How to Use Different Types of Molding in Your Home

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Knowing what types of moldings are available for your home improvement projects can help you make the right selection and save time and money.

There are many reasons that wood molding is installed in the home. Wood molding can increase the value of your home, provide a pleasant living experience, and create a traditional or unique visual appearance. Real estate professionals can tell you that good wood moldings are something potential buyers not only notice but can make or break a deal. Wood molding can also be used to demonstrate your sense of decorating.

Wood moldings can also reduce the cost of maintaining your walls by offering protection against accidental dings and dents which would require frequent patching and painting. Wood moldings are also an inexpensive way to finish a wall or room to create a wainscot or built-in effect.

Typical Uses

1. Door Casing: There are a number of different door casings available such as ranch (also known as clam), fluted, and colonial. The type installed in older homes can reflect the era in which the home was built, the location, or the value. In many homes, the molding is usually mitered at the corners. A more decorative installation uses wood blocks placed in the corners. For a thicker look, back band molding can be installed over the outer edge of the casing.

2. Baseboard: Baseboard is an important component to any wall and it needs to be durable. The whole point of a baseboard is wall protection from furniture, vacuums and foot traffic. Baseboard, as with most wood molding, is painted in either semi-gloss or high gloss to make clean up easy. Baseboard can come in ranch, colonial, ogee, or built-up of several pieces for a more structural look.

Baseboard Profiles

3. Window Casing: Just as doors need casing to cover the gaps between the wall and the jambs, windows needs casing for the same reason. Like with the door trim, window casing corners are typically mitered, but wood molding offers more decorative choices to spice up your window environment.

4. Chair Rail: Chair rail was developed to protect the walls from dining room chairs that may touch the walls when people were seated or getting up. While this is not always a problem for homeowners, in homes where the dining room is used frequently, or children are present, this constant contact with the wall can become very damaging. Wood molding can cover existing damage and also prevent the damage from occurring again. The strength of the material will prevent problems like scratches and dents from occurring in your dining room area. Chair rails are usually decorative, but they may also be square for a more modern look.

5. Crown Molding: Crown molding is usually installed at the intersection of the wall and the ceiling. It is thought that this type of molding makes the transition from the wall to the ceiling smooth and was originally used to conceal the seams. Crown molding adds charm to a room and helps to draw the eye up and also offers a counterpoint to the baseboard. Smaller rooms should use smaller crown molding while very large rooms or rooms with high ceilings can have crown molding that is 7 or 8 inches wide or have crowns composed of multiple pieces of molding. A flat piece of baseboard can be installed on the wall and also on the ceiling and the crown can be installed between the two.

Large Built-up Crown Molding

Crown molding can also be installed at the tops of cabinets that don’t reach the ceiling to create a finished look or at the tops of window casings. Typically solid crown is used for these applications.

6. Base Shoe. Shoes molding is typically used to cover the gaps between the flooring and the baseboard. Shoe molding can be omitted if the baseboard is installed after the finish floor is installed, but it adds depth to the baseboard and other areas of the home may have shoe molding already installed so you may want to add it to other rooms for a more consistent look.

7. Plinth Blocks: The plinth block serves as a connection between the door casing and baseboard. Often the seam between the two can be very rough, especially with the expansion and contraction of wood over the years. The plinth block is designed to cover that seam by being thicker, referred to as “standing proud,” of both the door casing and the baseboard by 1/8” to ¼”. If the casing and baseboards are the traditional 7/8” thickness the plinth would be 1” to 1 1/8” thick. This provides the layering effect and hides any paint crack at the seams. They are usually flat stock such as a 1” x 3” or 5/4” x 3, but they can also be more decorative and are often used in conjunction with rosettes at the top corners or door casings.

8. Caps: Another use for moldings in your home is as a panel or wainscoting cap. If you decide on a panel option like wainscoting, you need a durable cap to smooth the transition back to the wall.

9. Mantels: Fireplace mantles can be simple to very intricate pieces of carpentry which can employ standard and custom pieces of molding. Wood stands up best to the heat of the area surrounding your fireplace and provides a good attachment point for hooks for hanging stockings or other decorations.

Window Molding Configurations

Moldings can be solid wood, finger-joint, MDF, or some particular species of wood like oak, maple, poplar, cherry, or walnut. Moldings can be primed or unpainted.

Window moldings can be installed in several ways.

1. Mitering

Each of the four corners around the window are cut at 45°, and the same piece of trim is used on all four sides. It is typically back set from the jamb 1/8-1/4"

An older installation would add a back band to the casing.

This adds a level of sophistication to your trimming efforts and allows you to hide more defects if you scribe it to your drywall's hills and valleys.

2. Corner Blocks

This method of window treatment is similar to the mitering method, but instead of mitering the four corners, square blocks (A) are used in lieu of the 45° cuts. The corner blocks are typically aligned perfectly with the inside corners of the window jamb. The wood casing then is backset from the corner by 1/8-1/4". The corner block is then between 1/4" - 1/2" wider than the width of the casing (Example: A 3" square corner block and 2 1/2" wide casing) to allow the wood casing to be centered on the corner block.

3. Window Sill (B)

Three sides of the window (left, right, and top) are framed either with or without corner blocks using a traditional casing molding. Window sills are added to the bottom, typically protruding from the face of the wall from 1 1/2"-2 1/2". Often a "skirting molding" (C) is added under the sill.

4. Board and Batten

The left and right legs of the casing are made up of either straight or fluted boards. A sill is added to the bottom typically with another flat board for the skirting. The header casing is made up of a number of moldings (a flat board like the skirting, with a cap on top and a crown between the two of them, the bottom is often trimmed with a small beading). It is best to make the header as a unit before you try and install it over your head.

You can use moldings almost anywhere in your home to add durability and value or change the look and feel of a space.