Frame Academy X You may well already have a home or workplace that is blessed with picture-rails. If you do then you'll probably know the benefits. Yet if you don't have them, or if you hitherto haven't understood just how useful picture-rails can be, here's the pla
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Frame Academy X

By Paul Dunwell, writing for EasyFrame
© Copyright EasyFrame 2019

What This Article is About

In ‘Frame Academy I’ we provided a run-down of essential terminology as a prelude to further ‘Frame Academy’ pieces that have been spanning more complex aspects of the dark art of picture-framing.

In ‘Frame Academy II’ we gave you a step-by-step idiot’s guide to making a picture frame. It served, alternatively, as a resource to help you understand the processes involved if you go to a 3rd party to have your frames made to your specifications.

In ‘Frame Academy III’ we ambitiously explained how to gild a frame and add an ostentatious touch to framed work that is already precious to you.

In ‘Frame Academy IV’ we retraced our steps a little and asked ‘Why would anybody bother with a frame?’ And ‘With so many options to choose from, what sort of framing solution should I be looking for?’

In ‘Frame Academy V’ we examined interesting things to do with old picture-frames.

In ‘Frame Academy VI’ we explained how to choose mat and moulding colours in the context of the work to be framed and the surroundings in which the framed work is to be hung.

In ‘Frame Academy VII’ we outlined how to hang a large and/or heavy artwork.

In ‘Frame Academy VIII’ we focused on hanging your picture at the correct height.

In ‘Frame Academy IX’ we told you how to hang pictures on the stairs so that they look well-arranged.

Now, in ‘Frame Academy X’, we look at picture-rails.

Hanging a picture using picture rail hooks

In Outline

You may well already have a home or workplace that is blessed with picture-rails. If you do then you'll probably know the benefits. Yet if you don't have them, or if you hitherto haven't understood just how useful picture-rails can be, here's the place to learn.

This article will also explain how to utilise picture-rails to their best advantage.

Why Picture-Rails are a Smart Solution

Most of us live in modern homes. And, when we want to hang artwork or photography, we almost-invariably resort to securing it directly to the wall. But older homes very often have architraves (the finish around doors and windows), dado rails (which run around the lower part of the room, usually between chest and shoulder height) and - more to the point - picture-rails.

Picture-rails, which in older buildings could be located anywhere from a few inches below cornice moulding or coving to a foot or two below the top of a door, are really quite a blessing. They've fallen out of fashion in recent decades because ceilings tend to be lower in modern buildings except for expansive public spaces that wouldn’t hang pictures per se anyway. And picture-rails have been seen by modern constructors as an unnecessary expense, a frill that can be trimmed.

But picture-rails prevent us from having to make holes in walls. And they cunningly allow us to rearrange or replace our artwork without needing any tools - and in a few moments. Moreover they allow a level of security, when hanging heavier work, that is absent in new homes with a, preponderance of stud walls.

On that basis it is worth installing picture-rails in your home or workplace, modern or not.

At What Height Should Picture-Rails Be Attached?

Opinion is divided as to the height at which picture-rails should be located. Some people will cite formulae such as 2/7 of the wall-height from the ceiling. Others will say it should be very close to the ceiling (though, with high ceilings and smaller works, this means that long cords are visible). Others suggest proportionality with the room that might also be reflected in where the architraves and ado rails are. And some suggest that the picture-rail should be level with the top of the door-frame. But I think they're all wrong.

Although picture-rails are inherently designed for flexibility when it comes to hanging, it is probably worth looking at the dimensions of the work to be hung in situ first - so their size in respect of the proportions of the room - and bearing in mind the biggest work you will ever be likely to hang. Because ideally you may well want the centres of work to be at mean (i. e. common) eye level. You don't want to see any more cord than necessary (bearing in mind that you are likely to have different-sized works side by side). And you don't ever want to be caught out by a work that is so big its top is going to have to be above the effectively-redundant picture-rail.

With all of this in mind one thing that you can do is make lightweight place-markers for each work you intend to hang (cut these to the same dimensions, in newspaper or similar) and put them on the walls with blu-tack or some tape that won't mark your walls whilst you juggle them around. Then, when you agree where your first hangings are going to be, and when you have allowed for anything bigger in future, you can decide on the ideal height for the picture-rail. The highest frame is going to be the biggest and could be hung directly on the rail. Alternatively you may wish to see some cord as with all the others. But decide on this when the placeholders are still in situ. Indeed it is worth leaving those in situ, as aides memoire, until the real works are ready to hang.

Importantly you can hang all of your works directly on the picture-rail. With no cord. But if the frames are different sizes then the centre of each work cannot be at eye-level. Alternatively you can get the lot re-framed so their sizes are identical whatever the size of the unframed work.

How to Fit a Picture-Rail

Start by marking the wall. And by assuming that nothing is level. So to measure from a ceiling down, or a wall up, could invite disaster. Ideally use a spirit-level coupled with a laser.

You now to make internal and external mitre cuts of the picture-rail moulding. Measure twice; cut once!

Any joints should be disguised. Fixings should be no more than a metre apart. When you have inserted the rawplugs and screws, or whatever you use to securely fix the picture-rail to the wall, ensure you similarly disguise these. Screws should be countersunk so they are easy to hide. Filler works well. Rub it down. Then paint it.

It is worth realising that traditionally the colour of the wall above a picture-rail is the same as that of the ceiling. So, on that basis, you might well decide to paint the wall above (and possibly below) the picture-rail. Then paint it before it is installed over the union of the two colours.

Hanging Work on Your Picture-Rail

You will need D-ring or strap hangers for your work. Ensure that they are strong enough. Check their length is appropriate given where your placeholders show the works need to hang below the rail. And nail them towards the top of the back of the frame. Use s-shaped picture-rail hooks or similar. Put them all on the rail before gently trusting the full weight of the work to them. Check that the frame is hanging straight (a spirit-level on the top works well).


Hanging artwork in the right position is important. Not least because you and guests or workers want to enjoy it. But it can be easier with picture-rails.

If you are framing something precious it’s always worth going straight to a professional framer like EasyFrame for advice. You could have them either do the entire job or help with part of it (whatever has left you racked by self-doubt!) EasyFrame can also certainly supply much of what you need to do the job if you contact them. So they will help you to unify your collection, with picture-hanging hooks and hangers as well as picture mounts and picture frames. Of course they can provide all you need to fabricate and use picture-rails. Moreover they’ll help you to limit risks.

EasyFrame is on 01234 856 501 and emailable via

Article Posted: 31/08/2019 14:13:55

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