it, just remember that having painted chair rails adds a nice personal touch to any room in your home and also makes for great conversation pieces.

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