5 Different Types of Wall Trim and How to Choose One

White chair rail wall trim with black and white art on walls

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

Wall trim is a decorative framing for doors, windows, and wall edges that can add an attractive design statement to your room while covering joints, gaps, and other imperfections on surfaces. While some types of wall trim come in simple styles, there are several options to choose from with intricate details that can suit traditional and modern homes alike. Popular trims like baseboards and crown molding are featured in many architectural designs. For a more elevated look, homeowners can opt for statement-making trim like chair rails, picture rails, and even molding that imitates built-in frames on their walls.

Along with installing different types of molding, it's easy to customize wall trim to complement your home by changing its color. White trim is a striking accent against a field of dark-colored walls, bringing a formal, traditional look to these rooms. On the other hand, dark trim can be used to create a bold, eye-catching contrast against light walls.

Here, discover five common types of wall trim and their characteristics to upgrade your space.

  • 01 of 05

    Chair Rail

    Chair Railing in Formal Dining Room

    akurtz/Getty Images 

    • Best for: Dining rooms or any room that has a number of chairs

    Chair rail is a horizontal piece of trim that is typically installed 3 to 4 feet above the floor. These rails originally served the purpose of protecting walls from chairs, often in dining rooms. Today, chair rail is most often used as a decorative molding, and it typically costs about $1-2 per linear foot.

    Functional as well as attractive, chair rail is often combined with a lower section of wainscoting to give the wall added protection. Together, these elements are an excellent place to contrast molding with wall paint for a classic look. Hardwood and polyurethane options provide the most durability—but regardless of material, homeowners should note that chair rails tend to collect dust. Since this trim is at eye level, it may require more regular cleanings than baseboards or crown molding.


    Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), natural wood, or polyurethane trim can be used on walls. Wood is more solid and durable than either plastic or MDF, but polyurethane is more moisture-resistant. If you want the natural clear-coat or stained wood look, then natural wood (such as hemlock) is the best way to go. 

  • 02 of 05

    Crown Molding

    Crown Molding on Ceiling and Wall

    Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

    • Best for: Living rooms, dining rooms, and other public rooms

    Crown molding is found at the intersection of walls and ceilings, typically installed at a 45-degree angle with hollow space behind it. Often associated with upscale or historic homes, crown molding is the perfect trim to bring a classic feel to your main living areas. Unlike other types of wall trim that tend to be constructed from wood, modern crown molding is often made of lightweight materials like vinyl or PVC.

    When installed properly, crown molding is a durable trim that should be moisture-resistant and last for decades. Do-it-yourself homeowners can save time on perfecting the drywall mudding along their ceiling by covering it with crown molding, but it can be difficult to cut tight, gap-free angles for installation. Hiring a finish carpenter may be beneficial to achieve attractive results without imperfections. Crown molding costs about $2-3 per foot to purchase, which can increase to $8-10 per foot when hiring a carpenter.

  • 03 of 05


    Quarter Round Installed on Baseboards

    Spiderstock/Getty Images

    • Best for: Every room of the house

    Baseboards are the most common type of trim found in houses, dressing up a room and serving as the defining line at the bottom of the walls. They also hide gaps between the bottoms of the walls and the flooring. Baseboards range from short, narrow styles to 6 inch or higher baseboards found in many older houses. Installing baseboards typically costs about $0.60 per foot for MDF options and $1.20 for natural wood or PVC.

    When tightly installed against a floor (especially when quarter-round is added), baseboards keep drafts out of the house. However, they may eventually develop gaps near the floor. Repositioning the quarter-round, shoe molding, or the baseboard itself can cure this problem for handy homeowners.


    If you plan to paint the trim, you can use either MDF or plastic trim. MDF is one of the least expensive trim materials you can buy. Plastic is more expensive, but it is far more durable than MDF, which can break easily. Other strong points for plastic polymer is that it is lightweight and waterproof.

  • 04 of 05

    Picture Frame Wall Molding

    gray wall with gray picture frame moldings

    snorkulencija/Getty Images 

    • Best for: Formal public rooms, such as dining or living rooms

    Wall picture frame molding is purely decorative and often installed with four pieces of molding to create the look of a picture frame. This wall element is less common than other types of trim, but it's an attractive and unique style that can be found in many historic homes and formal designs. Pre-made squares typically cost between $8 and $25, and are typically made from wood or polyurethane. Polyurethane's moisture and mold resistance makes it the more durable option.

    The molding can be painted a different color than the wall for a pop of contrast or in the same color to add texture and depth to the space. This is a unique look that few homes have—plus, it is very easy to build. Adding picture frame wall molding is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make a room look more elegant.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Picture Rail

    narrow wall molding
    Don Klumpp
    • Best for: Living and dining rooms, bedrooms, hallways

    Picture rail is similar to chair rail, as it is placed horizontally around the perimeter of the room. However, it is installed much higher on the wall and has a different profile than chair rail. More unique than other types of trim, picture rail traditionally served the function of holding the hooks for hanging pictures with wire. Wood and plaster options are most commonly found, and wood is both lighter and less likely to crack over time. Depending on the material used, picture rails typically cost between $1 and $2 per foot.

    Functionally, picture rail will allow you to move pictures in and out of rooms with ease. Aesthetically, it can help break up the monotony of rooms with very tall ceilings. Due to its higher position, it can interfere with windows, so homeowners should take care to measure the space above each window before installation.

    What is Built-Up Molding?

    When discussing wall trims, you may hear the term built-up molding or molding build-ups. Both of these terms simply describe a type of trim, typically baseboard or crown molding, that has been created by installing two or more different profiles of molding together to form one type of trim. Any style of trim work can be created as a built-up molding. Built-up baseboard trim is commonly found in homes built in the early- to mid-20th century, but is still often used in modern construction to create an elaborate appearance in a room.

Choosing Wall Trim

When it comes to choosing wall trim, it's best to start by deciding which style best suits your home's needs and design elements. Once you've settled on a type of trim and determined where to install it, you can pick between different materials. For trim in rooms like the bathroom, homeowners often opt for polyurethane products to resist the buildup of moisture over time.

It's also beneficial to determine whether you can install your trim yourself. In many cases, it's helpful to hire a finishing carpenter to handle the job for tighter seams and a professional-looking result. Remember to save room in your budget for labor when picking out trim if you plan to hire a pro. Trim installation in new homes typically costs between $410 and $660. Removing your home's current trim on your own first may even save you up to $150.

Article Sources
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  1. Cost to Install Trim: Quarter Round, Base & Shoe Molding. HomeAdvisor.