A Guide to Wood Trim

Routed strips of trim wood
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Trim is fantastic stuff. With just a few bundles and a power nailer, you can majorly crank up the dial on your home's design--in just a weekend or two.

Trim is the kind of "low-level consciousness" change where your friends come over and say, "What have you done with this place...it looks incredible!" Yet they have a hard time putting their finger on what you did exactly.

Here's what it does:

  • Visually: Think like an artist. In a purely aesthetic sense, trim is like "trimming" off the ragged edges. Or it's like outlining certain areas of a picture. It gives the room a nice, crisp, finished look.
  • Functionally: Some parts of a house are not covered up; they are left open for certain reasons. One prime example is flooring. Flooring and walls do not meet. The purpose is to let the two move independently of each other. To cover that gap, baseboards are used.

You'll be pleased to know that installing wood trim is a do it yourself project.

In this guide, we take a close look at the four most basic types you will use in your house:

  1. Window and door trim
  2. Chair rail
  3. Crown molding
  4. Baseboards

Door and Window Trim

Window and door trim frames the interior perimeter of doors and windows.

Purpose

  • Hide ragged edges of drywall or plaster around doors and windows.
  • Sharpen the look of windows and doors; make them "pop out." White-painted door and window trim looks great against walls painted rich colors.
  • Cover exposed edges of door and window framing.

Features

  • Always essential. All doors and windows need trim (often called casing or molding, too).
  • Door trim and window trim is usually interchangeable.
  • When tightly nailed to the framing and painted, trim almost looks like it's a part of the door or window--it's seamless.
  • Door trim is usually painted a semi-gloss or gloss so that fingerprints are more easily washed off.
  • Door and window trim can be bought as kits (as shown in the image), though not mandatory.
Pillows on bed against wall at home
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Chair Rail

Chair rail is a thin horizontal strip of wood trim that goes around a room at about waist height.

Purpose

  • Protect walls from chairs bumping into them.
  • Dresses up a room, particularly dining rooms.

Features

  • It can be mounted on top of wainscoting or can be stand-alone.
  • Not a common type of wood trim.
  • Typically found in more traditional style houses.
  • Not essential, but often a nice thing to have.
Empty Room With Wall Plug
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Crown Molding

Crown molding is a horizontal strip of interior wood trim that runs along the very top of walls at the junction of the wall and ceiling.

Purpose

  • Can cover up bad drywalling or plasterwork at top of walls.
  • More aesthetic benefits than functional: crown molding makes a room look great.

Features

  • Crown trim molding is usually painted the same color as the ceiling, not the wall.
  • It is installed at a 45-degree.
  • Both cope joints and mitered joints are used when installing crown molding.
Ceiling moldings in the interior, detail of intricate corner.
Valeriy_G / Getty Images

Baseboards

A home's baseboard is a decorative and functional type of wood trim that runs along the very base of walls, thus the name baseboards or base molding.

Purpose

  • Provide a visual "stop."
  • Keep dirt from getting under walls.
  • Prevent vermin/insects from getting into the house.
  • Beautify the ragged bottom edge of the wall.
  • Prevent the bottom edge of the wall from getting broken.

Features

  • Usually in heights of 2" to 8", though higher base molding can be found.
  • It can be either built-up (separate pieces) or one-piece.
  • Thinner baseboards are easier to curve to the walls.
  • Thicker baseboards can have deep, attractive profiles (designs).
  • Available in bare wood, primed wood, MDF, and polystyrene.
  • Usually, it requires the addition of quarter-round at the base of the baseboard to cover up the gap between the baseboard and floor.
Molding in the interior, baseboard corner. Light matte wall with tiles immitating hardwood flooring
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