6 Common Molding Types Found in Homes

Marissa Hermanson
Updated July 19, 2021
Crown molding on ceiling
SafakOguz / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images.

Different types of wood molding can enhance your interior and give your space a finished look

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Architectural details like molding help to frame a space and add visual interest. Whether it’s a board-and-batten wainscoting in an office or an ornate dentil crown molding in the living room, interior trim enhances a blank wall and makes a space feel more sophisticated. It’s the decorative touch that gives a space its finished look—and in some cases, trim even increases the resale value of your home.

Keeping trim consistent from room to room can give your home a cohesive look. And by selecting a type of wood molding that echoes the home’s architectural style, you can embrace its character.

From the floor to the ceiling, here’s a rundown of trimmings for your home.

Baseboard

Baseboard trim covers the joint where the flooring meets the wall. While it may seem merely decorative, baseboards serve a more functional purpose, concealing uneven floor edging or crooked walls. If you have wood floors, they expand and contract throughout the year, which calls for a small gap near the wall. Baseboard trim also helps to manage day-to-day wear and tear on your drywall, like furniture butting up against the wall or moisture from spills and mopping.

You should decide on baseboard materials based on the room. For instance, in basements or utility rooms where there might be moisture, don’t use medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or hardwoods. Instead, opt for a synthetic product like vinyl, which can be installed with industrial-strength glue.

The style of your baseboard should complement the style of your home. For a more traditional look, consider 3-inch rounded or stepped baseboards. The tapered top gives stepped baseboards an embellishment that goes well with a classic home. For a more contemporary aesthetic, a flat baseboard is the way to go, with its lack of ornamentation and streamlined profile.

Sculpted mid-height or taller baseboard moldings, around 5 ½ inches tall, have more height and suit homes with a more formal style. Shoe molding or quarter round is a narrower type of trim that is used along with baseboard trim to fill corners and the joint where the baseboard meets the flooring. 

Window and Door Casing

As with baseboard trim, window and door casing both serve an aesthetic and functional purpose. The trim adds visual impact to your space, while also concealing the joint where the wall meets the jamb.

While door and window trim comes in an array of styles, it can be summed up in two basic categories—mitered and butted casing. For mitered casing, two side pieces are connected to a header using 45-degree angled (or mitered) joints.

With butted casing, two side pieces are connected with a wide header at a 90-degree angle, which rests on top. Thanks to its wide header, butted casing is ideal for homes with high ceilings. Butted casing is also used for custom millwork, where a woodworker can get creative with ornamentation to further dress up the passageway.

If you are looking to embellish your door or window casing even more, you can also use rosettes (decorative corner blocks) at the top.

Crown Molding

Crown molding sits where the top of the wall meets the ceiling, and it instantly can enhance a room, adding depth and elegance. Drawing your eye up toward the ceiling, crown molding also makes a room feel taller.

Ceiling trim comes in an array of architectural styles, which can speak to the style of your home. More elaborate, detailed styles are made of plaster and are more expensive, while simple, streamlined crown molding is made of wood, PVC or vinyl and has a more affordable price point.

Rooms with high ceilings will call for a thicker piece of molding, and lower ceilings call for thinner trim. It is recommended that standard 8-foot ceilings use crown molding no taller than 6 inches, while for a 10-foot ceiling, a more substantial 8-inch molding is suitable. To create balance within a space, select a crown molding that is a similar style and size as the baseboard molding.

Celing molding
Valeriy_G/ iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Chair Rail

Originally used in dining rooms to protect plaster walls from getting damaged by chairs, chair rail is an additional architectural detail that can dress up your walls. Now used in an array of spaces aside from the dining room, chair rail can create proportion and outline the space. To determine the positioning of chair rail on a wall, take the wall height and divide it by three, and place the trim a third of the way up the wall.

Chair rail also adds visual impact. You can paint or apply wallpaper above the trim and leave the bottom area white. Or, for a modern and monochromatic look, paint the chair rail the same color as the walls. You can also introduce a fun color scheme by painting the chair rail and other trim a shade that contrasts with the walls. And, for art collectors, chair rail also creates a way to highlight paintings and prints, acting as a sort of architectural frame. 

Wainscoting

Below chair rail, wainscoting is paneling that lines the lower portion of a wall. Originally used to help insulate stone buildings, the paneling (which comes in a range of materials from wood to MDF) is now primarily used for aesthetic purposes to add texture and warmth to rooms.

Traditionally wainscoting is used to dress up formal spaces like parlors and dining rooms along with grand corridors like foyers and stairwells. Popular styles include board and batten, beadboard, flat panel, and overlay panel.

Wall Frame Molding

Also known as panel molding, wall frame molding creates the look of wainscoting at a more affordable price point. Four pieces of thin molding create a square or rectangular frame that is then affixed to the wall. And depending on the amount of embellishment desired in a space, wall frame molding can be applied above or below chair rail.

The traditional design element can dress up classically styled interiors. Adding wall frame molding to corridors like foyers, stairwells, and hallways can add an air of elegance to these spaces. Adding this molding to public rooms like living rooms, parlors, and dining rooms can add a layer of sophistication.

Painting and Staining Trim

Paint or stain molding to complement the wall color and flooring. Painting your trim the same color as your walls can give your room a taller appearance. And using paint with more of a sheen, like satin or even high-gloss, adds a shimmer that enhances the carved details of the wood. Stain or varnish, on the other hand, is ideal for highlighting the unique graining of hardwoods.

MDF is an engineered wood that doesn’t receive stain well but looks great when painted. Woods like pine or poplar tend to look best when primed and painted, rather than stained, because of the appearance of joints.

On the other hand, hardwoods like oak, maple, poplar, mahogany, cherry, birch and walnut are popular for staining because of their durability and moisture resistance. Staining these types of hardwoods also highlights the natural beauty of the wood’s grain. 

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.