1. Measure your available horizontal wall space, then double that measurement and add a couple of extra feet. Saw picture frame or panel molding to length using a hand or power miter saw. Miter the corners to create 45° cuts where the two picture rails meet in a corner of a room and 90° cuts where the ends butt into adjacent walls.
  2. Cut your backing board from MDF or plywood using a jigsaw or circular saw. Many home centers will cut backing strips for you for little or no charge. If your cuts aren’t perfectly straight, don’t worry; the lip on the molding will cover the edges. Apply wood glue to the edges of the backing material, then use small finish nails or clamps to secure the rails to the backing material.
  3. Fill nail holes, dips and gouges with wood putty, then sand everything using 180-grit sandpaper. Apply one coat of primer and two coats of high-gloss enamel paint.
  4. Use a level to mark the top edges of the rails on the walls. For permanent installation, apply liquid nails to the backing material, then use sticks of wood and a few nails to hold the picture rails in place. For temporary installations, secure it to every other wall stud with 2-in. drywall screws.

DIY Tip: Your picture rail will look best when mounted 32 to 42 inches off the floor, a convenient height for children. If you’re using construction adhesive, bear in mind you’ll remove drywall facing and paint when you remove the rail. By mounting it with screws, you’ll only need to patch a few holes if you remove or relocate the rail.

Personal Touches: With a few extra add-ons, a picture rail can become an interactive play place. Try these special additions to make it yours.

Chalkboards: Cut pieces of 1/4-in. plywood to fit between the rails, paint them with three coats of chalkboard paint, then secure them to the picture rail with construction adhesive.

Magnetic boards: Use tin snips to cut strips of steel flashing to fit between the rails. Bend over or cover all edges to prevent cuts to fingers.

Cork and dry-erase boards: Cut segments of these materials to the appropriate width, then adhere using construction adhesive.

Reading light: Mount a gooseneck wall lamp to a section of 1/2-in. plywood, then securely mount the plywood to the picture rail. For safety, encase the cord in a rigid metal cord cover, and make sure the lamp stays cool to the touch when on.