The DIY Way to Finish a Stub Wall

Stub wall2

Our home came with some great stuff – and it also came with some not so great bare-bones stuff!

One major issue in our home was the unfinished stub wall (or some people call it a pony wall) at the top of our stairs. It was just finished with drywall and was missing any sort of trim. Because this stub wall is the “landing zone” for all sorts of stuff (like cell phones and clothes that need drying) it was looking pretty rough. So for $45, we capped the stub wall for a custom look!

Here’s how we added trim to finish the stub wall. Check out the tips on what NOT to do!

Find the materials: The “cap” consists of a piece of MDF and moulding below it. We used an 8′ x 10″ piece of MDF from Home Depot. This cost us about $12 and amazingly was cheaper than the trim! We also bought baseboard moulding/trim to wrap under the MDF.

Get the tools: You’ll need a miter saw, nail gun, jigsaw or oscillating hand saw, and router. DIY NO-FAIL TIP: Get a router – rent one, borrow one, whatever you have to do. It’ll make all the difference when you go to create nice edges on your board!

Trim the top board: Trim the board to the length and size that you need. We wanted the board to wrap around one side, so we measured and cut out the section using our Dremmel multi-tool. A small hand jigsaw would be fine too.


Be smart about how you the finish the edges: We decided to get fancy and run the wood through a table saw angled at 45 degrees. This just tore up the board and made it look super messy. We thought paint would help – it didn’t. Here’s what happens when you try to trim MDF on a table saw:


Sad, sad stuff. We also tried to use the miter saw to create a unique angled area at the end of the board. It didn’t work either, so don’t try it!


So we sanded it with a palm sander and that helped quite a bit. But seriously, don’t try to get fancy! Just run a router around the edges, or just sand the edges so it won’t have sharp edges that get dinged up easily.

Install the board: Once you have your board in place, glue it with PL Premium or Liquid Nails, and then tack it into place with your nail gun. I’m sure just the adhesive would be fine, but we wanted to ensure it was firmly in place for years to come.

Cut the moulding: Cut the moulding at 45 degree angles to wrap around the bottom of the board. Then install with your nail gun. If you don’t have a nail gun, little finish nails that are countersunk would work just fine.

Fill the holes, caulk, and paint: Paint first, using a roller to ensure the finish is even. I used a paintbrush and in certain lights it looks like someone quickly painted it with a paintbrush because they had a BBQ to go to in an hour…not that I did that or anything. Okay, maybe I did.

DIY NO-FAIL TIP: Caulk also makes all the difference in this project. Use white caulk designed for trim or woodwork to fill in the gaps. See the gap where the board and the trim meet? Caulk in areas where you can see the seams (like the other side, where you can see it walking up the stairs).


You’re done! This little project took us a whole day, thanks to small little cuts around the end of the board, figuring out angles, and that darn table saw idea. If you’re smart and didn’t try to get fancy, it’s a 3 hour project.

But check out the results! I love the before and after (along with the before and after of our new hardwood floors, because it’s the only “before” photo I had). Funny how a little thing like trim can make such a big difference.

BEFORE (and a bonus before & after shot of our pretty new hardwood): FullSizeRender

AFTER: IMG_4945IMG_4946



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