Guide to Types of Wall Trim

Wall trim is designed to hide joints, gaps, and other imperfections on surfaces, but most people add trim to their rooms because it is a bold design statement. White trim is a striking accent against a field of dark-colored walls, imbuing these rooms with a formal, traditional look.

  • 01 of 05

    Chair Rail

    Chair Railing in Formal Dining Room

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    Chair rail is a horizontal piece of trim typically 3 to 4 feet above the floor that originally served the purpose of protecting walls from chairs. Today, chair rail is used more as a type of decorative element.

    Where to Install: Dining rooms or any room that has a number of chairs.

    Pros: Functional as well as attractive, chair rail is often combined with a lower section of wainscot to give the wall added protection.

    Cons: Chair rail, like any other horizontal surface, attracts dust. Unfortunately, this is a highly visible surface that cannot be ignored, as it is just below eye level.

    Which Materials to Use

    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. 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

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    Crown molding is found at the intersection of walls and ceilings. Crown molding is installed typically at a 45-degree angle, with hollow space behind it.

    Where to Install: Mostly in living rooms, dining rooms, and other public rooms.

    Pros: The drywall junction between the wall and ceiling does not need to be finely finished as the crown will cover it up. This is highly valuable for do-it-yourself homeowners who are not confident about their drywall mudding and sanding skills.

    Cons: It is difficult to effectively cut tight, gap-free angles on crown molding. There is a significant learning curve associated with hanging smart-looking crown molding. This is one type of molding you may want to consider hiring a finish carpenter for.

  • 03 of 05

    Baseboards

    Quarter Round Installed on Baseboards

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    Baseboards are the most common type of trim found in houses. Baseboards range from the very narrow type all the way up to 6 inch wide baseboards found in many older houses.

    Baseboards dress up a room and serve as a defining line at the bottom of the walls. However, baseboards also hide gaps between the bottoms of the walls and the flooring.

    Where to Install: Every room of the house will generally have baseboards.

    Pros: Baseboards, when tightly installed against a floor (especially when quarter-round is added, as shown here), keep drafts out of the house.

    Cons: Baseboards may eventually develop gaps near the floor. Repositioning the quarter round, shoe molding, or the baseboard itself can cure this problem.

    Tips

    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. The strongest point for plastic polymer trim is that it does not shrink as wood does.


  • 04 of 05

    Picture Frame Wall Molding

    gray wall with gray picture frame moldings

    snorkulencija/Getty Images 

    Wall picture frame molding is not common. You may see wall frame molding in houses that are striving for a very formal, English look. It is a purely decorative wall element. The most common use is when you find four pieces of molding assembled to create the look of a picture frame. 

    The molding can be painted a different color from the wall, but if it is painted the same color as the wall, shadow effects are pronounced.

    Where to Install: Mostly in the formal public rooms, such as dining or living rooms.

    Pros: 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.

    Cons: This molding entirely fits into the category of "nice to look at but completely non-functional." Improved aesthetics will be your only gain with this one.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Picture Rail

    narrow wall molding
    Don Klumpp

    Picture rail is basically chair rail that is much higher on the wall. Less common than other types of trim, picture rail traditionally served the function of holding the hooks for hanging pictures with wire.

    Where to Install: Living rooms or dining rooms.

    Pros: 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.

    Cons: Due to its higher position, it can interfere with windows.