INTERIOR MOULDINGS

Traditionally, moulding was simply a strip of material used to hide transitions between two surfaces. Today, interior mouldings have become far more. They can be functional, decorative or both. For instance, a chair rail may add a touch of dimension to a wall while simultaneously protecting it from chairs.

When it comes to mouldings, the vast assortment of options available can be a bit overwhelming. Let this guide help you navigate between the different names and materials used for today’s mouldings, and soon you’ll see why a simple DIY project can transform the look and feel of your home. Implement a finished and refined look in your home today—find out how, now!

ADD UPGRADES AND FINISHING DETAILS TO YOUR HOME WITH AN ARRAY OF EASY INTERIOR MOULDINGS

UNDERSTAND YOUR NEEDS

  • Will I install or hire professionals?
  • Do I have the tools required to realize this project?
  • Are my walls square and straight?
  • Will the mouldings be installed in a humid or dry room?
  • How high are the ceilings?
  • Will I paint or stain the mouldings?

INFO

Interior mouldings are available for diverse applications—both functional and decorative. Whether you’re looking to protect walls from chairs or simply wish to add an elegant touch, there is a moulding that is right for you. Styles and profiles, colors and materials, applications and even installations will vary from project to project, but one thing is for certain: Interior mouldings add the finishing touch needed to complete your home.

We understand the world of interior mouldings can be overwhelming. We’ve compiled a guide to help you understand the most popular styles of mouldings and how you can incorporate them into your home.

TYPES OF INTERIOR MOULDINGS


BASEBOARD

THE BASICS: Traditionally three pieces with a flat face, cap for decoration, and rounded shoe; needed to cover gaps where the wall meets the floor.

INSTALLATION & SIZING GUIDELINES:

  • 8' ceiling: 4" and under
  • 9'-10' ceiling: 4¼" to 5¼"
  • 11' ceiling: 5¼" to 7¼"
  • 12'+ ceiling: 7¼" or more

GOOD TO KNOW: Baseboards (along with other interior mouldings) often set the tone from the moment you walk into a home. With careful selection, trimwork will complement and unify the style of your home.


OGEE

THE BASICS: Any decorative trim that “crowns” the room, typically where the wall meets the ceiling.

INSTALLATION & SIZING GUIDELINES:

  • 8' ceiling: 4" and under
  • 9'-10' ceiling: 4¼" to 5¼"
  • 11' ceiling: 45/8" to 6"
  • 12'+ ceiling: 7" or more

GOOD TO KNOW: Corner blocks can be used in conjunction with crown moulding to add a special flair while also making installation a bit easier.


DOOR AND WINDOW CASING

THE BASICS: Serves both functional and aesthetic purposes as casings hide the joint between the wall and the jamb.

INSTALLATION & SIZING GUIDELINES:

  • 8' ceiling: 2¼" and under
  • 9'-10' ceiling: 2¼" to 3¼"
  • 11' ceiling: 3¼" to 3½"
  • 12'+ ceiling: 3¼" to 3½"

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Door and window casing should match on, in the least, complement each other.
  • Rosettes and plinth (also known as base or case) blocks can be used with casing around doors and windows for a decorative look. Rosettes go in the upper corners, while plinth is installed in the bottom corners, resting on the floor. By using these decorative details, you eliminate the need for sometimes difficult 45 degree miter cuts.
  • Pilasters, door surrounds, crossheads, capitals and more can be mixed and matched to create a unique, personalized look for your casings.

CHAIR RAIL AND FRIEZE

THE BASICS:
Chair Rail: Adds dimension to walls while simultaneously protecting from dents and scratches caused by chairs.
Frieze: A horizontal face that is installed below the crown, in the center of the wall, or sometimes above doorways.

INSTALLATION & SIZING GUIDELINES:
Chair rails are commonly installed around 30" to 36" from the floor.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Chair rails can stand alone without wainscoting, but wainscoting needs the chair rail for a finished look.
  • If only using chair rail, consider painting one color above and a different color below. Or, wallpaper either above or below for a custom look.
  • Frieze moulding is often used to break up expansive spaces or high ceilings by adding warmth and intimacy.

WAINSCOTING AND BEADBOARD

THE BASICS:
Wainscoting: Layered panels applied to the lower portion of the wall for protection as well as design purposes.
Beadboard: Vertical boards applied to the lower portion of the wall for protection as well as design purposes.

INSTALLATION & SIZING GUIDELINES:
Common recommendations advise 32" to 48" from the floor, but consider room specifics, such as window sills and chair heights (if applicable).

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Wainscoting is both functional and decorative—adding warmth and interest to a plain wall while protecting it from chairs, children and pets.
  • Wainscoting is traditionally hung 36-42" from the floor. However, higher applications are design-friendly.
  • Beadboard was traditionally tongue and groove boards, but today many products available are actually sheets of wood designed to look like individual boards joined together. When painted, this imitation is an inexpensive way to get close to the same look.
  • Sometimes, beadboard is also used on the ceiling. Be sure to run the beadboard vertically up the wall and then carry it over the ceiling in the same direction when possible.

MEDALLION

THE BASICS:
Astragal: Can be used as a decorative element, but is often attached to one door in a double door entry to close the gap.

Corbel: Used mostly as a decorative bracket today. Often seen with fireplace mantels, beneath kitchen countertops, or supporting decorative shelves.

Door Panel: Similar to wainscoting, but applied to the front and backs of doors.

Onlays & Rosettes: Small, delicate, decorative details that add sophistication to any room.

Ceiling Medallion: A decorative shape—usually circular—installed on the ceiling around lighting fixtures to draw the eye to the chandelier.
And so much more!

INSTALLATION & SIZING GUIDELINES:
Common recommendations advise 32" to 48" from the floor, but consider room specifics, such as window sills and chair heights (if applicable).

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Wainscoting is both functional and decorative—adding warmth and interest to a plain wall while protecting it from chairs, children and pets.
  • Wainscoting is traditionally hung 36-42" from the floor. However, higher applications are design-friendly.
  • Beadboard was traditionally tongue and groove boards, but today many products available are actually sheets of wood designed to look like individual boards joined together. When painted, this imitation is an inexpensive way to get close to the same look.
  • Sometimes, beadboard is also used on the ceiling. Be sure to run the beadboard vertically up the wall and then carry it over the ceiling in the same direction when possible.

When considering size for wrap-around mouldings—such as baseboards, chair rails, crown, etc—the size of each moulding is largely dependent on style and preference of the homeowner. There are, of course, guidelines, but each space must be installed with what you find appealing. A few considerations:

  • The higher the ceiling and bigger the room, the larger the mouldings should be and with deeper relief patterns.
  • Use ornate details and large-scale mouldings to bring warmth and intimacy to expansive spaces. The most common, low-grade size of baseboards is 3¼".
  • Baseboard, crown, chair rail and case mouldings are usually available in 16' lengths, but are sometimes also available in 8', 10', 12', 14' and 15' lengths as well.
  • Most large retailers sell mouldings by the linear foot. Typically, you are not obligated to purchase a 16' board if you only need 5'.

Now that you understand which moulding goes where, you should also know that there are a handful of materials used today to construct and form these mouldings. From inexpensive and installation-friendly foams to ornately cast and pricey plasters, moulding materials cater to every budget and style. Plastic and wood composite materials have been created to offer easier installation for uneven walls while bringing the price and maintenance down from traditional wooden mouldings. Determine the primary decision making factor for your installation, and use this materials guide to learn which materials will be advantageous for your project.

BASEBOARD WOOD PINE

ADVANTAGES: The real deal - edging is crisp and profiles abound. Stained wood often brings warmth to the room.

DISADVANTAGES: One of the more difficult installations. Solid wood swells and shrinks with the weather. Grain patterns can vary from board to board.

WHICH ROOM TO USE IT IN: Wood mouldings can accommodate many installations. Because wood swells and shrinks with moisture and weather, however, it is safest to use a moisture resistant moulding for humid applications (such as a bathroom or kitchen).


Baseboard MDF

ADVANTAGES: Cheaper and more stable than solid wood and available in a wide range of profiles. Easier to attach to imperfect walls because of its slight flexibility. Does not contain knots and some versions are moisture resistant. Often available with stainable wood veneers.

DISADVANTAGES: Actually comprised of sawdust and resins so it must be painted if it doesn’t have a veneer. Known to split on the ends. This ultra-light material can be easily dented and nicked.

WHICH ROOM TO USE IT IN: A cheaper alternative to real wood that can achieve the same effect when chosen with a veneer. Suitable for any room, but opt for the moisture resistant MDF when installing in a humid or moist space.


CROWN POLYURETHAN

ADVANTAGES: Very similar to the look and installation of pine and is available in an array of ornate profiles. Cheaper and often stronger than real wood.

DISADVANTAGES: Because it is an imitation material, polyurethane should only be used when painted. Its soft nature is easy to dent.

WHICH ROOM TO USE IT IN: If you plan to paint your mouldings anyway, polyurethane is a great cost-effective choice that can be used in any room.


PVC

ADVANTAGES: This plastic-y material is very moisture resistant and will not rot or warp.

DISADVANTAGES: Profile options are limited to very simple designs, and the difficult-to-paint surfaces reveal their plastic construction if left unpainted.

WHICH ROOM TO USE IT IN: Moist applications such as bathrooms, basements and exteriors.


POLYSTYRENE

ADVANTAGES: This feather-light foam can be cut with scissors and adhered with construction adhesive.

DISADVANTAGES: Quality (or lack thereof) can be easily seen when viewed from close. Edging is dull and texture is dimpled.

WHICH ROOM TO USE IT IN: A quick and easy application (no power tools required!) when "good enough" will have to do.


PLASTER

ADVANTAGES: A one-of-a-kind look to set your room apart. Won't shrink, swell or warp and can be cast into ornate profiles.

DISADVANTAGES: Usually has to be special ordered and often more expensive than the same profile in a rigid material.

WHICH ROOM TO USE IT IN: No need for relief cuts when you use this flexible material for curved applications.


FLEX

ADVANTAGES: Flexible material to be used in curved applications. Available in a wide range of profiles.

DISADVANTAGES: Made to order, difficult to install, costly in price and easy to crack.

WHICH ROOM TO USE IT IN: An exquisite and grandiose application. Often used on plaster walls.

There are several finishing options for the various moulding materials. Check with the manufacturer to see which options are suitable for your chosen material.

In general, use clear coats and stains for wood mouldings, leaving the paint for inexpensive and composite moulding materials. Don’t spend extra money on a nice looking wood moulding just to later cover it with paint.

  • Clear coats are ideal for beautiful woods that do not need enhancing, just protecting.
  • Stains are similar to clear coats, but add a touch of color to your wood while still allowing its grain to shine through. They often add warmth to your space and are available in a wide range of colors.
    1. Soft woods may need a stain conditioner before a dark stain is applied to prevent splotches and uneven tones.
  • Paint is ideal for imitation and composite moulding materials.
    1. Slightly off-white paint tends to be a popular choice for molding as it helps hide the inevitable dust that collects along edges.
    2. A high gloss paint will make your moulding pop, but it becomes difficult (or nearly impossible!) to touch up. Paint with at least a little sheen is usually recommended so that it can be wiped down, as moulding (especially baseboards and chair rails) tends to be touched, kicked and scuffed frequently.
    3. Traditionally, mouldings in your home—baseboard, crown, casing—are painted the same color, both in each room as well as throughout your home.
    4. For unique applications, consider having an artist come in and paint your mouldings as a faux marble or other stone. When viewed from far away (and sometimes even right up close!) you’ll never know the difference between the real deal and your inexpensive imitation!
Tools required for the installation of mouldings largely depends on which moulding you are installing and what material it is constructed from. A basic tool list includes:

  • Tape Measure
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Finishing Nails
  • Power Miter Saw
  • Coping Saw
  • Chalk Line
  • Level
  • Rasp

Most mouldings can be installed by the average-skilled DIYer with a little research and a lot of precision. Here are a few tips to consider before starting your project:

MEASURING & PLANNING

  • To determine the amount of moulding you need, measure each straight section of the wall and add together. Include an additional 10% to account for cutting waste. If there are obstructions that prevent you from installing mouldings—such as a fireplace—don’t forget to subtract them from the total length.
  • For aesthetic reasons, opt for long mouldings. For example, in the case of a 14' wall, use a 16' moulding rather than two 8' mouldings. You will reduce the number of joints and enhance the look of your mouldings.
  • Typically, baseboard should be 1/8" thinner than casing to create a crisp reveal.
  • Remember when measuring for baseboards and crown that the outside corners must extend past the actual wall to account for mitered edges.
  • In most newer homes, studs are placed 16" on center. Once you’ve located the first stud, you might be able to find the others simply by measuring from the first stud.

CUTTING

  • Mouldings can be 16’ long, so it is important to set up supports at the height of the mitre saw to hold the mouldings in place. These could be sawhorses built up to height or adjustable supports with rollers.
  • Set up the mitre saw in a well-ventilated area outside the room to avoid dust.
  • Use a good-quality finishing blade with a minimum of 40 teeth, though 80 teeth is preferable since the more teeth a blade has, the cleaner the cut.

INSTALLING

  • Walls should be painted and wallpaper glued before you install mouldings. Paint or stain mouldings in advance so that you will only have to touch them up after (and cover the nail heads you’ve concealed with wood filler). By painting or staining before installation, you eliminate the need for masking.
  • When working with wood moulding, it is a good idea to acclimate it by bringing it inside a week before installation to allow it to adapt to your environment.
  • Mouldings can be fastened with finishing nails or a power nailer. Never use nails longer than 2" as you might hit a wire; 1½" nails are perfect for the job. For a cleaner, more professional job, use a brad power nailer. Pre-drill your nail holes so that mouldings do not split. Use a drill bit of a smaller size than the nails.
  • It is usually best to start installing along inside corners, working your way towards outside ones.
  • On a long wall, shorter pieces can maintain the look of continuity by mitering the joints rather than having them butt together.
  • Chair rails are installed on the wall at a height of between 30" to 36" above the floor, either as a single decorative border or placed with a parallel railing to add an accenting border. Picture rails are usually installed 10" to 16" below the ceiling, depending on the height of the ceiling.
  • Lay flooring before installing baseboard to avoid unsightly voids and an uneven look.
Many newly constructed homes forgo the added expense that decorative mouldings require. Often only functional baseboards and casings are installed, typically in an inexpensive and simple profile. Homeowners are beginning to add creative touches of moulding to bring character, warmth and personality to their spaces.

DIYers are finding ways to inexpensively imitate the customized and finishing details that adorned the homes of yesteryear. How can you achieve the look for less?

  • All-inclusive kits are available on the market today. Rather than custom details, pick up a mass-produced moulding kit and give it your own personality. Expensive applications of the past—such as arched doorways—have become affordable by way of kits.
  • Achieve the look of an ornate and detailed moulding by layering several simple (and inexpensive!) pieces together. Using an array of sizes and profiles, a collection of individual pieces can be melded together with a coat of paint.

One of the newer trends is to install moulding on the ceiling, creating large frame that surrounds the room. Various colours can be used to emphasize the architecture and design.

Another current trend is dressing up out of the box furniture and cabinets with stock moldings, adding character and a custom flair. For instance, add an ornate corbel to the inside corners of an inexpensive bookshelf. Or, use casing and rosettes to dress up an otherwise boring mirror.

Lastly, homeowners are finding ways to incorporate salvaged architectural mouldings into the decor of their new homes. For instance, an antique rosette makes a lovely wall hanging in place of a picture; corbels are fabulous decorative bookends, and salvaged casing can be cut and glued into picture frames. Use your imagination!