All About Molding and Decorative Woodwork
Learn about the different types of wood moldings and baseboard.
Moldings provide a decorative finish to many areas of the home. Baseboards, crown molding, and door trim are the most noticeable examples, although finer moldings are often used for detailing on closets and bookcases, and to create panels on doors or walls. Here's a look at the uses of this type of trimwork, and the techniques for applying it.
Types of Moldings
Moldings usually need either paint or a natural wood finish (e.g., paint or varnish) after they are installed. Some types need no finish. Baseboards, for example, may be made in the same color and style as a door. This saves time, but requires careful installation: mistakes are not easily covered with caulk or paint.
Baseboard and Casing
Probably the most common molding, baseboard forms a decorative, protective edge at a wall and floor junction. Casing creates a decorative joint between a door jamb and wall. Casing usually has less depth than matching baseboard. For example, 4" baseboard is often used with 2" casing. Provided you measure carefully, both are straightforward to fit.
A common alternative to wood, MDF moldings are normally primed and moisture-resistant. MDF is only prone to splitting at the ends, and has no knots. It also has some flexibility, making it easier to attach when there are slight contours across a surface. A tighter fit to an undulating wall surface will also reduce the need to fill gaps between the molding and wall.
green color indicates moisture-resistant MDF (Image 1); ogee baseboard (Image 2); ogee casing (Image 3); prefinished ogee baseboard (Image 4); chamfered bullnose baseboard and casing (Image 5)
Molding may be decorative, for example, to break up a wall surface, or practical, for example, to protect a wall from chairs. As an alternative to wood, MDF rails and plastic cornices are available.These moldings provide the finer decorative detailing in a room, such as around a bookcase. Moldings such as quarter-round and scotia are commonly used to fill the expansion gap around the perimeter of wooden flooring. A greater range of profiles is available than for larger moldings such as baseboard and casing. It is also more common to find smaller moldings in a range of soft- and hardwoods. Profiles range from the simple to the highly ornamental. The selection shown to the right features the most commonly available moldings, but some manufacturers produce much wider ranges that can accommodate most decorative preferences.
half-round (Image 1); quarter-round (Image 2); dowel (Image 3); scotia (Image 4)
staff bead (Image 1); triangular (Image 2); hockey stick (Image 3); reeded (Image 4); embossed (Image 5)
carved (Image 1); ornamental (Image 2); glazing (Image 3); angle (Image 4); double D (Image 5); flat D (Image 6)
Using Decorative Trim Packages
Lengths of casing are usually mitered at the top of a doorway, and butted to matching baseboard at the bottom of a doorway. Decorative trim, however, creates a more traditional look.
Casing Top Block
Available in many designs. This butt-joins with the upright and head lengths of casing to give a traditional appearance.
Casing Plinth Block
Butt-joins with baseboard and forms the base on which upright lengths of casing are placed, again with butt joints.